Humans are social beings. So if you’re not social, what are you?

Taken from Wikipedia:

Humans are social beings. In comparisons with animalia, humans are regarded like the primates for their social qualities. But beyond any other creature, humans are adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization, and as such have created complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups. Human groups range from families to nations. Social interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society.

This makes me wonder… what about the people who are not adept at utilizing those systems of communication for self-expression? Is this why some people instinctively see special needs people as less than human somehow? Is this why, when a person is unable to use those systems, to communicate or demonstrate self-expression, they are thought to be “in their own world?”

It sounds a little harsh, to think that, if a person isn’t social, that society would view them as “less than human”… but really, this shouldn’t be new to anyone. Aristotle thought this way too.

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” 
― Aristotle

Granted, he included the “more than human” but that’s likely in reference to the savants or prodigies that lock themselves away to work tirelessly on what ever it is that they do.

I mean… a beast or a god? Really?

how to win friends

No wonder this sells so well!

Says Who?

Personally, I have always questioned: If everyone is different, why would everyone have to have friends?

Think about it. Every single person is different. All seven billion. And yet poets and story tellers continue to tell you that everyone needs someone to love and everyone has to have friends.

Why?

Why can’t a person be ok with not having friends? Where did the term “hermit” come from if there aren’t people out there who prefer to be left alone?

Feeling Lonely

Everyone feels lonely sometimes. People that have more friends than they can count can feel lonely sometimes. Is it more likely for a person that has no friends? Sure, but perhaps there’s a reason for that besides the fact that they are alone.

Think about it… why would a person who prefers to be alone be lonely because they are alone? It doesn’t make sense.

In my past, when I had no friends because I was working so hard, I felt very lonely and very depressed. But it wasn’t because I had no friends.

I felt that way because I was conditioned to. Every poem or story I read, every movie I saw, every person I talked to would tell me that I had to have friends…. more so, I had to have love.

Not one person or piece of entertainment told me that it was ok to be alone. In the movies, the hermits would eventually find a family or a place to live and “finally be happy” with others. The others would either eventually commit suicide or “remain alone for the rest of their days”…  ugh.

Be Yourself

Other than highschool peers, people will tell you to be yourself. That you’re unique. You’re different. There isn’t another person out there like you.

But you have to have friends, like everyone else, because everyone else does… or else you’re “beneath our notice”.

It’s very contradicting and it’s very belittling and it’s very confusing.

Sure, a lot of people without friends do not choose for it to be that way and therefore, have every right to feel lonely and a little down. But some people want to be that way… they eventually find themselves depressed and aren’t sure why.

In either case, don’t listen to Aristotle… don’t listen to the media, entertainment or poets… it’s ok to have no friends. It might be temporary. It might not. Depending on what you want.

But be yourself.

Who knows, you may think you want to be alone only to find that you really don’t… once you are confident enough to be yourself… confidence attracts… friends!

But you are still very much human, friends or not… love or not. Want it, don’t want it… it doesn’t matter, just so long as you are yourself. Friends and love, they’re out there. I won’t think any less of you for wanting them or not wanting them.

You don’t have to have friends to be happy but it certainly helps to be happy if you want to have friends.

So either way… be happy for being you.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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15 Responses to Humans are social beings. So if you’re not social, what are you?

  1. Chloe January 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Thanks for posting this, it is a great message. Always remember to be yourself!
    Chloe

  2. Tom October 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    It’s a misnomer that humans are social creatures. A misnomer not because we’re confused about humans, but because social is probably the wrong word to describe how human societies are, or used to be organized.

    In fact, the word social is used by anthropologists not as a term to describe how friendly and outgoing we are, but to describe a group that has a recognizable structure.

    So it matters not whether one has friends. It matters more whether they participate in the structures around them. The structure being not specifically hierarchical, but cooperative. If they cooperate with others–even if it means trading fairly with them, then one is indeed, social.

  3. arabpolymath October 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    From an Evolutionary standpoint our ancestors NEEDED to be social in order to survive, take hunting for example, what would be better hunting solo or with a group? add to that a solo hunter will need to hunt daily because there were no refrigerators to store excess food, and those who were social passed on their genes more than those who were not.
    But now we live in a world that self-sufficiency is possible, and even though us introverts are a minority, we are the leaders and creators of the modern world.
    So in conclusion Aristotle was right, we are either lower than average or higher than average, but we will never be average.

