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"...the only people who are doing anything, who have any inspiration or energy, are people who are not anarchists, but are close enough not to be terrible."

Who are doing anything? Like what? Burning precincts or running a laundromat co-op? Are they burning 5g antennas or printing zines? I don't find activism enviable or commendable. I don't judge these, but not getting any FOMO from anything commies are doing, from what I've seen or heard.

"While these particular friends are on solid ground, the conversation reminded me of previous friends who have drifted away from anarchist activity, thought, and friends, into the morass of communism and marxism. Another friend used to say that a certain kind of anarchist would become a commie when unable to find more anarchist theory to read."

If a person begins from a desire to personally oppose authority, they're less likely to turn to communism than if they start from the naive desire of ending world hunger or ending poverty. That is to say egoist assholes are less likely to turn communist, than utopian humanitarians, though being an egoist asshole is not inherently anarchic. Reading "theory" (long-form opinions) is so boring, so lets add "being a bore" as predictor towards trending communist as well.

"I also wonder what it might mean to u.s. anarchist thought to have younger people be more interested in other sets of ideas, leaving (relatively) older people to, perhaps, develop and pursue the thinking for a while."

Younger people (at least in this commie trending context) nowadays seem very academically inclined, though their analysis is Sophomoric at best. They have a preference for big name authors they can quote as authoritative figures, or as pointing towards belonging to a clique or subgroup. Older people tend to implicitly reference so many things and previous conversations as to make the younger folk not know or care what they're talking about.

"What are your friends doing? Are you watching them slip away? Does it matter whether they identify as anarchist, and if so, why? And if not, why?"

They're living normie lives. I've grown apart from a lot of people, as a normal part of aging. People move to places close and far away and start families, etc. The slipping away was me towards anarchism, not them towards anything. It doesn't matter inasmuch as what matters more is who's around in times of need, in the good and the bad.

"What are the principles that are significant to your relations with your friends?"

Trust, clear boundaries that are respected, loyalty, honesty, a shared sense of humor.

"Do you just have to feel secure that they won't call the cops on you? Or that they won't shoot you in a revolution?"

I know for a fact friends and family would call the cops and would shoot me in many situations. It's more a matter of avoiding these situations, rather than avoiding the great majority of people who would do so as well. At least friends and family are not looking for an excuse to do so, and would not jump at the first opportunity to harm me.

"Or that they won't urge you to join their group/buy their newspaper? (ok - too old of a reference, maybe). For those of you who are watching (or have seen) such departures, was it more of a leaving to or a leaving from?"

They won't ask you to buy their newspaper, nowadays there's e-begging and crowdfunding i guess would be the parallel. I think many people orbit (like the image) around anarchism and other vague descriptors such as "radicals" or "the left" because of only one thing or another and they gravitate towards whoever or whatever can give them that, not so much due to an internally consistent set of philosophical and ethical principles.