Formalized friendship / alternative extended families?

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Mona Pereth
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23 Jan 2023, 6:30 pm

Here, regarding the observation that friendship seems to have become more difficult and fragile in today's world than it was a few decades ago, I wrote:

Quote:
Something has gone wrong with contemporary Western culture.

It needs to be fixed, somehow.

Hopefully it can be fixed without requiring us to go back to the rigid patriarchal social roles and hierarchies that Western society has collectively been rebelling against ever since the 1960's or so.

It might help to have a revival of the idea of formalized friendship groups, somewhat like the fraternal orders of old, but with more modern sensibilities.

How would this help us? By making it easier for people to find and build a support network apart from just our families.

Those of us who get adequate support form their families -- and who can be assured of getting it, for the rest of their lives -- might not need this, and indeed might not need friends at all. But many of us are not so lucky. Many of us either don't have families or are estranged from our families. Still others have families but need to be more independent of them.

And, even if one does have an intact and fully supportive family, there are many advantages to having some close friends too. Hence there are many advantages to anything that makes it easier to find and keep friends.

I envision a wide variety of formalized alternative extended families.

For some of us, religious groups can serve this purpose, to one extent or another, depending on the nature of the religion and the group. But, in today's world, more and more people are not religious.

Another dying breed is old-fashioned fraternal orders like the Freemasons.

College fraternities/sororities are still around to some extent, but tend to be decidedly not autistic-friendly, as far as I can tell.

I envision a wide variety of possible alternatives.

For example, some people have created formally organized extended family groups around themes derived from common hobbies. There are groups that model themselves on groups (of people or nonhuman entities) from specific popular fantasy or science fiction novels, movies, or TV shows. (I don't remember specific examples because this isn't my thing, but I've occasionally run into them.)

Other groups might be centered around some ethical, societal, or political goal.

What makes a formal friendship group different from an informal one is that a formal one has (1) initiation rituals of some kind, usually involving some kind of oath or pledge, and/or (2) a written constitution, set of by-laws, and/or other formally agreed-upon customary ways of doing things. These formalities can help make the group more stable and reliable.

EDIT: In subsequent posts I'll consider the question of what is necessary in order for a formal friendship group to be autistic-friendly.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 23 Jan 2023, 8:51 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Jakki
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23 Jan 2023, 7:07 pm

hmmm... this is not the herding Cats thread, why I am i here.? Aspies / Cats/ Turtles
Something being wrong in Society,, caught that part . Gotta wonder ? about the other parts or if they are intended as a thought exercise ? Is there any ideas about naturally blossoming friendships ? or is this a contractual concept .
Are there to be exclusivity guidelines , or is that based on Personna.? Would there be a Hierarchy involved ,
With basis for excommunication . Perhaps this is beyond me. And possibly shouldn't have posted to this thread.
But I saw no other posts , and it was posted publically by all outward appearances . So am hoping this post was not
presumed to be adverse , please. :oops:


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Mona Pereth
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23 Jan 2023, 11:53 pm

What would be the point of formal friendship groups, for autistic people?

Their main advantage is that they would help keep our friendships from being so dammed fragile.

Many of us have had bad experiences with friends suddenly deciding we're no good and dropping us because of something we said or did that offended them in some mysterious way that they refuse to tell us about.

On the other hand, in an autistic-friendly formal friendship group, members would swear not to do stuff like that. The group would have a sworn agreement that its members would learn to be assertive with each other (to whatever extent they don't already have that skill), without being aggressive. And they would agree to work out their differences with each other, to the best of their ability, or find a way to agree to disagree. Members would also agree to respect each other's stated boundaries.

Jakki wrote:
hmmm... this is not the herding Cats thread, why I am i here.? Aspies / Cats/ Turtles

In order to be autistic-friendly, it seems to me that a formal friendship group would need to be small, not a large "herd." Only a small group could adequately accommodate the highly unique personalities of its members.

But it would be desirable for there to be many different little formal friendship groups, each of which overlap with other, more ordinary, more open-to-the-public kinds of groups within the autistic community. These other, more ordinary, more open-to-the-public kinds of groups would include support groups, career-oriented groups, hobby-oriented social groups, and some garden-variety general social groups as well.

The formal friendship groups could seek out compatible potential members in the larger autistic community. Hopefully at least some of them would also educate other autistic people on how to build their own formal friendship groups too.

Jakki wrote:
Something being wrong in Society,, caught that part .

Specifically, the extreme fragility of friendships in today's world.

Jakki wrote:
Gotta wonder ? about the other parts or if they are intended as a thought exercise ? Is there any ideas about naturally blossoming friendships ? or is this a contractual concept .

