As people get older, the opportunities to simply find oneself among friends without any prior planning grow more infrequent. Adulthood often makes people busy, overwhelmed, and sometimes burned-out by all the tasks they need to get done.The lengthy back-and-forths required to organize get-togethers that align with everyone’s schedule have even become subjects of parody in recent years. The shared calendar doesn’t eliminate these scheduling difficulties, but it creates a home base for making plans that keeps our text chain less cluttered with “So, when is everyone free for dinner?”–type messages.
Read: How friendships change in adulthood
Though it might appear more bureaucratic than fun, other friend groups have also found organizing their time this way to be helpful. Kiki Pierce, 25, a development coordinator at a think tank in Washington, D.C., started talking about implementing a shared calendar with her friends as a joke, but the idea quickly became serious. She and her friends share their calendar via iCloud and use separate colors to denote work trips, family vacations or having relatives in town, work-from-home days, and volunteer opportunities, among other activities. “It’s shown us a different side of our friendship,” she told me. “If we have any sort of advance notice, we can put [an event] in the calendar, and it shows that we have a little bit more management of our lives; it’s not just one big mess.”
When Jordyn Holman, a 25-year-old reporter in New York, received a Google Calendar invite from one of her friends for a pretty standard hangout they had previously talked about, she found it amusing. “It was just so funny to me because it felt so professional but also so necessary to plan this personal hangout over Google invites,” she says. Since then, she’s used calendar invites, along with a shared Slack room, to organize plans with her friends.
This sense of feeling “professional” that Holman mentioned is one that came up in most of the interviews I did for this piece, and something I’ve thought about a lot during the seven or so months my friends and I have been using our shared calendar. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance involved in using a technology mostly associated with planning work meetings and office happy hours to schedule what should just be fun. When work has already found myriad ways to permeate our everyday life, do we really need another, self-enforced reason to make our personal life feel like the office?
The answer is … maybe. In adulthood, impromptu hangouts, more common during childhood and when one is in school, become less attainable, says Shasta Nelson, the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen. “One of the things we’re grieving as a culture is this idea that we can just hang out with each other and that it’s all easy and there’s no scheduling and no organizing and we can just have all the benefits of it,” she told me. “It’s like trying to exercise without getting sweaty.” Unless adults already have some external space in their life where they see one another, such as at their kids’ school, at church, or at a book club, friends rarely just happen to find themselves in the same place anymore. This can be especially difficult for young adults recently out of high school or college, where running into your friends was as simple as walking down the hall or around the block. Because of this, some amount of work usually has to go into seeing the people you most want to see.