Am I becoming asocial? Help me not become a homebody.
April 6, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to be more social. I'm unable to -- it feels like I'm wasting my time.

I feel like I have a strange affliction. When people who are not my closest friends ask me to hang out, I have an instantaneous internal reaction that goes 'please don't ask me to hang out with you'. It's not as if I'm anti-social. These are acquaintances, co-workers, or sort-of friends...people I generally like.

The root cause of some of this is I feel like I'd be wasting my time when I could be doing something better. I have a full-time job and work on a side venture and I constantly feel like I should be working on my venture. It's not as if I work on my project either when I don't hang out with said people. *But*, it silently prevents me from going out. Coupled with my expectation of myself that I should be entertaining to these people, I find it mentally taxing to commit to social plans.

This doesn't happen with my closest friends ... I'm always up for meeting them. I only have single digit close friends though -- people I've known for more than a decade now. I don't want my social circle to just be limited to them. I want to have a network/circle of people I know and feel comfortable around, even when I don't deeply connect with them.

I am a somewhat reserved person, though by no means socially awkward or shy. I do re-charge when by myself but also enjoy the company of interesting people and best friends.

I don't want to become that person who says no (or when he can't feels the pressure of saying yes) to every social function or hangout.

Is there a name for what I feel? Is there a solution?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The movie "Yes Man" touches on this a little, but generally I'd say you're getting to the age where you have more interests than you have time for, so you have to budget. Said another way, you make time for the things you want to spend time on.

Consider that maybe the idea that you should have this kind of circle of acquaintances is part of what's driving your guilt, but maybe you don't actually want that kind of circle of friends.

If it's venture related and you think you need to keep in touch with people who might be interested/supportive/etc. of your business stuff later on, then that's a time investment that you'll need to budget for (but only feel "guilt" in relation to how you want your venture to progress).
posted by rhizome at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

When the words, "please don't ask me to hang out with you," go through your head, what are the feelings you're having? Anxiety? Anger? Fear? Dread? Hesitance? Ambivalence? Exhaustion? Where in your body do you feel those feelings? Does your stomach churn? Does your head hurt? Do your muscles tense? What other thoughts are you having? Are you thinking, "I'd much rather go home and relax and take a bath," or "I have so much else to do," or "I just don't want the responsibility right now"?

I think that answering some of those questions might help you figure out what's going on and why you're having the reaction you're having.

It sounds like there are at least two things going on. First, why is it your job to entertain them? If they invited you, why isn't it their responsibility to entertain you? Why does anyone have to entertain anyone else?

Second, you need some balance from your project, which sounds as though it's one of those things that can take up as much time as you're willing to devote to it. I'd set a limit, as well as a commitment to a certain amount of leisure time. Say, "I'm going to work on this project for a maximum of 15 hours per week, and I'm going to spend a minimum of 15 hours a week doing leisure activities, such as socializing, playing, and working on other things I enjoy." Adjust the numbers to whatever fits your life. But then, stick with them for a while and see whether that helps.
posted by decathecting at 11:40 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd like to be more social.

Have you thought about why? Is it just because you think you "should?" Or do you genuinely feel something is missing in your life? Because it sounds like you have a group of good friends who you see frequently, and a lot of interests that keep you busy otherwise. That sounds like a pretty great life.

I kind of feel like this sometimes too, except even some of my closest friends are interested in things I'm really not (Church, Iron Man movies, etc). And some of the things I like they don't care about at all. So I end up choosing between doing the thing I like by myself, or the thing I'm really not into with friends.

My general rule is, if I think I can tolerate it, or if it's something where it's easy to bail early if I hate it, I go, because I want to see my friends.

If I think I might hate it, and it's something where once you're there it's not easy to leave (like a movie), I stay home, or I ask if they want to meet up afterwards. Because it's no fun for them either to sit there and watch me dump on what they like, or silently have a bad time. I know that's not exactly the same kind of situation, but what I'm getting at is it's ok to negotiate and manage the ways you interact socially- it doesn't have to be "DO OUR THING OUR WAY OR GO AWAY FOREVER!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:02 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a full-time job and work on a side venture and I constantly feel like I should be working on my venture

Oh and I totally missed this part- this is a whole different issue. Your side project needs boundaries. With your FT job- it's 9-6 I imagine? And at 6pm, barring an emergency or deadline, you pack up and go home, right?

The problem with side projects, especially when you work on them alone at home, is there is no "6pm." You need to create times that are "working hours" and times that aren't, and stick to it.

I write in my spare time. I do it in the morning or not at all. I also go to a coffee shop. When I'm at the coffee shop in the morning, I'm in "the office" and I write. When I'm not, when I'm home at night, I'm "off." So I don't beat myself up for not writing. Of course I think about it, and sometimes jot down notes, but basically I stick to my boundaries. Beating myself up 24/7 doesn't make me a better or more productive writer- quite the opposite actually.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey, I kind of know what you mean. Whenever I have anything else going on in my life besides work, I start refusing other invitations, thinking that I will use that time instead on the other thing. It never works out that way for me, though.

