Friendship and Social Emotions in Young Adult Finns' Drinking Diaries

by Jukka Törrönen and Antti Maunu
(SoRAD: Stockholm University) and University of Helsinki

Sociological Research Online, 16 (1) 4

Received: 3 Aug 2010     Accepted: 6 Jan 2011    Published: 28 Feb 2011


In the article we examine the management of social emotions and friendship bonds by analysing the young adults´ pub and drinking diaries. We assume that emotions that are embodied in the management of friendship ties can be reduced to the emotions of pride and shame. According to Scheff, as primary social emotions, they are present in all communication and action. They express for the participants of interaction the actual "temperature" of social relations. Pride refers to a strong and safe involvement in interaction, in which individuals feel themselves fine and respectful. In a shameful state, individuals, in turn, experience themselves negatively in the eyes of others, which imply that social bonds are intimidated. The analysis of drinking experiences from the viewpoint of pride and shame brings expressively forth how drinking strengthens or weakens different kinds of social relations and dynamics and how actors try to attach to them or secede from them. In the diary narratives, the pride and shame of drinking is most strongly associated with reinforcement and bonding efforts of ties of friendship that are considered laid-back and like-minded. In relation to them the status, competition, the emphasis of one's self and indulging in love affairs occur in the narratives considerably more seldom, and if they occur, they rather contribute to shameful experiences or remain subordinate to friendship.

Keywords: Friendship, Management of Social Emotions, Pride, Shame, Diary



At 3.30 PM I'm having a nap when Jiri calls me. Jiri is pissed off and he wants to go to Maximum to have a beer after he's gotten out of work. I think that sounds good and I say I could come with him.
Yet Jiri has to borrow some money so he can have the beer. We discuss that Ola will probably lend money to Jiri. Jiri always borrows from Ola when he's run out of money. I can't afford to lend to Jiri right now. [-]
I call Esa [who] also wants to have a beer, because he's also pissed off. I understand it because he had split up with his girlfriend a while ago. We agree that we drink beer at his place and then go on to Max. (Simo [M])

1.1 In this excerpt a gang of young, Finnish men set out to spend their Friday evening by motivating their drinking with negative feelings. In some other context and other culture a motivation of drinking by the feeling of being 'pissed off' could be a negative, hindering matter, but for the diary writer this frame of mind strengthens the mutual trust between male friends and flavours their drinking with a sense of shared honour. Even though girlfriends leave, money runs out and life afflicts, friends hold together.

1.2 As the excerpt shows, drinking situations are important instances for management of friendship ties and social emotions. As such they have been a popular topic in the media and popular discussions but researched too little. In this article we will focus on the matter by analysing 60 personal drinking diaries written by young adult Finns aged between 23 and 35 (medium age 28).

1.3 There is a rich tradition of alcohol research in Finland. Finnish alcohol researchers have presented interesting theories and hypotheses about the role and meanings of sociability, friendship ties and social emotions when they have dealt, especially, with the basic character of intoxication in Finland. For example, Falk and Sulkunen (1983) have initiated an interpretation that while a Finnish man drinks he leaves with a group of boozing men behind the control of society that is represented by women. According to Falk and Sulkunen, the mutual emotional relations between the men are not, however, developed in the course of drinking to genuine friendship bonds. Instead, they get distorted, they become empty and the drinking man arrives finally at cosmic loneliness. In this view, drinking cannot ultimately produce but feigned friendship ties.

1.4 Klaus Mäkelä (1982) has initiated another kind of view to the matter at hand. In his theory a Finnish man aims at by drinking to overcome his loneliness. Loneliness does not mean here psychological matters but the quality of sociability that dominates Finnish culture: a distinct feature for the Finnish sociability is a detachment from others which refers here both to an idea of independency where one respects the intimacy of others and to lack of involvement where one has difficulties in sharing one's emotions with others (Törrönen 2008). In this perspective drinking serves as an instrument for intensive sociability and lasting friendship ties (see also Törrönen & Maunu 2007b).

1.5 These interpretations of the meaning of the Finnish intoxication for social relations and friendship ties have not, however, been based on the empirical research or they have been formulated in a research setting that has not been focused on the role of social emotions in these issues. In social sciences the significance of emotions and friendship ties in drinking has typically been studied empirically mainly from the viewpoints of problem drinking. For example, how emotions contribute to social relations and friendship ties in drinking in a positive and constructive way, or how drinking contributes to problematic social experiences not directly related to alcoholism or addiction, has scarcely been examined.

1.6 In more general sociological discussion emotions and their importance for social relations have been discussed from several viewpoints. Usually researchers have explained social emotions by the factors that are external to a person's world of experience. Emotions have been reduced to cultural-historical matters (e.g. Weber), to rituals that produce sacred symbols (e.g. Durkheim), to features of a situation of interaction (e.g. Goffman), to biology (e.g. Westermarck), to socialisation (e.g. Parsons) or to historical-materialistic processes (e.g. Marx). However, this way the actual processes that arouse social emotions or are guided by them in the daily life and experience of bodily actors, have not received enough attention (see Denzin 1984; Williams 2001).

