Why be social?

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shishio45
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Why be social?

Postby shishio45 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:37 am UTC

I believe that I have to start this topic with a disclaimer: I love talking to people, more specifically I love having awesome discussions with bright , interesting people who stimulate my mind, as well as hopefully my heart someday but that's a another discussion.

However this has forced me into facing the dilemma of meeting people who while intelligent, interesting, and creative, rarely find a reason to be socially curious and outgoing. For them conversation is only a not so convenient means to the end, which if it does not quickly lead to a predictable goal in mind, is considered pointless. I have my opinions on the matter but this forum isn't to listen to myself talking ( I can do that in my own mind thank you) so I leave the question to you:

- Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?

- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?

- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?

benrules380
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Re: Why be social?

Postby benrules380 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:40 pm UTC

Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?


I think both. Conversations will always have some purpose, even if it is very small. However, why can't the end result be enjoyment? People play video games for enjoyment, and I see that as a perfectly fine means to an end.

Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?


I don't think so, for the same reason as my previous point. If you take enjoyment from it, it is by no means useless. Although I'm sure there are more "productive" things to do, it still isn't a waste of time.

What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?


In my opinion, to be socially healthy you should be able to communicate with other people fairly easily. The amount of socializing that is required for this varies from person to person, but it is just important to be able to convey things to others if you really need to.

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poxic
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Re: Why be social?

Postby poxic » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:10 pm UTC

Humans are wired to be social. Other people can lead us to our highest joys (and, unfortunately, some of our crappiest lows). We go spare after long periods without social contact.

Ideally, we are raised by socially functional parents to be socially functional ourselves. If that process didn't work well, for whatever reason, we're left figuring it out ourselves. Some people manage this well enough; some don't. There are a fair number of people who haven't (yet?) learned the art of "pointless" conversation -- the daily banter that fills in the blank spots during a day, the mostly-mindless chats between strangers/coworkers/housemates that serve as a sort of wheel-greasing for relationships. A few mildly amusing sentences exchanged with the checkout clerk* can cheer us up a bit, for example. Commiserating with your fellow cubicle dweller about the state of the coffee machine can put both of you in a better mood about working on a project together. And so forth.

Also, if you never have "pointless" conversations with people, you'll miss out on meeting some fascinating friendly folks whose only flaw might be a love of social banter. :wink:


* One such exchange, recently:
Clerk: "Did you find everything?"
Me: "I found ... stuff."
C: "That's good. Stuff is good."
M: "Can't have things without stuff."
C: "Good point. I'm always getting that backwards."
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shishio45
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Re: Why be social?

Postby shishio45 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:21 pm UTC

So I can understand how even social banter is useful because it is a way to get to know someone, as a sort of tester before having deep/ insightful conversations. I also understand why talking is just a fun activity. However what if you don't get a natural kick out of conversation? Is their still reason to be social if you don't get an inherent value from having conversations?

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Re: Why be social?

Postby EMTP » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:38 am UTC

It depends. People have different social needs; some people have a greater hunger for social contact than others.

If you browse through the DSM (and I'm not recommending that exercise) you'll find that most mental disorders include as part of their definition that they compromise the person's quality of life and/or their ability to function in society. If you can function and you aren't bothered by whatever it is you do differently, it's not considered a malfunction.

Some people are relatively self-sufficient while others are painfully shy or awkward. Some people prefer deep, intense conversations with those they know well. On the other hand, most of us have to work or go to school or hunt new romantic interests or new close friends, so the ability to have a causal conversation may often be a necessary skill. Many people master the skills of light conversation very early in life. Some people, and I'd include myself in this group, spent a lot of time with books and had to learn how to have light conversations.

I guess the question is, is someone's low appetite for superficial social interaction getting in the way of something or making them unhappy, or are they just happily different?
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Re: Why be social?

Postby elasto » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:54 am UTC

For some, social interaction recharges their batteries. For others, it drains them. This is the core delineation between introversion and extroversion. For someone at the extreme end of introversion even casual smalltalk is draining.

Given how often we have to interact with others, extroversion probably makes for an easier life. Being truly happy in your own company has its own blessings though.

lalop
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Re: Why be social?

Postby lalop » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:18 pm UTC

Conversation is always the means to an end, even if that end is enjoyment.