    Arab Polymath

    • Hunter July 25, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

      this isn’t true, meat keeps 3 to 12 months (or longer) before going “putrid” with mere “hanging” something a solo individual can easily do, a few hours of hunting (about 9 or so, up to 18 if particularly “unlucky” (which is just over all populations being too small in the area you are roaming, or not realizing soon enough you have a noticeable scent that can’t be covered up and are hunting incorrectly, or certain other more specific circumstances(meteors prone to falling wherever you are, lightning storms and tornadoes chasing you, etc, though you would learn to use those to your advantage in a few days or less anyway) a WEEK or so (5-9 days)… Additional one small-medium size animal (a modern human can defeat a crocodile or large felid in single combat without tools, a prehuman creature could defeat the similarly much stronger creatures of their time, tools however make it efficient and minimize personal injury, bear meat is quite delicious by the way, especially post salmon spawning when their brains are tastiest and nutrient dense)… There is also fishing, something one can do with patience and one’s bare hands, fish of course does not keep more than a few hours once dead due to rapid racidization of their fatty acids (particularly omega-3 the worst offender there), and snakes and the like are very easy prey for any human, insects are even easier and yield many times higher quality protein and nutrients (this is one of the “gathers” in hunter-gatherer) than hunted meat and are easy to attract, rotting flesh is also GREAT at attracting OTHER animals to your traps, so if somehow you were unable to eat your carcasses you hunted in the 2-3 month minimum lasting span hanging, just letting them rot will attract: Most animals, including ruminants like cows and deer whom all are opportunistic carrion and meat eaters, tasty dead flesh especially the liver and brains and kidneys are usually highly saught after by any animal so a dead carcass will make great lure to attract more prey, provided the conditions aren’t so freezing as to prevent degradation(but see 12 month+ storage of hunted meat for the great alternatives such weather provides!), there are also ways of fermenting and storing meat that way (such as rotted whale flesh left to rot in the sun being a staple of some island nations when the whales beach themselves, etc).

      The only benefits hunting in groups provide is: increased opportunities for sex (more regularly) and reproduction, availability of larger game that one could not take down solo without severe risk of death (elephant, large elk and moose, etc), though with the advent of guns this has not been a problem and spears in well trained/experienced hands will also take down most behemoths anyway (aside from hippopotamus and some other water dwellers perhaps), increased availability of food (a single hunter can catch way more food than they can eat in a week in a few hours, a gaggle of hunters can catch enough food to not have to worry about hunting for some time, allowing for more leisure activities and rest and a more “lazy” life style). Hunting in groups however is actually inefficient as a bunch of single hunters would all be able to feed themselves but a group only a few of the hunters will “catch” things (though pair hunting is greatly more effective due to limited field of vision for humans, and flanking strategies for directing and trapping or murdering prey)..

      But most pre-agricultural humans outside of Africa lived near water and sea shores and diets consisted mainly of sea dwelling creatures(indeed most modern ethncities aside from africans and a handful of others digest seafoods the best), even inland groups still made use of them, and single individuals can subsist on insects easily enough anyway.

      basically food isn’t the reason humans hunted together, its leisure time/decreased work load for the individual (if you are only with yourself you MUST do EVERYTHING yourself, with a group you can take turns, share loads, and free up tons of “time” to do “other stuff” (like sex!)), humans like, all mammals, REALLY love to be efficient and spend as little resources as possible to do things while maintaining access to enough food to not go hungry and ideally be as healthy as possible.

      They did not NEED to be social to survive they merely accidentally came about because they were social, social structures have a powerful dominating effect on its included members (making them weaker and less self sufficient (indeed few individual organisms want to actively die rather than survive! everything wants to survive as long as it can basically), and socializing wasn’t a strong enough determent to wipe them out. even the 3 or 4 co-evolved creatures that were around when modern humans appeared bought into the socializing thing enough to interbreed with them (or your could say humans were “charming sluts” and if you’ve ever met a slut you will know that a magnetic personality coupled with strong but not offensive sexual traits and good genetic health is easy to admire and be fascinated by) and eventually integrate into their “tribes” and eventually disappear into what is now known as modern humans (albeit in specific zones only till more modern times (the last 8000 years or so?).

  4. Pablo January 9, 2014 at 5:05 am #

    In the end there can be only one.
    Sorry, it’s a Highlander quote. I just think it is funny though, because sometimes when I think of it I don’t think of the quote as referring to immortals fencing for each other souls in different periods throughout time, I think of it as an axiom, a truth about authority. Who besides us can decide what is just or right for us. I don’t mean to slide off into a subjective argument, I mean it in a similar way to what you posted. Who is the authority who says how social, even if that is in terms of being apart of society, we must be to be healthy. And were these authorities there when Homo sapiens sapiens decided to stay in one place and cultivate grain rather than trot around the globe looking for food, or were they there when our ancestors decided to cook food instead of eat it raw. I am not fond of authority that is not inherent, if it’s not logistical then it ought to be voluntary, I certainly don’t volunteer my authority to Aristotle or anyone else to tell me how social I should be. Because in the end, there can be only one . . . authority on me. Nice post btw.