There is nothing wrong with being a homebody or saying no to doing things you don't want to do. Are these people that you would like to hang out with or not? Are they asking you to do something that you want to do or no? I have a colleague who keeps asking to get a drink after work on Friday and I keep saying no because Fridays are hard for me. But I like this person and I like drinking so I'm going to pick a few dates on my calendar and see if any of those work for her. I also have a former colleague I occasionally run into. When we see each other, we do the yeah-we-should-get-lunch-sometime thing. I do it to be polite but yeah, I'm not really interested in seeing her.

Saying yes to every invitation that you receive sounds like a waste of time. Doing activities that you enjoy with people you like does not, IMHO.
posted by kat518 at 12:25 PM on April 6, 2013

I'm similar in some of the things that you describe (I have a hard time justifying making time for a potential acquaintance and sometimes dread this).Answering as a sock puppet because I am embarrassed that I am like this. It probably depends on what underlies your reasoning for doing this, but some of the solutions that work for me --to evaluate if I want to let someone in further or see if we could become friends -- you know that activity you work on (let's say it is a small business, or an art project, whatever).

Form a group for people who have the same interest. Or find a way to meet people one-on-one for this same interest. Then, you can get to know someone, but you spend time on your interest and you will not work on a bubble. It also can be useful in the long run - the other people will find relevant activities for you and vice verse.

The other possibility is that if there are lectures, activities, related to your interest-invite those acquaintances along (not to exhibit of your painting, but museum exhibit of paintings, etc).

The other thing to realize is that you may be just be wired this way. If you have friends who meet your needs and are happy in your work and outside life, do you need to interact much more with acquaintances? I can only handle so many people in my life, and I have met others who are the same. It is just how you are wired, and I don't think that anything is wrong with being that way.

posted by Dances with sock puppets at 12:32 PM on April 6, 2013

It might help to do a better job of filtering these acquaintenance requests. If you are categorizing social invitations into three basic categories: "Family"=obligation, "close friend"=obligation, and "everyone else"=meh, you might want to filter that out a little bit.

I, too, find it tiresome to "waste" time with coworkers, which in my case is often that group of guys who are so bored with their lives that they try to leverage every excuse to be out of the house into as much time as possible. So if there is a 5pm meeting and they have to tell the wife they will be home late, they might as well hang around after the meeting and cram 8 beers down. I don't need that. I could be watching TV.

On the other hand, doing a few of those things a year (when you measure it by the year, it seems much less of a burden) can be considered a cost of doing business and one of those getting out of the comfort zone experiences. It might not be enjoyable, but at the same time, you don't need to work at it. The people who really want to be there will probably take the lead. The enjoyment doesn't have to be "oh my god, I am so happy to be here now" but more in the reflective "I feel good because I did something different and I didn't know that Fred from accounting liked whittling sailing ships out of reclaimed PVC."
posted by gjc at 2:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dunno, if you have enough friends, why do you need more friends? If you really click with some people, why do you feel obligated to spend time on people you're not interrsted in? You're not asocial because you like hanging out with your friends and aren't interested in getting closer to your colleagues. You just have priorities other than being pals with everyone you know. I think that's totally fine. I mean, there's nothing wrong with expanding your circle if you want to or are stagnating, but you don't have to.
posted by windykites at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The caveat though is that if you do want to expand your circles then you have to put the work in, and for more reserved types that work can be forcing yourself to go hang out with people in spite of that initial "god, no!", reaction, and spending a lot of time getting to know them before deciding whether or not they're worth your time.
posted by windykites at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2013

Socialization is a need. You might feel less angst about going out if you budget time for it.

On the other hand, it's possible that you're not hanging out with the right people, and that's why you're uninterested; again, you would want to budget time to go out and find people who you are more interested in.
posted by zippy at 5:52 PM on April 6, 2013

My opinion? You're seeing this as a problem when it's not one. There's nothing wrong with thinking 'please don't ask me to hang out with you.' You're not going to become "that person who says no... to every social function or hangout" because you're always up for seeing your close friends. You have a side project you're into, and you want to spend your time either doing that or hanging out with people you already know you really like. This sounds healthy to me: a cool side project and a set of close friends. I think a lot of people's lives look like that, especially if you would include those who are raising kids.

Now, if you really think you should be having a wider social life for whatever purpose (cultivating new friends, say), then okay, but it sounds like you're doing it because you think you should, or to allay this fear of who you might become. I don't think there's any way to do things you "should" and not have that use of time feel less satisfying than doing what you actually want to do.

(Now, if the real issue is "every time I try to take a break from work or my side project, I feel anxiety and guilt," I'd give a different answer.)
posted by salvia at 7:16 PM on April 6, 2013

Treatment for avoidant personality disorder?
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:38 PM on April 6, 2013

If you don't actively want to hang out with these people, only go if the activity is something you really want to do.

One way to make sure of this is to organize something yourself. I don't know what your interests are, but I've found this to be a good way to get to know people that I'm not really comfortable with yet and also get to do something I want to do anyway. So no loss if we don't connect that well socially, at least we get to enjoy whatever the activity is. Often, even if it's not their thing, I find people like to try something different.
posted by abirdinthehand at 7:05 AM on April 7, 2013

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