1.7 In this article we make use of 60 young adult Finns' diaries on their pub life, nightclubbing and other drinking situations to shed light on the actual management of social emotions and friendship bonds. Our diaries are mostly about somewhat harmless hanging out, partying, dining and other forms of socialising with a glass in hand. On the other hand, there are also descriptions of a more troubled experiences involving alcohol. Hence, our data includes an abundance of concrete, context-sensitive and powerfully expressive descriptions of that how drinking is associated with various social emotions in different social situations and how these social emotions function to maintain, extend or distort friendship ties.

The emotions of pride and shame as intersubjective relations and states

2.1 In our analysis we assume, by following Thomas Scheff (1990, 2006), that pride and shame are primary social emotions present in all communication and action. They indicate for agents and parties of interaction the actual 'temperature' of social ties. Pride indicates secure social relations, the presence of a positive register of feelings where individuals experiences themselves as good and important, and shame points to threatened social relations, and the existence of negative sentiments in one's relations to others (Scheff 1990: 15). In other words, pride contributes to the resurrection, maintenance or thickening of social relations and shame signals troubles in relationships.

2.2 From this perspective social emotions can be understood as experiential, bodily and process-like relations and states. They rather evolve intersubjectively than refer to individual phenomena (Lupton 1998: 16) or a power that determines people's action from outside (Denzin 1984: 26). As Crossley (1996: 45) puts it: "Emotion is a situated corporeal attitude, a way of being in relation to the world".

2.3 Scheff's theory of emotions is a great deal based on Cooley's pragmatistic theory of the self. Cooley (1992) considers pride and shame as basic emotions in the construction of self, against which the agent mirrors social respect from others. These emotions evolve as three-stage processes, in which agents first imagine in their mind the external appearance of their behaviour in the eyes of others, then make an evaluation of it, which finally leads to an experience of pride or shame (Scheff 1990: 82; Scheff 2006).

2.4 This evaluative observation that is directed to the self is possible to face with the terms of I and me, most famously used by G.H. Mead (1962). I refers to the private inner side of the self and me refers to the public observable side of the self. This division is valuable for the analysis of social emotions in the diaries and their importance for friendship bonding. As a genre of data, diaries are material that encourages the writers towards 'introspection', 'self-talk' and 'internal conversation' and thereby they make the evaluative observation between I and me visible. In the diaries the narrator represents the the I and the protagonist represents me (see Törrönen 2008). The narrator-I and the protagonist-me are both at the same time present and they presuppose each other, even though the role of the private I can vary between a visible or hidden speaker. For example, when events occur as expected, the I usually vanishes at the background and describes how the evening out proceeded, whereas in those cases where the events do not occur as expected, the I, in turn, comes to the forefront and evaluates why matters went wrong.

2.5 By analysing the dynamic between the private I and the public me we can trace how social emotions evolve in a process, as situated corporeal attitudes and ways of being and relating in the world. This is articulated and embodied in the diaries in that how the narrator-I identifies and deals with the social action of the protagonist-me in different contexts. When the narrator-I considers the public behaviour of her /his protagonist-me as normal, by not paying too much attention to it or by rejoicing it, she or he expresses the presence of prideful feelings in the interaction. When the narrator-I, in turn, evaluates the public behaviour of her or his protagonist-me or others as inappropriate, she or he refers to the presence of shameful emotions in the interaction.

Analyzing diaries

3.1 Our data consists of 60 pub and drinking diaries written by young adult Finns aged 23–35. The mean age of the writers was 28 years. The writers wrote down every of their pub, nightclub and dining place visits as well as drinking occasions elsewhere for at least a two-month period. We asked the writers to tell about each of their evenings out, both as a pre-story in which they describe their expectations for the evening, and as a realised story in which they report how the events actually started, transpired and ended. Likewise, we told to write freely about all things related to the evening's main events, such as their and their friend's feelings, and how their hopes and choices were realized in the course of the evening. Thereby, they take the role of an ethnographer, detailing their own life circles and styles (Törrönen & Maunu 2007a).

3.2 We recruited the writers from among employees within the new and rapidly expanding fields of information and service branches. We assumed that these groups represent culturally emerging groups, a new generation, whose bar and drinking narratives offer material for inferring what kinds of drinking situations appear to be diminishing in Finnish culture, what drinking situations are culturally strong, and what kinds of new drinking situations are emerging (on the analysis of these themes see Törrönen & Maunu 2007b and Törrönen 2008).