A little of both. A formal friendship group would seek out, as potential new members, only those people with whom the specific group has a "naturally blossoming" affinity. On the other hand, once someone becomes a full-fledged member of a formal friendship group, there would be some "contracts" involved.

Jakki wrote:
Are there to be exclusivity guidelines , or is that based on Personna.?

Different formal friendship groups would have different preferences as to the kinds of people they seek as members, just as individuals have different preferences as to the kinds of friends we seek. Some groups might prefer to rely on lists of criteria, while others might prefer to be more spontaneous about deciding whom to invite to join. Formal friendship groups would indeed, necessarily, be "exclusive" in the sense of being choosy about whom they seek out as members.

But, ideally, there would eventually be a wide enough variety of different formal friendship groups -- and enough training available on how to form one -- so that everyone who wants to be part of a formal friendship group can either find an already-existing group that will accept them or create their own group.

Jakki wrote:
Would there be a Hierarchy involved ,

The groups would likely be small enough not to have much of a hierarchy. But there would almost certainly be some hierarchy, based on both seniority and the amount of responsibility a member has volunteered to take on.

Jakki wrote:
With basis for excommunication .

Alas, in almost any group, it is occasionally necessary to expel a member. A formal friendship group should aim to have some sort of "due process" for this, as part of its by-laws, rather than just arbitrarily tossing people out. Expelling members should be only a last resort, if conflicts within the group can't be resolved in any other way.

Jakki wrote:
Perhaps this is beyond me.

Not everyone needs an alternative extended family. But many of us do.

Jakki wrote:
And possibly shouldn't have posted to this thread.
But I saw no other posts , and it was posted publically by all outward appearances . So am hoping this post was not
presumed to be adverse , please. :oops:

No worries. You've asked the very questions that might occur to a lot of other readers too.


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KitLily
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24 Jan 2023, 10:02 am

Thanks for this thread, Mona.

I think this was why Meetup was set up originally: to make groups of people with similar interests in a more formal way. But I haven't really met any friends through Meetup, I've sure met some aggressive people though. And Meetup charges so much, it puts people off.

Obviously we need another model for this, not Meetup.


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Mona Pereth
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24 Jan 2023, 1:00 pm

KitLily wrote:
I think this was why Meetup was set up originally: to make groups of people with similar interests in a more formal way.

The purpose of Meetup.com is to help people organize in-person groups, of whatever kind, NOT specifically what I am referring to here as "formal friendship groups."

What I call a "formal friendship group" is a very specific type of group. Most ordinary social groups, whether on or off of Meetup.com, do not fall into this category.

Meetup.com is intended primarily to help people organize the kinds of social groups that are open to the general public, NOT what I call formal friendship groups, whose members would already know each other very well and thus would NOT need Meetup.com. Or at least they wouldn't need Meetup.com for their own private member-only events, although they MIGHT use Meetup.com to publicize some larger events that are open to prospective members.

Note that I am not proposing formal friendship groups as a replacement for the kinds of ordinary social groups that are open to the general public. The latter kinds of groups can have vital roles too.

The groups I currently lead/facilitate are all of the open-to-the-public variety, NOT formal friendship groups.

As for your issues with Meetup.com: As I see it, the main problem with many Meetup groups is that most Meetup organizers probably don't have any leadership training (or any significant past leadership experience).

Within the autistic community, this is a problem I aim to help remedy via the Autistic Peer Leadership Group. Leadership training, of one kind or another, is especially needed by autistic would-be leaders/organizers. Even most NT's lack the specific kinds of social abilities that would be needed to just wing it, without any training, when organizing a group. All the more so is this true for autistic would-be organizers.

One of the main symptoms of a lack of leadership training is that many groups that are supposedly open to the general public tend to be very cliquish. Groups naturally tend to be cliquish unless they make a specific effort not to be. (This issue might not have applied to your own Meetup group, if you tried to organize one and gave up on it before your group was even fully-formed enough to become cliquish.)

None of this is the fault of Meetup.com per se. If you had had sufficient leadership training, you might have succeeded in organizing something on Meetup.com, although it would still have required great patience.

KitLily wrote:
And Meetup charges so much, it puts people off.

Meetup.com charges money only to organizers, not to ordinary users who are only members or potential members of Meetup.com groups. Meetup.com's fees to organizers are quite reasonable IMO; they are MUCH lower than the amounts of money groups used to spend on advertising back in the pre-Internet era.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 24 Jan 2023, 5:56 pm, edited 7 times in total.

Jakki
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24 Jan 2023, 4:09 pm

KitLily wrote:
Thanks for this thread, Mona.

I think this was why Meetup was set up originally: to make groups of people with similar interests in a more formal way. But I haven't really met any friends through Meetup, I've sure met some aggressive people though. And Meetup charges so much, it puts people off.

