I recently attended a social gathering where I met someone working in tech who moved to Atlanta within the last eighteen months. He’s a native of New York City but most recently lived in Los Angeles. Before that he lived in Austin. He has an interesting baseline, so I was curious to get his candid thoughts on Atlanta so far.
Overall, he likes Atlanta. The climate is nice. The cost of living isn’t a steal (anymore), but it’s reasonable. The people are nice. The biggest downside, in comparison to Los Angeles and New York, has to do with the variety of social activities. I wasn’t expecting this, so I was interested to hear more.
In Los Angeles and New York there are several parts of town to explore, each with its own set of social activities. The options are well known, regularly explored, and openly discussed. Having a social life with tons of variety is easy. If you make the effort to leave the house, you know of many interesting things you can do.
He doesn’t feel the same way about Atlanta. A few parts of town are known for being entertainment venues, such as Buckhead, West Midtown, and O4W, and he’s aware of them, but he doesn’t feel the city offers as much social variety.
As we chatted, I shared with him some other parts of town and things to do. He had no idea some of them existed. I said that Atlanta may not have as much to do as New York or Los Angeles, but Atlanta does offer a healthy variety of desirable social activities in various parts of town. However, the awareness that people have of them, and their discoverability, are highly variable.
Atlanta is influenced heavily by homophily (the tendency for contact between similar people to occur at a higher rate than among dissimilar people). People who have a lot in common interact with each other frequently. People who don’t have anything in common interact infrequently or not at all. Of course, frequency of interaction is what defines a person’s social circle.
One of many ramifications of this is that information becomes localized in a social circle. The infrequent or nonexistent interaction among people who lack commonalities means that information doesn’t leave certain circles. In the case of social activities, people outside a social circle don’t know certain activities (or even parts of town) exist and therefore don’t participate. Said differently, people’s awareness of desirable social options varies drastically depending on whom they interact with frequently. People living in the same city end up having vastly different awareness of the social experiences available to them.
Homophily is a basic human principle. It isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The key to maximizing social variety in Atlanta is acknowledging homophily’s heavy influence and trying to interact more often with people you have less in common with. This will help you get access to information that’s localized in circles you’re not part of about fun things to do in different parts of town. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but I believe it’s worth the effort because it helps you experience all Atlanta has to offer socially.