How to tactfully become less social and not feel guilty about it?
May 7, 2016 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Former social butterfly turned homebody. How do I not go to birthday parties now (which always seem to be in bars, which I can't stand) and not hurt people's feelings?

Historically I've always had a MILLION friends (not all close friends, obvs) and loved attending as many social things as possible, always said yes to everything, enjoyed a night at a bar etc, made sure I kept in touch with all the people I know, invited everyone I knew to my birthdays and went to all of theirs. Couldn't stand the idea of a night in! Wanted to have as wide a social circle as possible and certainly did.

Now, I just don't want to, to be honest. I run my own business and it's very social which I LOVE. And I have a small group of friends who I enjoy meeting for coffee or board games. And a boyfriend who I live with. I barely drink alcohol anymore. I start work at 6am every day. I work Saturdays, The last thing I want to do on a Saturday night is go to a birthday party at a bar and make small talk.

I keep getting facebook invitations to go to people's birthdays though (one or two every weekend) - usually at bars - and I always think I'll go and then I get super tired and procrastinate (because I don't want to go) and then end up apologising for not going, and feel super guilty for being rude.
Is there a non-rude way to handle this? Mostly this happens with nice people that I have fond memories of and would be thrilled to run into at the supermarket and wish very well but actually I don't hang out with them one on one ever, and I don't really feel the need to - ie they're people I am fond of, but not close with at all, or not anymore. But even when it's good friends birthdays, unless it's for a meal, preferably in the day time, I don't want to go because I really, really hate going to bars and making small talk with their friends or being at house parties or any of those sorts of things, but I feel obligated. Which is not fun.

This all stresses me out a bit because it's only really been like this the last two years (I'm 32), and what if I "go back to normal", and also because it's still a bit of a shock to me that I've ended up being so "boring" and antisocial, but also because I feel so bad letting people down and not being a good friend but I just hate being in these drinking environments because I find it boring and awkward and draining, plus I'm usually tired and ready for an early night. And I've not been honest with anyone about any of this yet, which makes me more anxious, so I'm not sure how to broach it.
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I just don't bother checking facebook invitations.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:14 AM on May 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's better to decline with regret than say you're going and not show up.

If they are just facebook invitations, that's all you need to do. If it is someone you really, truly care about, decline the big party but schedule a lunch for just the two of you soon after. I have a few friends who've done this for me and I greatly appreciate it.

Even a postcard regretting not being at the big party was touching - but that's only if you really care about the person (and know their address).
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:19 AM on May 7, 2016 [20 favorites]

You're feeling antisocial outside of work because you're using up all of your social energy at work. That's okay. If your work situation changes you'll probably turn into a social butterfly again.

You can drop by parties for a quick hello if you want; you can also send a card or call or text people to say "Happy Birthday, thinking of you, how are you etc."

I have friends who've never come to any party, and I've accepted that that's just who they are, at this point in time anyway, and it doesn't mean they don't care about me. Since you were social in the past it can't hurt to let people know that these days with the hours you are working you don't go out as much.
posted by bunderful at 5:22 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you feel like you can't just not go I'd message them and say sorry, since you're working Saturdays now you're just totally wiped out by the end of the day and not up for going out. It's a valid excuse!
posted by kate blank at 5:24 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Who you are right now is not who will be your entire life.

Try to reframe your completely okay desire to stay home as you've made a decision to stay home for now. This is just what you like for the moment, you are not signing a lifetime contract of never partying again.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:38 AM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is why I like Outlook. You can decline an invitation without sending notification to the organizer.

But go ahead and decline. If you like, send an e-card or a quick email with a birthday wish if you want to keep the connection in a low-engagement way.

Close friends, skip the bar, schedule a nice lunch or dinner to celebrate.

Just remember, they're inviting you because they feel exactly the same way about you. They're not really all that invested in your showing up. If you decline you don't even have to say why, although, "I'm not available that night, have a wonderful time!" is a perfectly cromulent reply.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:39 AM on May 7, 2016

Yeah, send regrets to every invitation you don't actively want to attend. You'll find it really freeing.