3.3 The data collection took place in Helsinki metropolitan area in 2003 and 2004. During the data collection it became clear that several writers felt unable to fulfil the commitments necessary to complete the diaries. Men in particular had great difficulty writing the diaries. Therefore, to achieve our target of 60 diaries, we recruited altogether 117 writers, and just over a half of them completed it. Even then the gender balance remained unbalanced. The final material comprised 39 women's diaries and 21 men's in contrasts with the fact that earlier research gives only scant attention to women's drinking. The shortest diary was 4 pages, the longest 40 pages, with single line-spacing. There were 1022 narratives (663 written by women and 359 written by men) and their events covered all seasons.

3.4 One could easily imagine that diary material is private data in which the separateness of self from friends and others is emphasised and in which the world is solely looked at in a self-focused and psychological way. This is not the case, however. In the Meadian tradition it is emphasised that subject is born and evolves as an intersubjective process, which leads in the end to an adaptation of the viewpoint of 'generalised other'. An ability to adopt the viewpoint of generalised other is a precondition for the reflexive dialogue between I and me (Kilpinen 2000). In this sense, diary writing is an intersubjective activity. By writing diary, one communicates with others through the practices of language. A diary, however, does not reflect the lived life. Rather, with the help of language one organises the lived life, transforms it, and solves its problems (see Todorov 1984, 55).

3.5 The diaries' narrations on the lived life are directed and regulated by so-called "autobiographic contract" (Lejeune 1975). This means that the writers tell about their life such that the reader trusts that the narrating I and the protagonist-me are one and the same person, whose action, behaviour and experiences the narrator describes as truthfully as possible (see Vilkko 1990: 83). The writer cannot write about everything that occurs, and so chooses the material significant to her or him. This process of subjective selection and typification is, however, guided by cultural values, classifications and schemas on what is valuable to narrate and the cultural conventions on narrating (ibid. 84).

3.6 The subjective selection process of diary writing was also guided by the fact the diaries were written for the researchers, effectively strangers. We can therefore characterise them as public documents that handle private experiences (Bloom 1996). This circumstance, rather than making diaries feigned or otherwise inauthentic, helps ensure that the writers' normative expectations become more fully articulated: we assume that the diary-writers have emphasised the expectations and behavioural norms of their culture and their significant others more clearly than in completely private documents. One can assume that diaries expressively embody what kind of social emotions and friendship bonds related to drinking are either culturally permitted and desirable or questionable and avoidable in the 'eyes of society'.

3.7 In the article we aim at to analyse how emotions of pride and shame in drinking strengthen, distort and modify friendship ties. We assume that the meaning of pride or shame for friendship ties can be divided into three general or ideal types of social relationships that might be valued among a particular drinking group or in a particular drinking situation. Firstly, personal relationships may be based on the self-sufficient independence from others (individuality); secondly, relationships may be based on a dependence to others that wipes out independence (conformity); and thirdly, relationships may be based on the mutual dependence and solidarity between people (equality) (Scheff 1990, Törrönen & Välipakka 2007). These relationship dynamics, in turn, become embodied in the reflexive dialogue between a diary writer's private I and public me – that is, in the social actions, expectations and desires that are described in a diary (me), and in the evaluations the diary writer does of the described material (I).

3.8 Our earlier studies on the same data have shown that, in the Finnish context, drinking is strongly associated with the stimulation and reinforcement of friendship ties, on the one hand (Törrönen & Maunu 2007b). On the other hand, drinking often appears in a troublesome relation to the romantic love affairs, as well as to individualistically oriented search for sex partners and self-assertion (Törrönen 2008, Törrönen & Maunu 2007a). These results form another background for our analysis, and in this study we focus on to examine what kinds of cultural meanings the emotions of pride and shame get in different social dynamics between I and me (individuality, conformity and equality) and in different kinds of social relations (friendship, love and competition).

3.9 In our analysis, we trace the emotional management of friendship ties in drinking from different directions by applying methodological concepts from narratology, like narrator, protagonist and point of view (Prince 1988). As has become evident above, narrator refers here to the private I and protagonist to the public me. Point of view, in turn, refers to that from what kinds of standpoints, focuses and scopes the events of the narrative are seen, sensed and experienced.

3.10 First of all, we will identify emotional episodes from each narrative. An emotional episode may be defined as a passage of narration in which the private I's relation to the public me, friends or others is determined by one and the same emotion. Emotional episodes may be distinguished from each other on the basis of a transition, shift or crisis in the relation between the I and the me. Usually a transition, shift or crisis refers to the fact that the I experiences her or his freedom of action as being threatened or she or he feels driven apart from others. At the same time this marks a change in the emotional state of the agent. Sometimes a narrative describes one emotional episode, sometimes it expresses strong alternations, which means that the narrative involves more than one emotional episode.

