In my recent wrap up of my first 3 months I noticed that my article about why we all need some alone time has been my most popular piece so far. I think this says a lot about the current organisation in our society and how there is such a strong pressure to stay connected to others that we end up craving more and more alone time. However, I believe that a big part of the problem is the quality and type of social interactions people are having, and it is with that in mind that I thought it was time to talk about the value of spending time with people that energise us. This may sound like the complete opposite stance to my earlier article about needing alone time, but the truth of the matter is that as humans we need both. We need time to be alone and focus on ourselves but we also need time with others, forming emotional and social connections and building our relationships. The problem we face is balancing these needs.
Social Media: The Anti-thesis of a Balanced Life
In terms of balancing your life, social media sucks. No that's not fair. It's not just social media that puts undue strain on us but technology advances in general. Emails, text messages, mobile phones, twiter, facebook, blah blah blah, the list goes on forever. With the plethora of these modern products available to us we have become a society that is always on but never truly connected.
With these technologies anyone can contact us at any time they wish. And they generally do. We spend countless hours in front of a screen (computer, phone or otherwise) interacting with people but not really connecting to them. The problem with this is two-fold.
First, it means we rarely get to experience that true alone time where we can devote to ourselves. With all these options we never disconnect and we lose our personal identities. The increase of availability we have through technologies means a decrease in time for ourselves. Which explains why more people are feeling like they need alone time.
The second problem is that these modern methods of communication are impersonal at best and any positive feeling we derive from them is so short-lived that they do not actually fulfill our human needs for social and emotional connection with others. All they do is give a short burst of quasi-connection with others that just leaves us wanting more. Which is why many people become addicted to social media.
You may have a thousand facebook friends, or a million twitter followers, but how many of these people would you invite to your house for dinner? My guess is not many. This is ultimately sad because face to face is where we form true friendships and actually fulfill our humans needs for social interaction.
Humans are meant to interact with other humans in person. Face to face. Mano a mano. That's why we have friends.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
Now that I have had that little rant on the dangers of social media it is time for the most important part of interacting with others - choosing your friends wisely or, as I like to call it, spending time with people that energise you.
Do your friends give you a burst of energy? Do you feel happy to be in their company? After spending time with them do you go home thinking how wonderful they are? Can you be 100% yourself around your friends? If you are not answering yes to these questions then you need to have a long hard look at the type of people you call friends.
For a long time in my life I wanted everyone to be my friend. I was desperate for others to like me so I focused on pleasing everyone and the result was the opposite to what I intended - I connected with no-one. After all, no-one can truly connect with a people-pleaser because by their very definition they are not being true to themselves and humans are very adapt are picking up when someone is not acting congruent.
During this time I would see other people with wonderful friendships and I would be envious. I badly wanted to develop close connections with other people but by being a people-pleaser no-one wanted to develop those strong connections with me. Sure I always had some friends but they were never the guaranteed rock-solid friendships other people had. Looking back it is easy to see why. Building a relationship where one person is always pleasing the other will never be long lasting.
Now I have a handful of really close friends in my life and they are all wonderful people. They are all the kind of people that I can spend hours with before realising the any time has past. They are the kind of people that energise me, excite me, challenge me, and like me for who I am. Every time Sophie and I spend time with these friends we end up raving about how great it was, how wonderful they are, and how we should hang out more with them.
This is not a gloat about how good my life is but a demonstration of what having good friends feels like. I am lucky to have some very good friends who share my interests and passions and my life is better for it. I describe what I feel around my friends to challenge you to think about your friends and how your relationships have been built in the past.
Do your friends energise you?