When my ex and I had a bit of a friend overload, instead of trying to see them individually at the intervals they wanted, we started hosting a monthly potluck sort of to get all the socialization done at once. We scheduled it at a time that was convenient to us, and figured that anyone who really wanted to see us would always have that opportunity to do so, so they wouldn't feel we were perpetually blowing them off or whatever. If you have friends you would still like to see but don't know how to manage it, you could do something similar at a time and venue that you would enjoy; a few times a year you could invite people to a bowling party,a group hike, cider and doughnuts at your house, etc.
posted by metasarah at 5:45 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

"So sorry I can't attend...I have plans that night."
Plans can mean many things, including plans to stay at home.
posted by bookmammal at 5:47 AM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Agree with everyone above, and to address the guilty feelings you're experiencing: when you think back to the parties that you did attend reluctantly, were you a "central pillar" of the night? Were you the one keeping the conversation flowing, making all the jokes, setting the ill-at-ease folks at ease, enjoying deep connections with everyone, etc? I'm guessing probably not (nothing against you! Just that I suspect most parties don't have one central lynchpin) - and therefore, even if you hadn't been there the party would have gone along just as well.

In other words, don't put so much pressure on yourself. If you want to attend an event, go and I'm sure people will be happy to have you there. If you don't want to go, send your regrets and feel no guilt - even though surely your friends would love to see you, your presence won't make or break the event.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:17 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another thing, for what it's worth: if your friends are all around the same age as you, it's possible that they're starting to get tired of bar parties, too. If it appeals to you to do so, maybe start hosting the kinds of events you'd prefer to attend - mid-day potlucks, games nights that end at an earlier hour, etc - and perhaps at least some of your friends will start doing the same.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:20 AM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I agree with dingomutt. You're just ahead of the curve. A lot of the time, other people feel the same as you but their sense of social obligation is stronger than yours. Create events you do want to attend.
posted by museum of fire ants at 6:33 AM on May 7, 2016

".... and not hurt people's feelings.....

you are not in charge of other people's feelings, they are in charge of their own feelings...

Once you incorporate that understanding, you can decline, or even not respond, with no sense of guilt. Your life is YOUR life, you have no responsibility to those that invite you to social events....
posted by HuronBob at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Sorry - I have other plans that night! Have a great birthday." Most people cast wide nets for birthday parties and do not expect everyone to show up.

You do not need to do anything other than setting a good expectation up front by declining, rather than accepting and then declining at the last minute (which does upset some people.) Adults have complex lives and we all know that getting everyone you like together for a particular night is impossible.
posted by scrittore at 7:00 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I could have written this exact question. I have found that I actually really like FB for this. I decline most invitations, but when I do decline on FB, I actually take a moment to connect with that person. For example, when I decline, I may mention some great memory, or something wonderful about the person that I will be thinking of that night. And I really mean it. So in a way, the invites allow me to connect when otherwise I wouldn't have.
posted by Vaike at 7:14 AM on May 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Try to reframe your completely okay desire to stay home as you've made a decision to stay home for now. This is just what you like for the moment, you are not signing a lifetime contract of never partying again.

Yes, but...if you keep doing this, you'll gradually stop getting invites to things, especially from people who aren't your very closest friends. Also, hosting the types of events you prefer to attend may not necessarily draw them in. If they've got a default type of engagement (house parties and bars) that doesn't work for you, it might be hard to sustain these friendships.

I'm you, albeit a bit younger. When I wanted to "go back to normal," the option wasn't really there. My absence at all those parties had led to my old group of friends mostly writing me off. I value my "board games and coffee" crew, but that's the extent of their comfort zone, so I have to meet new people if I want a more lively social life. But because I've been a non-partying homebody for so long, I find it difficult to attract people who aren't like that too. This isn't a best-case scenario, and your friends might be more forgiving, but there's a real risk that your social life won't recover easily.
posted by blerghamot at 8:21 AM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Respond to every RSVP with a private note* saying "I'd love to come but I can't make it that night! Sounds so fun though! How are you? I miss you!" and start a little private chat. Then don't go to the party, no big deal. If the party day arrives and you decide you want to go after all, send a quick note ("My thing got changed last minute, yay! See you in an hour!") and just show up, bonus for everyone. Otherwise, you're off the hook.