3.11 Secondly, in the emotional episodes and shifts we will analyse the tone and intensity of the private I's identification with or distinction from the public me, friends and others. The shameful emotional qualities may be expressed by such kinds of matters as disappointment, embarrassment, feeling isolated, boredom, tediousness, feeling alienated, feeling incongruity and disgust. The emotional tones that refer to pride are expressed in the diaries predominantly more implicitly. This may be due to the fact that the agent supposes already from the beginning that the evening will be a glad get-together with friends or with other company, so that one does not need to deal with the connection of drinking to pride, especially when everything goes fine. In these kinds of cases, prideful experience comes into being as a by-product of sociability. It is also possible that in Finnish culture, pride is experienced strongly as a shared property of the group of friends in which case its individual description may appear as a narcissist praising of oneself and therefore it is avoided.

3.12 Thirdly, in the emotional episodes we will pay attention to how emotions connected to the expectations of the environs appear to the I and by whom these expectations are represented: through friends, acquaintances, spouse, work mates, overall cultural conventions? In connection to this we follow how the I emphasises the points of view of friends or others. The I may tell about the events solely from her or his own viewpoint or the I can also comment on others' perspectives to the events.

3.13 In addition, emotionally intensive sociability needs a shared focus of attention or action that functions as the mediator, or shared reference, of the joint experience (Collins 2004). Thus, in the context of emotional episodes, we will consider with what kind of shared focus and emotion the private I is attuned to the public me, friends and others. What kinds of emotions does the shared focus bring forth? In what way does the I conform unconditionally to the shared focus of the group and how is it - in regard to her or his feelings - observable and reflexive in relations to the me, friends and third parties?

3.14 Our analysis of the diaries proceeds so that we first generate knowledge for our research questions by analysing how drinking is connected to pride in the management of friendship ties. Then we analyse the matter from the perspective of shame.

Pride: drinking strengthens social bonds and self

Pride for friendship

4.1 In the diaries there are plenty of narratives in which drinking strengthens the mutual emotions of solidarity and lubricates social bonds between friends. This produces egalitarian pride as in the following narrative by Mirja.
15.4. Sunday

Tonight is a happening I've been waiting for months, a birthday party of my favorite bar Noteboard. These parties always have a good atmosphere because the owners invite regulars which means quite a like-minded bunch. In sight there is free food, drink and entertainment of good quality. I got [an] invitation [and] I bring Jouko [boyfriend] with me. [T]he bar was totally packed at about 6 pm when we arrive. [-] No free chairs any more so we take our ciders and sit down to the floor by the band equipment. A pot- pellied drummer taps disarming 80's-style music that makes people smile and dance, the audience is cheering because free drinks bring about tender hearts. I recognise many faces, I say hello and have a talk with more and less acquainted ones. Almost everyone knows each other's face. Personable people of all ages, that's so great! We drink everything that's offered, long drinks, cider and beer, and we get happily drunk while sitting on the floor, the drummer packs his stuff and a surprise show starts, some old black gents [-]. The folks admire and applaud loudly, so do we. They play in a quite anaemic way but Jouko is so smashed that he shouts an encouraging yeah once a minute, that's so sweet. Drunk Finnish culture dopes are a really nice and easy audience for the musicians. I like this so much more than being "cool". [The evening goes on and ends in a laid-back atmosphere.] (Mirja [W])

4.2 Mirja's narrative can be interpreted as a single emotional episode. Mirja's I and me identify with the convivial sociability of "drunk culture dopes". Emotions are shaded by tender-heartedness and fondness towards the favorite bar's tribe. The intensity of emotions is increased by taking distance from "being cool", which refers to people who contemptuously highlight their distinctiveness and individuality and are too much oriented to competition (see Törrönen & Maunu 2005). Mirja's expectations for the night are high. She is going to have a party with "like-minded" people and she does not need to disappoint.

4.3 Mirja also gives big emphasis to the others' point of view. The perspective towards the situation swings in different directions, which strengthens the impression of a community where everyone, the doormen and the musicians included, is equal. The partygoers' joint focus is not based on a strong division between performers and audience. Rather every member of the community plays both these roles (cf. Goffman 1959, 109–140). Thus their interaction can be characterised as a search for and maintenance of a common will or emotional state (Törrönen & Maunu 2007b). The reflexivity of Mirja's private I towards her public me and her party colleagues is quite ample but sympathetic, and it aims to protect the partygoers' common state of will and emotions. There appears no alteration or turbulence in Mirja's emotional experience, and everything in the narrative suggests that the evening was prideful.

4.4 Mirja's narrative embodies a drinking habit that we call partying (Törrönen & Maunu 2007a). It fulfils the central features of Durkheim's social ritual (1965) and Simmel's ideal sociability (1949). As Mirja's narrative well exemplifies, in partying the private I aims to detach from his/her personal goals and enter into a group's common state of will and emotions that is equally shared by everyone. The common state of will and emotions is sustained by doing things together and in the same rhythm, thus respecting mutual solidarity. Because the aim of partying is to revitalise and confirm the emotional energy of a close circle of friends, the public me's do not bring out their personal interests, which could pull the group apart (Järvinen 2003: 220).