Some people don't enjoy conversation; therefore, they only do it for some other end. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Annihilist
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Re: Why be social?

Postby Annihilist » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:22 pm UTC

shishio45 wrote:I believe that I have to start this topic with a disclaimer: I love talking to people, more specifically I love having awesome discussions with bright , interesting people who stimulate my mind, as well as hopefully my heart someday but that's a another discussion.

However this has forced me into facing the dilemma of meeting people who while intelligent, interesting, and creative, rarely find a reason to be socially curious and outgoing. For them conversation is only a not so convenient means to the end, which if it does not quickly lead to a predictable goal in mind, is considered pointless. I have my opinions on the matter but this forum isn't to listen to myself talking ( I can do that in my own mind thank you) so I leave the question to you:

- Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?

- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?

- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?
- I would say primarily, to be enjoyed in and of themselves. It could be either one for different people, but that's my answer.

- There can be such a thing as a useless anything. A useless conversation would be one which doesn't bring anything new to the metaphorical table. If both parties are repeating themselves, and the conversation isn't really invoking anything new into their minds, then it's useless.

- Socially healthy would be if you are completely content with the state of your social life. Someone who is antisocial isn't necessarily "socially unhealthy", because if they are completely content and happy with their own company, then they are healthy.

Basically, if you are mentally and emotionally healthy with the state of your social life, then you are socially healthy.

TranquilFury
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Re: Why be social?

Postby TranquilFury » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:16 pm UTC

Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?

I've never seen or heard a conversation that wasn't a means to an end, sometimes conversations are enjoyable too.

- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?

Yes, it must not be beneficial to your goals, nor a goal its self. Just because it's useless to you doesn't mean it's useless to everyone else.
- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?

I don't have a definition for that term, social health or effectiveness is subject to the individual's goals. For example, one person may be to have a huge number of shallow acquaintances, another may have a very small number of very deep relationships, and a third may avoid all interaction. They can all be perfectly healthy socially, so long as their mode of interaction best suits their goals.

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Re: Why be social?

Postby lutzj » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:49 pm UTC

It's worth noting that even seemingly-meaningless conversations are useful, because they usually increase the amount of information one has access to. People instinctively chat and gossip as a way of diffusing information.
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Jplus
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Re: Why be social?

Postby Jplus » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:20 pm UTC

shishio45 wrote:- Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?

I seem to be the first to say "neither". I often enjoy conversations, but never just because it's a conversation. On the other hand, to say that conversations are merely a means to an end seems too absolute to me. Some conversations may be more than just a means to an end while others might have no apparent function whatsoever. (Yes, I honestly believe that some conversations might serve neither to inform nor to maintain social bonds nor to fight boredom).

shishio45 wrote:- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?

As far as I'm concerned, yes. Sometimes a conversation turns out to be nothing more than a total waste of your time. It might have been very stressful or annoying, or just extremely boring. Even if you did learn something interesting, that might still not always weigh up against losing time.

In general I'd say that being social is a good thing and that conversations are a necessary ingredient for being social (though not a sufficient ingredient), but that doesn't mean that conversations are always good. There are many tradeoffs and there are many ways to make a conversation.

shishio45 wrote:- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?

Good one. I guess to be socially healthy you have to be able to cope well both with being in company and with being alone. Of course it's fine to prefer one situation over the other, but there's a "bare minimum" for both. By "cope well" I mean you should in principle be able to feel good in the given situation, as well as having most other people display a positive attitude towards you most of the time.
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Choboman
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Re: Why be social?

Postby Choboman » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:41 pm UTC

Since nobody else has mentioned, I should point out that in face-to-face conversations a significant amount of data is exchanged non-verbally. Eye contact, posture, conversational distance, tone of voice, etc. all convey subtle nuances that the observing party takes in without even noticing. So even if no new/useful text is exchanged, frequent conversations with others helps you build closer ties with others and trains the conversers to understand one another more clearly. In this sense, it's probably difficult to have conversations which are completely useless, but it's probably common to have conversations which are counter-productive and create more problems than they solve.

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Re: Why be social?

