Confessions of a Sociaholic

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I confess. I’m a sociaholic.

I crave the company of people, whether it just be with my husband, family and friends, or a thousand others. I genuinely enjoy being around people. My social calendar is often packed with engagements with my favorite folks. When my husband and I aren’t on a date or playing a gig with our band, I’m out and about with friends, chatting up a storm over a fabulous home-cooked meal, tearing up dance floors in the city, or exchanging stories over a glass of wine.

And when I am not face to face with friends, I’m catching up with them online. Through quick exchanges via instant messaging, sharing simple every day moments through status updates on Facebook, or responding to posts on Twitter, I somehow manage to keep tabs on my various circles of friends.

I can’t help it – I was raised around a ton of people, so amid the chaos of crowds is where I find comfort.

People with shared interests, histories or ideas are often drawn together. In my case, my interests run the gamut so my activities and experiences range from the sublime to the simply frivolous. And just as there are specific tools for accomplishing a variety of tasks, I have a diverse group of friends to fulfill different needs.

Perhaps because of this, I don’t have one particular BFF to speak of, but rather several that spring from different circles, with relationships spanning decades, each as intense and committed as the other. They fulfill and validate a different aspect of my life – emotionality, physicality and spontaneity.

My circles fall into three general categories:

  • “girlfriends”
  • adventure buddies and
  • party buddies

Every one of them with a different raison d’etre, closely corresponding to Aristotle’s three concepts of philia – friendships of mutual admiration (and love for what is good), of utility and mutual advantage, and of mutual pleasure.

According to Aristotle, philia must consist of mutual fondness (so inanimate objects are excluded) and is a necessary means to happiness, saying that “No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods.”

“Girlfriends” are the closest to my heart – these are my friendships of the good. Besides my husband, they are my significant others – the ones with whom I share my dreams, entrust with my deepest, darkest fears, and for whom I have deep affection. Within this category, I have six circles, formed at different times, and corresponding to different stages in my life. Some of them I’ve known since I was seven years old. And some I have just met last year.

(I put girlfriends in quotes because among them, I count three guys – Nelson, Ron and Ray. For all that they have done and all that we have shared, they have truly become a best “girl’s friend.”)

With the second category, my adventure buddies, get-togethers usually revolve around sports. These are my friendships of utility, my playmates – the ones I go white water rafting, rock climbing, skiing and traveling with.

Because our interactions usually require vigorous participation in an activity, there isn’t a lot of time for long, in-depth conversations. Thus, our communication is usually through shared effort, not spoken words.

The friendships of pleasure are my party buddies – our mutual interest in music, dancing, and general debauchery keep us connected. These friends, along with my playmates, help keep me feeling young and vibrant, and enable me to escape from the grinds of daily living.

My BFFs straddle more than one category – their values and ideas almost mirror my own, their interests are as varied as mine, and most importantly, their positive energies invigorate me. My BFFs are my confidants, my playmates, and my party buddies.

The circles aren’t static… they grow and shrink as friends come and go, as their roles in life change from friend, to wife/husband, to mother/father. We all have to balance the need for a healthy social life and private time.

Do circles mostly shrink, though, as we get older? Many argue that with today’s busy lifestyle, it is more difficult than ever to maintain friendships, much less meet new people and admit them into a circle.

A 2006 study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona, reported in USA Today, found that “on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives – serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all.”

Two people?

There are 6.6 billion people in the world, 281.4 million in the United States, 34 million in California, and over 7 million people in the San Francisco/Bay Area alone. But on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to? When did intimate relationships become a luxury?

Perhaps technology can help us grow our circles. Friendships are built on blocks of experiences, whether these experiences last a couple of hours or a couple of years. Emails, instant messaging, online status updates all represent micro-blocks of experiences, providing fodder for longer conversations, leading to mutual fondness and trust, and quite possibly, genuine friendships.

And with sufficient effort, fleeting encounters can turn into lifelong relationships. But the key ingredient is effort. Our circles must continue to be nurtured – online, on the phone or in person.

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