For even more social bonus points, message them a few days after the event- "I thought of you on Friday, pics looked so fun, how was it? Made me smile to see you so happy!"

That way, you maintain relationships with everyone, you are polite and fun to interact with, and they'll still like you and invite you out next time, in case this slightly more introverted social style is just a phase for you (maybe not though- it's happened to me too. I think it's a Thing That Happens As We Mature)

*I suggest leaving a private note when you RSVP no, because I think it's bad modern etiquette to decline a party on the public Facebook event page. Everyone sees your note saying "nah not coming" and it makes the party look like it won't be any fun, bums out the host, and subtly deters other people from committing-- humans are pack animals and peer pressure is strong. My rule of thumb is to only post public comments that give people extra energy and life. Your posts should always help the host build momentum on their public pages by posting enthusiasm, congratulations, compliments, kind thoughts, and fun jokes. Never drag the group momentum down by giving your regrets on public pages, where they will hang around on that wall for weeks and make the poor host's party sound deserted. Be public with YES and private with NO is my motto!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:38 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I keep getting facebook invitations to go to people's birthdays though [...] and I always think I'll go and then I get super tired and procrastinate (because I don't want to go) and then end up apologising for not going, and feel super guilty for being rude.
Is there a non-rude way to handle this?

It's very rude to accept an invitation and not show, but it's never, never, NEVER rude to decline an invitation in the first place.
posted by ejs at 8:47 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

You sound neither "boring" or "antisocial" to not want to attend these events. I'm with the people above you recommended you go with a simple: "Thanks for the invite! I can't make it but hope you have a great celebration!" If you want to do a bit more, leave them a quick "Happy Birthday" message on their wall on their birthday. If you really want to do more, suggest meeting up for coffee or lunch sometime at a cafe that doesn't serve alcohol. However, the only thing you "need" to do is RSVP that you can't attend, which is quite easy on Facebook, fortunately. Should you want to go out more with these friends, you can always reach out in the future. In the mean time, you're putting your own needs first (yes!) while staying polite (excellent), so you're set!
posted by smorgasbord at 9:54 AM on May 7, 2016

Or you could just hit "maybe" on all invites, only go to things when you're feeling it, and don't worry about sending notes/apologies/"would love to come but" messages to anyone. Keep it simple, don't feel bad when you don't wanna go out.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2016

2nd blerghamot. You say no enough times, and you stop getting invited. Life is long, things change. At least go for a drink, to the birthdays of people closest to you, and do some self care the next day. Be selective but don't drop off completely. One or two nights a month isn't that tough. Eventually - soon - the parties will move from bars to people's houses, then barbecues, and they'll start earlier and earlier so the kids can get to bed on time. It's worth maintaining friendships - the people you're tight with in five years may not be the same ones you're close to now, for all kinds of reasons.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:06 AM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

You have to be the one who gets everyone else around the table at your house and hit them around the head with how comfortable you are now hanging around the house, and you will be here throwing get-togethers from time to time. Telling your friends at a bar is like a resignation you're going have to do in front of multiple people at multiple locations. Better they are all with you in your comfort zone so they can get comfortable too. Hire a babysitter who can be there on the night, so baby will be kept comfortable, asleep with someone responsible if you decide to keep the party going.
posted by parmanparman at 11:32 AM on May 7, 2016

(I'm 32)

Depending on your social set, this might just be a matter of waiting. I've noticed as people get older (and especially if they have kids) bars stop becoming the default meeting-place for social events.

And if it's just a matter of keeping in touch, you can always show up, say hello to everyone, and leave an hour or two later. Just going to a bar doesn't oblige you to party until dawn.
posted by Ndwright at 2:52 PM on May 7, 2016

Don't accept invites you know you won't go to. It's unkind. Don't say maybe if you're pretty sure you won't go. It's unkind. Say no and change your mind later.

Keep in touch with the people you value by reaching out to them outside the bar party context to keep them as part of your socal fabric. Otherwise, they'll likely write you if they are doing all the reaching out and you never say yes.

It's totally fair to be honest and be known as a non-party friend as long as you bother to invite them to non party things so they know it's just the type of event, not them.
posted by canine epigram at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2016

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