What Does it Mean to Be Social?

health

image creds to Wordograms

I’m a fairly outgoing person. Always have been. I’m reasonably friendly. I like people. I like hanging out with people.

Pretty much anyone who knows me knows this.
I’m also an introvert. Not  as many people know that, probably as a result of the aforementioned outgoing-ness. I’m good at communicating. I don’t shy away from activities like debate (I competed for 4 years!) which basically just consist of competitive talking.

I’m also a teenager of the current millennium, and a lot of my communication happens online. Texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. Those things.

I work four days a week, in a capacity that involves talking to people. Being friendly and personable. This past week was especially busy even beyond that, but not inordinately so—I had a long phone conversation with a friend who lives a few states away. I had lunch with someone last weekend. I went to the mall after work with a friend. I went to a party this weekend. I would have been hanging out with a few people today, as well, but too many people had last-minute cancellations, so instead I had another long conversation with a close friend who moved last year. Time zones make it difficult to manage this, but we make it work anyway.

I am social. Undeniably so. Yet I am told that I have a tendency to isolate myself. To “cocoon” in my room with books and notebooks and my laptop.

butterfly-in-cocoon

(Do I look like that?) creds to National Geographic)

And I have to wonder. What does it mean to be social, in this day and age where I can hide away and communicate only via technology—but I don’t?

And why do people think that I have a tendency to isolate when I am almost always talking to someone while I’m online, or going and doing things with people?

I’ve always considered myself a very social person, though I do often need a break from said social activities.

I recharge by being alone, but I am not and have never been a loner.

So I have to ask: why do people—people who know me, people who have raised me and stood by me for more than sixteen years— assume this not to be the case?

Is it a fear that my social life will be absorbed entirely by the internet?

I get the idea that it’s because I have the ability to be near-silent while I’m reading or writing, and then, because it is a huge part of my life, and it is something that I enjoy doing, I talk about them a lot. Much more than I do the parts of my life that consist of human interactions.

I also often don’t talk about real-life interactions because, well, they’re real life, human interactions, and those are personal, and I can have a good time with someone without needing to talk about it.

Sometimes I just want that experience to be between me and the person I shared it with.

Sometimes it’s just, you know, two friends out having fun, and none of what we do even makes sense to anyone who isn’t us.

But because, proportionally, I talk about that part of my life less, it seems like it’s nonexistent.

So where does that fit with people’s perceptions of me? How does that gel with my perception of myself?

I’m still the person I’ve always been.

I still like people. And it… doesn’t feel great to know that the people closest to me don’t see any of that.

I ask if they think I’m antisocial. They say that no, they know I’m not.

But then they tell me to get out of the house more often, and to make sure that I’m socializing with more people, because they don’t want me hiding myself away in a cloud of self-isolation.

It’s a double-standard, one that I fear is created by my generation’s dependency on technology for communication, and then exacerbated by my own strange combination of “outgoing+introvert=???”

I’m still as social as I’ve ever been. But I don’t know what that means anymore.

fishoutofwater

creds to characterstudy’s website

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One thought on “What Does it Mean to Be Social?

  1. I think each person should be able to decide their own definition of “social”. If you like using the internet to communicate with people sometimes, then you should be able to. That was the case with me during a lot of high school since a lot of my friends were debaters from out of state. It ends up being useful in the future. Now that I’m in college, and at home for the summer, I’ve realized how gchatting, texting, video-chatting, etc. in high school has taught me how to stay in touch over the summer with my college friends. As long as your social life is what you would consider balanced, then I think you’re doing great! Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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