Social Stimulation… Are You Lacking It?

Have you ever worked in an environment that was very laid back and peaceful? Is your home the same way?

A relaxed environment is one that a lot of people love, especially software developers since it’s easier for us to concentrate in a quiet, peaceful environment that’s accented with some light music—preferably smooth jazz.

We can become so used to this type of environment professionally (and personally) that we may forget how wonderful and important it is to socialize with others.

And I’m not referring to socializing with friends on social media. I’m talking about simply striking up a conversation in person with important people in your life.

Social stimulation is a great way to stay healthy and happy. As a software developer, talking amongst others can possibly help you find solutions to certain problems that you are having.

For example, you may be stuck on writing a certain function in C++ (I’ve experienced this personally), and have no idea where to go from there. Talking issues out with others may help you find the answer to your issue. Another person's way of thinking doesn’t mean they’re better than you just because they’ve helped you; it just simply means that they jogged your brain in a direction that you may not have realized was there.

According to an article on SharpBrains, social engagement is healthy for your brain because it boosts brain function. As software developers and engineers, our brains are vital to us, since 95 percent of our work consists of using our brains. Social engagement involves all sorts of behaviors that we use every day which requires memory, focus, attention to detail, and control. Social engagement also improves physical health by releasing stress from your body.

Lack of social stimulation can cause us to actually forget how to interact with people in person.

Social Anxiety

Sure, software development is fun, and it takes a massive amount of concentration. But machines cannot verbally communicate with us. For many of us, we’ve become so isolated that being around others, especially in a large group of people that are just socializing, can be terrifying.

This may or may not have happened to you. But it has happened to me. I’ll do my best to be brief on sharing my story.

I am a quiet person, and I do not mind socializing. However, I often find myself playing on my phone, looking through emails, Facebook, my bank account, Twitter, and PlayStation Network.

I’ve even gotten so bad that I’m on my phone when I am over at my grandparents’ house spending time with family. I’ve even done this on dates, and, fortunately, the women I’ve gone on dates with were forgiving. All in all, it is a very bad habit to have and break, but it’s not impossible. I can do it, and so can you.

At first I thought, “Maybe it’s the phone. It’s cool, sleek, and it has so many features. It’s amazing!” But then, when I looked more closely at myself, I realized that it wasn’t my phone.

Finding a Balance

I’m still great at one-on-one conversations with people, but when it comes to medium or big crowds, I tend to freeze. In a way this is good, and in a way this is bad. It’s a good thing because some people shouldn’t know much if not anything about you –– a good strategy to use when avoiding toxic people. In a way this is bad, because you may miss out on people you should get to know and conversations you should have. So, how do you create a balance so you do your best to stay right in the middle? Below I will share both positive and negative points regarding minimal social stimulation in order for you to compare and contrast where you lie. You may be more on the positive side, or the negative side, or neither. But I believe this will be a great starting point for you:

Positives of minimal social stimulation:

  • You actually know how to be by yourself. If you can’t learn to live alone (which is not the same as being lonely), you’ll be frustrated and probably unhappy living with someone else. All of us need our alone time whether we are single or not.
  • You have the time to get to know yourself. Who are you? What kind of personality do you have, what are your likes and dislikes? What makes you happy, sad, grateful? Discovering who you are will not only benefit a better relationship with yourself, but also with others that will come into your life. Knowing who you are will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and from there you can discover how to turn some of your weaknesses into strengths.
  • You can be super productive. It’s hard to get things done if you are around a massive amount of people or even a small crowd 24/7—like writing code for instance. With anything you consider being productive to work on like a blog, book, or a painting, you can actually get done being by yourself—unless, of course, it’s a group project.

Not too bad for a starting point, right? Hopefully by this point I’ve pointed out to you how social stimulation can be unproductive at best and unhealthy at worst if you have too much of it.

But social stimulation definitely has its benefits, so let’s look now at how not having enough social stimulation can affect you.

Negatives of minimal social stimulation:

  • You begin to feel depressed. Sure, being alone is a good thing, but you shouldn’t be alone 24/7. This is where the challenge comes in. When you are used to being by yourself, social interaction gets harder and harder. You can only talk things over with yourself for so long. Talking things out with others is a stress reliever, and, most times, you’ll discover that the advice of others is a great asset.
  • It becomes you. I wouldn’t allow yourself to be alone to the point it becomes who you are. It’s okay to be alone at times but not all the time, to the point where the only person in your personal life who you’re comfortable with is you. Call friends and family; make new friends that will add new dimensions to your personality. They don’t have to know every little thing about you, but making new friends you can hang out with and talk to can energize and revive you.
  • It can kill you. Literally. Social isolation is a high risk factor for premature death. Even higher than smoking or high blood pressure. This was news to me when I found out. Remember, it’s not about being friends with everyone you meet, but having friends you can count on. If we were meant to be alone, there wouldn’t be so many of us here, right? Right.

Making a Change

Fortunately, there are ways to increase social stimulation such as:

  • Social events! Dance parties, conventions, and coffeehouse events are all great ways to improve your social life.
  • Hit the arcade! If you’re old school like myself, a great time at the arcade with friends may not be such a bad idea I still hit the arcade from time to time with my friends and play arcade games from the 90’s (like Mortal Kombat). Some arcades even have casual tournaments where the competition is friendly.
  • Take a vacation. Seriously. Take several if possible! It doesn’t have to be overseas or anything, but even if it’s the next state over, take a vacation.
  • Get out more. We as Americans spend way too much time watching television—on average five hours a day. You’d be surprised what you can do with five hours of your life. Why not use some (if not all) of those five hours to get out and see the world? Drive around town, discover a new hangout spot, restaurant, or theatre you may like.
  • Plan a get together. Invite a few close friends and family over for some fun. I invite friends over from time to time just to talk about our lives or play video games—something we can all play together. This is very effective when increasing social stimulation and bonding with ones you love and care for. Order a pizza and have some fun.
  • Join a club. Not only will this help you in your career, but it will also help you in your personal life. You’ll meet new people who share your interests, and you can possibly build relationships that could last for a few years, or even a lifetime.

Cultivate a Balanced Social Life

Now for the record, there are some things in life we all have to deal with by ourselves, especially when it comes to making decisions and evaluating our lives. And I believe in some areas of your life that is needed. Making a decision to get the right amount of social stimulation is one of them; no one else can do it for you.

A good video to view especially if you want to change your life is “How lying to yourself will destroy your career and life” by John Sonmez. This video talks about how we can convince ourselves that we are being totally honest with ourselves when we are not. Such as bad habits in our personal life that if not dealt with, it could destroy our lives and our career. Not taking care of your social life could end up doing damage to you in the long run, and denying it doesn’t help.

Another video I recommend by John Sonmez is titled, “Why you’re always going to be alone in life.” This video doesn’t talk about being lonely, but more about certain obstacles or trials we face alone in life that are necessary and valuable. Your life is precious, and it should never be taken for granted, not even by you! You have more power than what you allow yourself every day you live. You can and will be great in every area of your life if you learn how to use the power that you were given. However…

We don’t have to be alone in every aspect of our lives.

Take care of yourself.