No B.S Friday: My social skills need a bit of a sharpen.
I think I’m becoming aware that I might need to brush up on my social skills.
Humans are endlessly adaptive. It’s a very efficient design thing. Our brains are ‘plastic’ – our brain grows and adds mass around the regions we use regularly. Regions that fall out of use, get trimmed back.
Marvellous design really.
But living in Melbourne, I’ve spent the better part of 18 months with my social skills on ice.
I can feel my brain starting to prune back the areas related to manners and giving a toss what other people say and think.
I’m on the road to isolated and weird.
And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to a few people recently that have had a similar experience. Everything that needs doing has gone online. Human interaction has not just become unnecessary, it’s become something to avoid.
If this were to roll on for another four or five years, I’m pretty sure I’d end up with the social skills of a mountain man who’s spent twenty years in a cabin waiting for the alien invasion.
Isolated and weird.
And that’s the thing when you spend too much time in your own head. You normalise to it. Without the feedback of social mirrors, we never question the rabbit holes our thinking take us down. We never test the opinions we develop. We never catch our biases becoming belief.
It’s like the way social media algorithms create thought-bubbles that reinforce particular ideas and attitudes. It’s like that, except everyone believes the exact same thing as you because they are you.
So as we reopen, we’re going to have to bring ourselves back into the fold of humanity. That’s probably going to be uncomfortable. Other people have different ideas. They have ideas we don’t like. We’re going to have to accept it.
And the thing I worry is that a lot of the trends that have isolated us in lockdown aren’t going into reverse.
Like work-from-home. In many ways, WFH is awesome. It gives people flexibility and more time at home.
But in many ways, it’s terrible because it gives people more time at home. Work life is social life for a lot of people.
Once we take the social out of work, that’s like what, maybe a 50% reduction in people’s social time?
And social skills are like any skill. You use them or lose them.
And so it doesn’t look like the world is just going to bring us gently back into a socially-healthy reality.
The pressures that push us to the edges, that take us towards isolated and weird, remain.
I think we need to take responsibility here.
We need to recognise that we are going to have to put a bit of effort in. We’re going to have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the social zone.
And we know that social bonds take a long time to form. Like 400 hours or something like for someone to become a close friend.
That’s a lot of time.
And it’s why making friends at school was easy. You were forced to spend time with the same people over and over.
And so my advice is invest in this process. Let it take its time. Don’t expect that you’re going to be able to reap the rewards immediately.
Put yourself in a situation where you’re spending time with the same people over and over.
For me, it’s soccer. But I really don’t think it matters.
Invest in your social skills and invest in your life.
Because if it’s one thing we know about humans, it’s that isolated and weird does not equal happy.