Obviously we need another model for this, not Meetup.


This sounds interesting to me ...... 8O ...


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Mona Pereth
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24 Jan 2023, 6:23 pm

To bring this thread back on topic.

Formal friendship groups are a specific type of group. They are not a specific way of advertising a group, such as Meetup.com.

Formal friendship groups, unlike ordinary social groups, typically have initiation rituals, oaths or vows, and a (hopefully robust) system for resolving disputes within the group.

Traditional examples of formal friendship groups include:

- College fraternities and sororities.
- Fraternal orders like the Freemasons.
- Catholic religious orders.
- Cell groups (or whatever they call them these days) within evangelical megachurches.
- Wiccan covens.
- Various family-like groups that have been organized within various fandoms, with fanciful themes, modeled on fictional groups.

What I am proposing, in this thread, is a new type of small formal friendship group that would be more autistic-friendly than most of the traditional ones are. Most of these hypothetical autistic-friendly formal friendship groups would be nonreligious, although there might be some religious ones too.

I am not proposing that the autistic community should consist primarily of formal friendship groups. The autistic community should consist primarily of groups that are open to the general public, or at least to anyone who fits the group's target demographic (e.g. all autistic adults, or autistic adults of some specified age range). These include support groups, social groups (both general and hobby-oriented), and career-oriented groups.

As I said earlier, all of the groups led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group are of the open-to-the-public variety, not formal friendship groups.

The proposed small formal friendship groups would be a way that people could solidify friendships they've already made in other, more open settings.


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24 Jan 2023, 6:33 pm

Would these be in person groups, or online?


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Mona Pereth
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24 Jan 2023, 6:59 pm

blazingstar wrote:
Would these be in person groups, or online?

Perhaps a mix of both?

They would almost certainly need to have at least some in-person meetings. But the ratio of in-person to online meetings could vary a lot from one group to another, depending on both the group's theme and the personal needs of its members.


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24 Jan 2023, 11:24 pm

(Mona: Let me know if I assume things about your groups which aren't the case or where the language could be clarified or modified)

Wiccan covens are a useful model for us. They're groups of 13 or fewer people. They're led by one or more elders (more traditional groups are led by a High Priestess and usually a High Priest). These are the equivalent of clergy in other religions. There is usually an inner circle of the most active members who are at the center of meetings. We find that a group of greater than 13 people becomes difficult to manage, so at that point a group would divide in half. The new groups would still have contact with each other, but would have more contact within their respective groups.

Similarities and differences between Mona's friendship groups and a coven:

A coven is generally looking for people who work well together. So would it be with Mona's groups. Both have in common a core group which directs the larger group. In a coven, the High Priest and Priestess direct the whole coven, generally with the help of the inner circle of the most advanced members. In Mona's groups, there would be a similar structure, where a core group directs the larger group, generally by consensus decision.

A coven is usually concerned with Wiccan/Pagan religious events, but frequently becomes a social group outside of this. A bond of mutual trust develops.

Mona's groups are concerned with self-improvement and mutual support, and could also become social groups outside of this. This would be a natural progression of the work of the group. A bond of mutual trust can also develop here.

Both types of group can become a 'family of choice'. In covens, the family of choice forms because there is a common religion and common goals among members. In Mona's groups, it's also possible that 'families of choice' could form due to common personal philosophy (and brain wiring :) ) and common goals among members.

That's all for now. Questions? Comments? Suggestions?



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24 Jan 2023, 11:29 pm

I wouldn’t like this at all. I don’t like forced friendships or forced socialization.

Fraternal organizations might have been an Aspie’s nightmare. People in them were subject to scrutiny, and these were very conformist organizations. If you were “weird,” you might be ostracized.



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24 Jan 2023, 11:36 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
blazingstar wrote:
Would these be in person groups, or online?

Perhaps a mix of both?

They would almost certainly need to have at least some in-person meetings. But the ratio of in-person to online meetings could vary a lot from one group to another, depending on both the group's theme and the personal needs of its members.


Why would they need to have at least some in-person meetings? Is that because of shared activities / experiences or do you think there’s something inherent to physical presence, like a different chemistry?



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24 Jan 2023, 11:38 pm

Mona has good intentions. What she proposes would offset loneliness. But I wouldn’t like this sort of thing myself.



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24 Jan 2023, 11:39 pm

Sounds like hell to me, even if we had things in common. That’s just my personality though. I greatly prefer a more cerebral connection.



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25 Jan 2023, 1:22 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
I wouldn’t like this at all. I don’t like forced friendships or forced socialization.

