I have a theory about the social dimension as to how you should operate your social network.
The importance of the social dimension
First let me discuss the importance of the social dimension. This dimension provides support, cultural norms, a sense of belonging for you. We all need others around us. As humans, we cannot survive long in isolation. All you need to do is look at the outcome of those in solitary confinement to see what happens to the psyche over time. We need people to talk to and interact with on a consistent basis because we are relational creatures.
It’s important that we have some close friends outside our family we can share information with in confidence to unload, to discuss issues, to bounce ideas off of who will be honest and forthright with us. Sometimes family will give us what they think we want to hear to keep peace in the family knowing we have to live together long-term. Friends understand we can remain friends despite what we say to each other (sometimes).
Circles of friends
At the same time, the social dimension needs various layers of friends. No all friends are created equal. Some you can tell almost anything. Some you can tell almost nothing. Because of the variety of friends we need in our lives and the different roles they play, I’ve divided them into four different categories for convenience in describing them; intimate friends, friend, acquaintances, and the tribe.
We all need 3-7 intimate friends, closer to the lower end of that spread. These friends will tell you when you have broccoli in your teeth. They will listen to you when you have trouble and rejoice with you when you when things are going well. These friends can keep secrets. You can confide in them with your deepest, darkest secrets and they will listen to you without condemnation. These intimate friends are often closer to you than family members.
The second set in your social network we will call friends. This group may consist of 25-50 people, again usually closer to the lower figure depending on your personality and business. You know these people well. You invite them to parties, go to restaurants with them, interact with several times a year. You know their spouses and kids. You may not know everything about them, but you’re familiar with them and you’re comfortable in their company. This group provides you business recommendations and you do the same for them.
The third set are acquaintances. This group numbers 100-250, again based on your personality and business. you send them Christmas cards. You recognize them and know most of them by name. You may or may not know their spouses and children, but probably know their business. These are not frequent referrals like the friends, but can occasionally dip into the referral category. Quality contact once or twice a year is all that’s necessary to keep these acquaintances around.
The last group we’ll call the tribe. They know you. You many recognize some faces and may even know some of their names. They follow you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and you may reciprocate. Contact with the tribe is deliberate and meaningful, but very different from that of the rest of your network.
The way you handle each of these circles is unique. Each social group plays a unique role in the social dimension and is important to your social health. How you maintain each group and how you communicate with each group will wait for another post. For now we begin by understanding the need to focus on our social dimension as part of what makes our life balanced. Without a solid social network, we have little to support us in times of crisis, nor can we find fulfillment in helping those around us in need. The social dimension serves both purposes, to aid us and for us to give aid.
Don’t forget to spend some time focused on your social dimension. It may not need as much emphasis as other parts of your life right now, but it is important. Don’t let it get lost.