4.5 Hence the emotional energy of a partying group is built on a presence of controlled and reflective sociability in the party situation itself. The partygoers expect from each other that everyone remain at the same level of emotional energy. This, in turn, requires observation and guidance of each partygoer's private I so that the shared activities remain communicable and coordinated. The norm of sociable partying is for the individuals to drink at the same pace and hence to encourage a mildly rising level of intoxication and preventing getting too pissed. If someone arrives at a party later than others, s/he reaches out by drinking faster; and if someone notices that s/he has drunk too much, s/he takes a time-out from drinking by having some water, juice or soda (Törrönen & Maunu 2007b and 2009).

4.6 Sociable partying is an ideal form of intoxication-oriented drinking for strengthening friendship ties in the diaries. In addition, there appears also a heroic or carnivalist drinking habit which is characterized by several days' extreme drinking among friends (Törrönen & Maunu 2007a). There are also elements of pride in this kind of heroic drinking. The thing is to experience emphatically sensible, bodily and uniform intersubjectivity by suspending individual reflectivity temporarily and by forming an archaic collective body, an all-embracing social bond between friends (ibid.). This reminds the so-called traditional Finnish way of drinking, but in the diaries it does not lead into cosmic loneliness in the sense Falk and Sulkunen (1983) interpret it. Rather the strong collectivity is often experienced as empowering, either powerful in its greatness or hilarious in its pomposity, both in men's and women's diaries. On the other hand, many diary writers experience extreme drinking as troublesome as it blocks the dialogue between the I and the me, and thus makes the individual's behaviour unbridled. But even then the shameful experience is not about cosmic loneliness but rather about too rooty a sociability, a surrender to primitive forces which often is associated with the teenage years already passed (Törrönen & Maunu 2009).

Shame: non-drinking or drinking threatens the self's relations with others or her/himself

The self feels ashamed of a failed experience of friendship or love

5.1 The following narrative by Simo expresses a situation of sociable partying in which Simo has to hold back his drinking. Therefore he feels that he remains outside friends' sociability.

Today was the graduation party of Aku's girlfriend Orvokki. The idea was to be at Aku's and Orvokki's in the beginning and then move on to the city. I have to take this easy because I have promised to pick up my parents from the station tomorrow morning for they return from a trip.
I know I can't have too much alcohol and I have to leave early for home. Though I've promised ages ago to pick up my parents in the morning, I'm pissed off, because the week has been somehow hectic and I'd really like to adjust myself to zero and party all through the night. I take only a sixpack with me and decide to take a bus from downtown at the latest at 2 AM.
Jape gives me a ride to the party place. Jape wants to stay sober this month and this day and tomorrow are still left. [At the place,] there are already [several women and men]. Later at the place there appears [among others] Rellu and Vili with their girlfriends. I notice that Rellu and Vili clearly are a bit nervous, because they have never before showed their women to the rest of the group. I've met Rellu's girlfriend Ellu many times [-]. Ellu is okay. Vili's girl turns out to be a good looking and nice blonde, though I don't talk with her too much. Vili is seemingly excited.
Jape leaves for home at some phase and we others take taxis downtown at about eleven. First we try to make it into Nexus, but it's packed. We go to Nepot. Everyone seems to be quite smashed. We have beers after which the others decide to move on to Noisepit. Some of Suski's friends have a birthday party or something and she's going to meet her friends in some place at Sportstreet. Suski tries to induce me to come with them, because she wants to introduce me to her pals. But I decide to leave for home so I'm able to drive in the morning. Still I'm a bit pissed off because I didn't go with Suski. (Simo [M])

5.2 It is possible to interpret Simo's narrative as a single emotional episode. The beginning of the narrative brings out that Simo is used to drinking heavily as a counter-balance to a heavy workweek. But this time he cannot do it because he has promised to pick up his parents in the next morning. Hence his private I is forced to take distance from the party and his expectations towards the evening are flat. The evening starts with being pissed off and it also ends in being pissed off as Simo refuses Suski's invitation to go along with her. It is interesting that the sense of community with friends requires drunkenness in Simo's experience. In this respect Simo reminds one of a traditional image of a Finnish man who has to overcome his separateness and loneliness through intoxication, and for whom sociability and the sharing of emotions is impossible without intoxication (see Mäkelä 1982). While Simo remains an outsider to having fun, he is alert to his male friends' nervousness as they come to the party with their previously unknown girlfriends. And as Simo cannot get intoxicated because he continuously has to have a handbrake on, there appears no mutual attunement into a shared focus, state of will and emotions of the drinking group. This becomes expressed also in Simo's continuous reflection of his own, but also his friends' emotional states from a distance.

5.3 Simo's narrative illustrates a case in which too little drinking restrains the construction of shared emotional energy. In addition to this, too heavy drinking can also restrain the shared state of common will and emotional energy. Too heavy drinking invalidates the individual's ability to remain actively in the sphere of common will and mood (see Törrönen & Maunu 2007b). Because of these risks, drinking is defined by both the lower and upper limits in sociable partying, as we have previously brought out.

