Going out, meeting people – the pinnacle of having fun, for the overwhelming majority of humans on this planet. Also called socializing, in some circles.
I’ve been on both ends of this stick: the “monk end”, where I could spend weeks without seeing anyone, and the “people person”, where I would be surrounded incessantly by other people. Going back and forth between these places made me think, in time, at a way to devise the actual benefits of hanging out.
Benefits Of Socializing
Hanging out with other people enhances our “neuron mirrors”, helps us mitigate our emotions and rebalance when things are going haywire. Sharing memories, asking for feedback, giving and receiving support, all these are possible only when there is more than one person in the conversation.
The most popular term for describing the benefits of socializing is “bonding”. At its core, the meaning of this term is “creating a link”. So the core feature of socializing is the feeling of being part of a something, of belonging. Loneliness seems to be, for many humans, one of the scariest things in the world.
Costs Of Socializing
The first and the most obvious is time. You can’t socialize unless you really spend time with other persons. Time being the only non-renewable resource we have, turns out socializing is quite expensive.
Another relevant cost is attention, or focus. Not only you’re spending time, but you really have to be focused. Attention is also a precious resource, as it’s the primary cause of our reality.
When And How This Could Go Sideways?
There’s obviously a lot more to be said about both benefits and costs, but for the sake of this article (which is just one in the 230 days writing challenge I’m doing right now) I think that’s enough for now.
Let’s see what can go wrong, or when the benefit-cost ratio of socializing may turn negative.
The most common problem is limited emotional outcome. We go out, we meet people, we talk, but somehow we don’t get to really create that bond. Even more, the feelings of loneliness can be even amplified after these unfulfilling social encounters. The obvious action here is: change the social circle.
Another common problem is when we create links that are too strong. We grow too attached to our circle of friends and start to melt in, or to do stuff we don’t really want with them, just to get our social reinforcement. Sooner or later an attachment too strong will lead to addiction, so practicing detachment may prevent this.
Going forward to the costs, not having enough time to socialize can also prevent us from even getting out there. Spending all our time working, or learning, may feel fulfilling for a while, but at some point, we will feel the sting. And then we will be forced to make time for these interactions (as shallow and frivolous as they will seem in the beginning, they are still necessary).
And, the last one, attention. Not paying too much attention to other people (the narcissist syndrome) or paying way too much (to the point of being pry just to satisfy a morbid curiosity), both these situations can affect the way we socialize, and the perceived outcome.
Beyond The Benefits And Costs
As I said in the beginning of the article, this is a feeble attempt to look at socializing from the perspective of benefits and costs.
Truth is, socializing is important beyond this layer.
People with whom we are spending time have a way bigger impact on our lives than we realize. Hanging out consistently with a certain type of person will eventually made us become that type of person. That’s just how we, humans, function. Similarly, if we don’t hang out with anybody, we tend to remain frozen, unchanged, rigid. You know what else is rigid? Yeap, a dead body.
Socializing actually keeps as alive and determines the way we experience life. That’s why the lockdown affected us more than the actual virus, and, in a vicious circle, lowered our immune system making us even more vulnerable to other potential health hazards.
Online socializing helped with this for a while, but online interaction is not only a very limited experience, but even dangerous if done for too long. But that’s a topic for another article, some other day.