Postby Fire Brns » Fri May 18, 2012 2:46 pm UTC

- Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?
Humans are inquisitive animals, we wish to ingest knowledge. There are three types of comunication:
Utilitarian: Conveying information merely for an end result. (criteria of a task)
Practical: Conveying informaition that may have practical information (perfect example is: I'm CPR certified, I hope I never have to use but it may save a life)
Recreational: Conveying impractical information that may not bre practical but fufill entertainment value in the mind. (Learning the lyrics to "one week")
- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?
That which does not fufill the above three criteria, such as listening -out of courtesy- to a crazy old person recount to you all their useless tidbits about anything from the turquoise ring they got in nevada to why when they were a kid X was Y. It may fufill one criteria for the speaking party, so just remember if you get caught in this situation that you are contributing to them not spiraling further into insanity.
- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?
Fufilling recreational conversations, your mind needs distractions and irrationality, it is not meant to be a pure logic machine.

My final thought: I will posit another reason for communication, we wish to catalogue and share information as a means to make everyone else like ourselves. (your brain gets a dopamine high when people agree with you and you get angry when they disagree, it's science.)
The only allegory I can think of would be fictional machine races such as the borg or geth: with both they have consensus in which all information is shared like twitter but following everyone.
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Greyarcher
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Re: Why be social?

Postby Greyarcher » Fri May 18, 2012 8:19 pm UTC

shishio45 wrote:I believe that I have to start this topic with a disclaimer: I love talking to people, more specifically I love having awesome discussions with bright , interesting people who stimulate my mind, as well as hopefully my heart someday but that's a another discussion.

However this has forced me into facing the dilemma of meeting people who while intelligent, interesting, and creative, rarely find a reason to be socially curious and outgoing. For them conversation is only a not so convenient means to the end, which if it does not quickly lead to a predictable goal in mind, is considered pointless.
:lol: I would wager that means any gains from those conversations are seen as greatly sub-optimal compared to other ways of spending their time.

1. The degree to which people enjoy conversations vary. Some people would often prefer doing many other things. For people who prefer other things, conversations are often just "necessary" rather than to be enjoyed.
2. A conversation can be seen as relatively useless when one sees many other things as preferable.
3. I have no definition of "socially healthy" that I see tied to this line of thought.
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Nem
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Re: Why be social?

Postby Nem » Sat May 19, 2012 1:25 pm UTC

shishio45 wrote:- Are conversations something to be enjoyed in of themselves, or merely a means to an end? Both?


They're not innately for anything. They can just be used to certain ends. And different people will have different ends for them.

shishio45 wrote:- Can there be such a thing as a useless conversations? If so, what qualifies it so?


Lack of an agent standing in an intentional stance towards it. Some of the things I say on the edge of sleep, I'd consider useless (no intentional stance). Though if you define a conversation as an intentional exchange - rather than just as talking - then no.

shishio45 wrote:- What is your definition of being socially healthy? Why?


The ability to derive happiness from interactions with others. Why? Well - if you take the example of a total shut-in: even if they're happy they can't really be said to be social. They're not socialising. That function is dead in them. If you take the example of someone who talks to people and absolutely hates it: They're social, but it's not healthy for them. It seems to me you need both.

The exact form that that socialising takes, however, I can't afford to define too tightly. Even a brief overview of suggested management styles suggests to us there are - as a simplification - four extremes on a a two axis scale in this regard. (People who are outgoing in their communication style, people who are quiet in their communication style. People who are interested in people and stories about people, people who are focused on problems.) You seem liable to exclude the vast majority of humanity if you say too closely how people should get happiness from it.

#

But then there's another aspect to the question: what does it mean to be part of a healthy society. (i.e. social health like social diseases or social welfare.) What does it mean to be a contributor or detractor from the health of the group?... To which I'm inclined to answer it comes back to shared interests. You've got to be in it together, for the common good.

Indeed the success of various forms of social identity seem to be defined largely by how great a variance of interests they can account for. Too great a variance and you lose the ability to support any particular aspect - and the society falls apart and sets to fighting itself, since it can no-longer do any particular good for many of its members. Too small a variance and the society is crushed by more popular/powerful ones.

Just from a sort of back of the hand reading of history, there's probably a maximally efficient group size. And, if you look at the people who've ever wielded power well, the number's probably quite low.


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