5.4 It is interesting that woman tend to carry shame on behalf of the others more often than men in sociable partying. They may closely reflect on who should and who should not be invited so that the friends would be able to attune to a mutual emotional state. They may worry in advance if someone who might be coming could ruin the atmosphere with his/her inappropriate behaviour. And if some of the friends seem lonely or unhappy during the night, they may afterwards experience shame that they had left their friends feeling isolated (see Törrönen 2008).

5.5 In women's diaries, sociable partying is sometimes connected with expectations of romantic love with a man in the group of friends. This may arouse shame into an otherwise nice evening. This is illustrated by the following excerpt from Kaisa's diary.

At about ten-eleven we ran out of our drinks and we decided to move on to a bar in our own neighbourhood. Now we've had enough tourism as we've been as far as in the other side of the town. For a reason we end up in Nosebag once again and I start to think if I get down again like nearly always in that bar. Funnily enough, this time all is quite ok, we play board games with different line-ups [-]. The folks drain away one by one until there's only the tiny but hard-headed boozer Raisa, the willing after-party host Raimo [who the writer would like to pick up, but Raimo does not know it], and the liquor craving me. So after-parties at Raimo's. And what happened there... As a consequence of the serving, Raisa suddenly transforms into her "I'm so tiny and cute and helpless" -mode that suddenly starts to annoy me extremely. Especially when Raimo says that it's great that Raisa is in reliable company, otherwise that would be irresistible. But I heard that it wouldn't suit my style at all. When the charming maiden has passed out and wallows in the sofa, I decide that also I must have some sense of dignity, and I decide to leave for home to sleep. Raimo is honestly surprised and wonders what's up, and is convinced that of course nothing's going to happen here. I'm left with a slightly strange feeling about the whole night. (Kaisa [W])

5.6 In the first emotional episode, Kaisa identifies herself with the laid-back partying of her circle of friends. Good feelings however get upset when women start to compete for men's attention, and the emotional episode changes. In a Simmelian (1949) interpretation, personal interests rise to the fore which starts to disturb the group's sociability. The later the evening goes, the more Kaisa begins to have expectations towards Raimo and gives weight to Raimo's point of view. But the mutual attunement with Raimo does not succeed which is a big disappointment. At the same time Kaisa experiences envy and jealousy towards Raisa. Kaisa's private I interprets Raisa's pretending behaviour as shameful, and she decides to protect her pride by leaving the scene. The narrative thus describes an intertwining of two different logics of interaction, and the tensions this intertwining produces. Nevertheless, it is not always that sociability and flirting lead to trouble in mutuality. In the diaries there are narratives when both succeed, and this can make the experience doubly prideful.

Shame of dependent behaviour in friendship or love

5.7 The following narrative by Mervi exemplifies a drinking situation in which the drinker tries to remain self-sufficient, and does not seek an emotional mirror by identifying with a shared focus, mood or a collective body of friends. As a consequence, her feelings start to drift more easily, and this produces some shameful experiences.

Wed 5.5.

I saw Merja. First we were in Noumena, then we went on to Noblesse. We had girls' talk, that is about boys. Do boys ever talk about girls when they're intoxicated? Or is the perspective and the tone different? I declared that I'm an independent single who doesn't need or search for a man at the moment. Merja blamed her ex-boyfriend and said that it's better if they don't keep in touch at all. At Noblesse I saw a celebrity boy I've been noticing before. Well. I must have eyed him up in a really obvious way, and I didn't even profit from that. My friend eyed up another boy who came to talk to me. That was weird. My friend was interested in a boy who was interested in me while I tried to eye up that celebrity. We were there until closing and my friend went on to Nibelung. First I thought to go out to eat with my friend's heart-throb, but I ended up queuing to get into No-Load because the object of my interest was going there. I tried to start chatting about something but he didn't warm up. Blah. I felt myself an idiot and exited to the background. I had pizza on my way home and sent a message to my roommate to come and get me by car, I couldn't walk. He replied to take a taxi. I didn't. I walked. When I got home I went to sleep beside my roommate. The independence bravado of the kick-off had changed into the late night's severe hug shortage. Next day I got a message from Merja that she had called her ex-boyfriend late in the night. (Mervi [W])