  5. Nanda December 8, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Parts of this article reminds me of the poem ‘song’ by Adrienne Rich

  6. anomaly December 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    I am so asocial that I don’t work and I’m 27. I don’t eat for up to 30 hours if there are people in the house. I essentially live on ramen noodles because it takes 5 minutes to prepare. Me mum thinks im lazy, but I will take starving to death in an isolated field over being around other people. Here comes the sun.

  7. clarence October 3, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    Isa child a social being?

  8. Gemini 666 November 14, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    If you are suffering from social anxiety or depression, you will have trouble fitting in. Every time you try,but fail to, things get worse. Sadly, when I push people away, I secretly desire to be part of their world, but I just know that I would bring them down in the end. This then makes me angry at myself and them (for being happy when I am not) and so on the circle of self loathing goes. Happy people will find you extremely irritating if you are a constant downer since it messes with their energy. Society expects of you to be happy otherwise you will unlikely hold a job, do good at school or whatever. You will be seen by yourself and others as a beast if you always make people sad. The pain of isolation will eventually lead to your destruction and all odds are against you for survival. I think only a god can endure and survive isolation. No person would on purpose contract something like depression or social anxiety, which is the ultimate irony of the situation, but I think in the end Aristotle stated correctly.

    • Gemini 666 November 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

      This is an article about autism, sorry for going of track about depression and SA. Autism is a different kind of isolation. Just as devastating, if not arguably more than SA or depression.

  9. lipase2 January 15, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    It needs to be standard to teach kids how to be self sufficient… One ‘problem’ that’s often pointed out is that in current society it would be almost impossible for everyone to be self sufficient. The human race has overpopulated the planet to the point where we have to depend on other people to survive even for those of us who would rather not. That said, not everyone will want to be self sufficient. Like you said there are plenty of people who like socializing and want to be social and that wouldn’t change with a little bit of extra knowledge about the ins and outs of self-sustainable living but for those of us who need to be alone it would be invaluable information

  10. eSalute March 10, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    Aristotle saw humans as _essentially_ social creatures in very precise ways. All the aspects of humans that we imagine set us apart–complex language, morality, generosity, friendship, reason, etc.–make little sense except in how they relate us to other humans. We have fragile bodies that take an inordinate amount of time to reach maturity; we aren’t particularly quick or strong, possess no claws or dagger-like teeth for protection or predation: we are inherently vulnerable. We are not, none of us, individually self-sufficient, but those traits above evolved to allow us to work cooperatively toward collective goals: we lessen our vulnerability by being inherently interdependent. None of this implies that we can’t be widely divergent in how we are _sociable_ (a quite different matter) while remaining equally social animals (human) in those very precise ways.

  11. Hunter July 25, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Aristotle is indeed correct, if you are unable to use the social structures, you are beneath notice, and if you are so self sufficient you don’t need them at all, then you are something more than human (either a wild beast or a “god” in Aristotle time keep in mind what the definition of a “god” was). When humans see a non social creature with a human like appearance they label it “different” or “not human” (not “less than human” this is the author’s own bias rather than objective truth) and can’t related with it, depending on if they admire it or not it will be dismissed (not relevant enough to their needs) or curious about it (how did you get so self suffecient? are you a god? are you jesus? are you perfect? alien? new species? etc)…

    What no one seems to realize is what is defined as “human” in their mind is merely an “intermediate” stage on the homo sapiens sapiens growth stage, (indeed “children” are “non human” in adults eyes, much in the way a Caterpillar is not a butterfly (but might become one, one day, other caterpillars become moths however), and there is several stages beyond “adult” (which is still juvenile morphological speaking. much in the way many breeds of canine are), some remain permanently in that stage and others grow beyond (and become self sufficient and independent, tho this can be gained at any age as it is brain development and certain organ related rather than whole form related) or continuously keep changing. Most modern humans are no longer “complete” due to over reliance on modern social structures(since agricultural times), and have slid back quite a bit on their development and are the majority and there for the definition of “human.” (this is all mostly a problem of words and definition, human vs homo sapiens sapiens, which are not the same thing, at all.)

    You could surmise this up with “like me(us(their social group))” or “not like me/us.” And as we all know humans are either curious about or fearful of anything “different” from what they are “used to.” Curious and/or fearful can refer to their attitudes toward wild beasts or gods depending on the individual whom you are interacting with. Keep in mind wild beasts, like gods, are entirely self sufficient and “busy” with their own lives and interactions with nature, making them quite “different” from the average human.

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