New arrivals to London who plan to be here for a short period of time, or who are equivocal with regards to their long-term commitment, are more likey to search for emotional hits, than look for long-term emotiona profitability. Associations are likely to be promiscuous and non-committal, prime territory for extraverts. The idea is to get as much interaction and as many dates and appointments in the diaries as possible. Extraverts do well, and there are plenty of opportunities to engage in light touch social events, so much so, that some extraverts never seem to get close to anyone, yet spend all their time with someone.
Many Londoners, young ones anyway, are constantly monitoring the different social opportunities that arise in real time, and making calculations as to who will be there, and what they will be doing, and the degree of attachment, affection and gratification that the occasion will afford. In surveying the choices they naturally take up some, and abandon others. Londoners are capricious types, even in their friendships, ready to drop a relationship, ready to drop an appointment, if they think something better is in the offing. It is as if the London social scene is a real social and emotional rat race, people jostling with each other to be with the coolest scene possible, a Machiavellian dynamic hot bed of allegiances, broken, formed, broken, reformed.
The mobile phone, has only served to heighten this London dynamic, allowing people to scout new opportunities, and break existing commitments, which means that every possibility of meeting up, now makes commitment even less likely, means every commitment to meet, is couched in, yeh, lets talk later on in the week, or lets see how things go this afternoon. Two women in their mid-twenties stroll at pace across the junction of Well Walk and Christchurch Hill. One woman, Black who seems slightly better spoken, more articulate and more confident than her White colleague is asked, “Are you going to go?” to which she replies, “Oh yeah. The only way i wouldnt go is if I did something else during ht eday, and it pulled me off into some other part of London.”
The more often you can tell someone who wants to meet up that you are busy so no, or you are busy but they are welcome to join you, then the better you feel. New arrivals to London in search of committed relationships can find life tough. They will find that even amonst their best friends, there is no expectation or obligation to see each other on a regular basis. In London it is rare to see the same person two or three times a week, or every weekend. Furthermore, reflecting on how people book up their social time weeks and months in advance, one Londoner sighed, “it will be a miracle if I can see a friend spontaneously without putting the meeting into my diary a month in”.
Those at the edge of social circles are usually the ones that feel the pain of the metaphorical electronic elbow. There is quite often an uncertainty attached to many social arrangements, aided by mobile phone technology, which means that arrangements are caveated, with “if I can make it”, “if the party finishes early”, which means one can sometimes find themselves having travelled, half the length of the city, only to find themselves abandoned, irrelevant, meaningless, insignificant and having lunch by themselves in a boutique coffee bar, that you loved the idea of beforehand, but now feels like the loneliest place on eart, all summed up beautifully by Lilley Allen in the video to accompany her song LDN. This is well depicted in the video to Lilly Allen’s LDN, which starts off with her alone, looking through the records in Rough Trade East, being pleasantly surprised by a call from a friend an an invitation to meet up. By the end of the video and with Lilly having walked thorugh London to get to the agreed destination, she receives another call from the same friend who tells her she can’t make it after all. Allen politely accepts her friend’s failing, and then boots a crumpled up drinks can. The whole thing hurts.