5.8 Three emotional episodes can be identified in Mervi's diary narrative. In the first episode Mervi's private I affiliates with her public me and her girlfriend, and experiences pride of being an independent, self-sufficient single woman. Also Mervi's girlfriend Merja suggests getting along better without a man. While getting intoxicated, they construct consciously and intersubjectively an autonomous subject position for each other. Mervi's declaration of independence seems however ambiguous because at the same time she talks about men and eyes them up. She is focused on picking up a man. Mervi does recognize the independence of her public me as contrived when saying "well". This utterance marks also a transition to the second emotional episode. In this episode Mervi's bonding with her girlfriend is decreasing and bonding with men is coming to the fore. A complicated configuration of competition and chain of glances is forming when Merja is interested in a boy who is interested in Mervi who in turn is eyeing up the celebrity man. This competition comes to an end when Mervi decides to follow the object of her fancy to No-Load. The expectations of a pick-up are not fulfilled though. When the bond with the celebrity man remains unattended, Mervi's private I is in a state of shame: "I felt myself an idiot". The third emotional episode starts from the exit to the background. Here Mervi's tired and intoxicated self cannot stand being alone but falls back on her roommate who does not even bother to get her home by car. Mervi's private I takes distance to the dependent behaviour of her public me by an ironical but seemingly tenable saying: "The independence bravado of the kick-off had changed into the late night's severe hug shortage". Comfort to the shameful weakness is brought also by consciousness that the girlfriend had conducted herself in a similar manner. Finally also she had fallen back on an unpleasant option: the ex-boyfriend.

5.9 Among some diary writers the individual drinking and the lack of independence in love leads into the loss of drinking control. For example Vilja confesses in her diary that if she is drunk and does not get feedback from the man she aspires to, she may start to drink like a sponge:

I guess it is just so that when you feel bad inside, you try to get a better feeling with the help of alcohol. Then you just drink more and more because you feel that you don't feel any better. So I guess I try to drown my sorrow and escape the reality with the help of alcohol. But so many times I have noticed [-] that it goes the other way around: you feel far from better. Just like now, I felt myself a real failure and I hated myself. (Vilja [W])

5.10 If an individual drinker begins to cure shyness or a wounded emotional life, alcohol may get an edge over the private I and become a power that makes the public me do things that the private I does not want or is not able to identify with. If the troubles continue for long enough, the process can lead into a so-called feeling trap which means that the individual gets locked into a spiral of negative emotions (Scheff 1990: 199-200;Törrönen 2008).

5.11 If drinking breaks away from sociability, it may strengthen the motivation for drinking through the spiral of negative emotions. In the beginning of one our diary, a man called Ilkka, who is actively searching for a girlfriend, gets dumped by a girl who first was interested in him but then was not. Ilkka begins to cure his mood by sipping home-brew alone in his home in the evenings and little by little realizes that he goes on to bars also on weekdays, which is not acceptable to his private I. This produces moral hangover for Ilkka every day. Finally he promises to himself to spend "several days without a drop" (Törrönen 2008).

5.12 In heroic or carnevalist drinking situations, by turn, shame is not connected with a spiral of negative emotions or a fear of addiction, but it is engendered by losing temporarily one's own autonomy and ability to act reflexively. This is illustrated by the following narrative by Aleksi:

After the workday my friends Uki, Aki, Eki and his common-law wife Annika gathered into our home. My wife is unfortunately in Stockholm on a work trip. We are supposed to drink aperitifs, eat, and have a sauna after which move on to Nanoweb to watch a [band] gig.
Drinking is likely to be quite intoxication-oriented, especially my male guests really don't spit into the glass! I believed that we'll leave for Nanoweb at about 10 PM, and straight from there to some place where they play hard rock, like Naphta...
[-] The start was just as anticipated, we ate, had a sauna and got drunk. We took the bus towards Nanoweb a little after 10 (PM), as a piquant detail let us mention that we were thrown out of the bus like petty teenagers because we drank beer! A shameful experience. So we took a tram that took us comfortably all the way.
In Nanoweb we had a few beers and long drinks and watched the gig. My engine started to scream so much that at about 11.30 we decided to stop watching the gig with my friend Uki and we walked (a little staggering) into the good old Navarro beer restaurant. A few pints for first aid and the conversation was really high-flying! We praised each other uninhibitedly and praised how great friends we really are. [-]
The rest of the group came also to Navarro after the gig. We started to plan a naked streaking in a center downtown (my dear God...) and the alcohol blood level came close to the professionals' figures. A blessing in disguise was that sleep got the better over the tramp, that is, Aleksi took a little nap at Navarro's table. For some reason they didn't take me out of the bar, on the other hand I didn't bring any trouble...
The closing bell came probably at 2.30 and [-] we all [-] went to have some fast food. A taxi took the partygoers home at about four.
Writing this story afterwards it doesn't seem too freaky, nobody got hurt mentally or physically, I didn't blow too much money etc. etc. But the moral hangover was totally enormous, I haven't been near a bar after this visit. I had somehow thought that I can drink sensibly and I don't resort to hyper-intoxication any more, accidents seem to happen and mercifully you can learn from them. However, now the story makes me smile! [-] (Aleksi [M]).