Fraternal organizations might have been an Aspie’s nightmare. People in them were subject to scrutiny, and these were very conformist organizations. If you were “weird,” you might be ostracized.

Indeed, these are aspects of traditional fraternal organizations that we would not want to copy.

I think the way to avoid these aspects is to keep the groups very small and independent, i.e. not local "lodges" of some vast hierarchical organization with a uniform set of standards.

As I envision these groups, people would join one of them only if there is good mutual social and conversational "chemistry" between themselves and the particular small group. So this wouldn't be "forced" friendship.

Also, although the groups themselves would be small and independent, they would exist within a larger subculture that places a high value on accommodating individual needs, so that individual members would not be pressured into activities they find too difficult or tiring.

The one thing members would be pressured to do is to learn conflict resolutions skills, such as the art of being assertive without being aggressive, and to apply these skills (as soon as they are emotionally capable of so doing, at least) whenever any interpersonal difficulties arise between themselves and other members of the group. There would be some exceptions to this rule, but only in extreme cases.

IsabellaLinton wrote:
Sounds like hell to me, even if we had things in common. That’s just my personality though. I greatly prefer a more cerebral connection.

There's no reason why some of these groups couldn't be highly "cerebral." (Of course they still might not be your thing, for other reasons.) As I envision them, different groups would have different styles of interaction, depending on their members' needs and preferences.

IsabellaLinton wrote:
Why would they need to have at least some in-person meetings? Is that because of shared activities / experiences or do you think there’s something inherent to physical presence, like a different chemistry?

Since the point of the groups is to be an alternative extended family, members need to get to know each other very well. While this needn't require frequent in-person interaction, it seems to me that never seeing each other in-person would place a severe limit on how well people can truly know each other.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 25 Jan 2023, 3:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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25 Jan 2023, 1:59 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
Here, regarding the observation that friendship seems to have become more difficult and fragile in today's world than it was a few decades ago, I wrote:

Quote:
Something has gone wrong with contemporary Western culture.

It needs to be fixed, somehow.

Hopefully it can be fixed without requiring us to go back to the rigid patriarchal social roles and hierarchies that Western society has collectively been rebelling against ever since the 1960's or so.

It might help to have a revival of the idea of formalized friendship groups, somewhat like the fraternal orders of old, but with more modern sensibilities.

How would this help us? By making it easier for people to find and build a support network apart from just our families.

Those of us who get adequate support form their families -- and who can be assured of getting it, for the rest of their lives -- might not need this, and indeed might not need friends at all. But many of us are not so lucky. Many of us either don't have families or are estranged from our families. Still others have families but need to be more independent of them.

And, even if one does have an intact and fully supportive family, there are many advantages to having some close friends too. Hence there are many advantages to anything that makes it easier to find and keep friends.

I envision a wide variety of formalized alternative extended families.

For some of us, religious groups can serve this purpose, to one extent or another, depending on the nature of the religion and the group. But, in today's world, more and more people are not religious.

Another dying breed is old-fashioned fraternal orders like the Freemasons.

College fraternities/sororities are still around to some extent, but tend to be decidedly not autistic-friendly, as far as I can tell.

I envision a wide variety of possible alternatives.

For example, some people have created formally organized extended family groups around themes derived from common hobbies. There are groups that model themselves on groups (of people or nonhuman entities) from specific popular fantasy or science fiction novels, movies, or TV shows. (I don't remember specific examples because this isn't my thing, but I've occasionally run into them.)

Other groups might be centered around some ethical, societal, or political goal.

What makes a formal friendship group different from an informal one is that a formal one has (1) initiation rituals of some kind, usually involving some kind of oath or pledge, and/or (2) a written constitution, set of by-laws, and/or other formally agreed-upon customary ways of doing things. These formalities can help make the group more stable and reliable.

EDIT: In subsequent posts I'll consider the question of what is necessary in order for a formal friendship group to be autistic-friendly.

I am working on starting a church of Christ commune as a sort of alternative family.I have a friend I am working with on this goal.At some point in the next years I plan on legally incorporating and writing a church constitution and set of by-laws and stuff like that.I am thinking of maybe marketing it to people like us on the spectrum.I am thinking that the nature of no musical instruments in worship would make it more friendly to autistic people who are really sensitive to sound.We plan on living on ranches and maybe in suburban homes and camp grounds.The church of Christ is my family even more so than my own biological family.We are going to live communally.Baptism will be how members become part of the community.We plan on sharing all our income and wealth.I like your thread idea,Mona.I would like some of our autistic members to be involved in the high tech field.Our incorporation would give us tax-exempt status.There would be a hierarchy.I dont know if we will have locations in different places or not.I would like each location to have at least 40 to 100 church members.We would have businesses and work together.