5.13 Two emotional episodes can be recognized in Aleksi's narrative. In the first, Aleksi identifies with the common celebration of his group of friends. His private I expects drinking to be intoxication-oriented, and his public me takes part in it in an approving manner. Aleksi narrates the activities in the form of 'us' and takes also his friends' points of view into account. The solidarity and equality of the friends is also strengthened by a strong, joint focus: the friends are doing and experiencing it all together from the first beers to the final taxi trip. The way and the mood Aleksi tells the story is however ironic, distantiating. In the second episode Aleksi experiences a severe moral hangover and his private I gives an opposite meaning to the behaviour of his public me. It seems that Aleksi would have wanted to remain in the sphere of regulated, sociable intoxication in the first episode, and he feels great guilty of losing his autonomy and ability to behave in the public space, that is, he regressed into a "teenager". He doesn't give any weight of the "hyper-intoxication" to his friends but takes himself all the shame. However, because the story was written a month since the relapse, Aleksi's public I is finally able to give mercy to the freak-outs of his public me. He says smiling that he can learn from the accident, and thus Aleksi's private I can be seen to give a compensation to his future me of the errors he has made. This strengthens the ideal of autonomy further.

5.14 Also for women, drunk flops usually arouse shame, especially when drinking leads to loss of bodily control. For example Jutta [W] describes in her diary that a couple of times a year she wants to get really drunk, never mind her brain, and fuss over as the "person she really is". On one such occasion described in her diary, it all is nice until she vomits all the drinks she had drunk right on the bedroom table. This loss of bodily control cuts down on the fun, and in the rest of her narrative, Jutta's private I blames her public me for her shameful error (see Törrönen 2008).

5.15 All diary writers, however, do not experience extreme intoxication as shameful. Especially some men view their drunken freak-outs either heroic in their magnitude or hilarious in their bombasticity, as we have previously interpreted. This tells us that in the Finnish culture, men are in a position to break trough everyday rules in a way not allowed to women.

Pride, shame and equality among friends and others

6.1 The analysis of drinking experiences from the viewpoint of pride and shame brings expressively forth how drinking strengthens or weakens different kinds of social relations and dynamics and how actors try to attach to them or secede from them. In the diary narratives, the pride and shame of drinking is most strongly associated with reinforcement and bonding efforts of ties of friendship that are considered laid-back and like-minded. In relation to them the status, competition, the emphasis of one's self and indulging in love affairs occur in the narratives considerably more seldom, and if they occur, they rather contribute to shameful experiences or remain subordinate to friendship. As we have noticed in our earlier studies, friendship ties that are based on equality, or even similarity, seem to have a strong importance in Finnish culture (Törrönen & Maunu 2005).

6.2 The ideal of equality appears in the emotional management of drinking as the private I's sensitization to others' viewpoints and emotions. The private I gravitates by drinking to a shared social space where one can experience sympathy and reciprocity with friends and others. One aims at to tune into a shared emotional atmosphere, to achieve and maintain a shared emotional level of energy which calls for from the private I acrobatics between 'too less' and 'too much' drinking. Mirja's narrative above crystallizes success in the achievement and maintenance of the shared emotional level of energy, whereas Simo's narrative exemplifies the case where the private I does not succeed in this attempt. Thus the emotional connection with one's friends runs dry.

6.3 The strong position of the ideal of equality in the sociability of young adults hints of the fact that in Finland - which industrialised and urbanised late and where over 50 per cent of the population lived in the countryside yet in the 1960s - sociability is still presented and made rather by sowing the peasant culture (Mäkelä 1985, Alapuro 1988) that values equality and modesty than by playing with class-based distinctions (Roos 1986). We may say that in Finland young adults' sociability among friends and others orientates to Durkheim-like or Simmel-like aspiration to social solidarity and despises Bourdieu-like combat for social superiority. While aiming at equality, intoxication does not lead in the end to a cosmic loneliness. Instead, in their narratives diary-writers try to overcome by their intoxication their separateness from friends and others which is the other side of the ideal of independence (Mäkelä 1985).

6.4 It is thus logical that the emotional management of drinking and friendship ties seem to be most difficult to master in situations where people reach by their drinking pride for their individual self. In drinking situations where one emphasises primarily egalitarian sociability among laid-back and like-minded people, shameful experiences are usually transitory emotional hardships which can be settled together with friends. Instead, if drinking is motivated primarily by individual interests, it appears as emotionally more ambivalent action. The diary writers who drink in such and individual way, describe individual drinking, on the one hand, as seductive drinking style because it is freer from social commitments and gives more space for individual aspirations and emotional alternations. On the other hand, individual drinking appears also in their narratives as threatening since it may become too detached from the invigorating power and protection of friends' shared emotional energy. In that case the problems and shameful emotions that show up in drinking may accumulate on the shoulders of one's own and lead to a process where the gap between one's actual drinking behaviour and collectively accepted norms increases. At worst, this kind of drinking drives the individual away from his or her significant social bonds and thus may contribute to asocial, even addictive drinking and solitude in terms of friendship and emotions.


The article is part of the projects "Changes in the cultural position of drinking" (Academy of Finland: 118426) and Changing Alcohol Culture (FAS 2007 - 2131).


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