From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still —
From the torrent, or the fountain —
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by —
From the thunder, and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —
~E. A. Poe
How glorious it is – and also how painful – to be an exception. ~Alfred de Musset
So, why do human beings need to socialize? This question came after a long text chat with my stepsister. We had not spoken to each other in many years, very many, until I went to visit my Dad recently. Then we caught up. She is very social, whereas I am very antisocial. So, what makes people different when it comes to how they perceive and actually socialize with other humans? Going to use two terms to express one overall meaning, those terms are socialize and socialization, they have different meanings, but their outcome is the same, in my opinion.
Let’s begin with what is socialization. According to the American Psychological Association, socialization is “the lifelong process whereby an individual’s behavioral patterns, values, standards, skills, attitudes, and motives are shaped to conform to those regarded as desirable in a particular society”. I would like to disagree with that definition, in that not every one wants to or strives to “conform” to a particular society. In fact, I believe there are many individuals that are quite happy being non-conformists. Ah, you say, but that is deviant behavior. No, that is variable behavior, not necessarily deviant. True deviant behavior is not just different or non-conformist, it is one that is seen as harmful and disruptive to society on the whole to the point of law breaking. (You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a picture that expresses deviant behavior in my opinion>.<).
Variable behavior, (this is my own term and opinion), is one that functions fine along side conformists and non-conformists because it can have elements of both, but thinks in a way that is different from both. Variable behaviorists don’t conform to the norms of any particular society (including non-conformist groups), they don’t depend upon others for validation, and can live a normal life completely void of or along side both conformists and non-conformists. Another way of looking at variable behaviorists, is to think of them as the “chameleons” of society, they adapt and blend, while not conforming. That is why you don’t notice them, like you do the non-conformist, who is usually trying to show just how non-comformists they are. (lol)
And, I have a little different definition of socialization, (tell me you aren’t surprised, honestly, I did say it was my opinion). I think socialization actually is done at home, I think it goes right down there with the “Nature versus Nurture” discussion. Some psychologist say that part of the our socialization stems from biological “hardwiring” and I think that is a fair assessment, as there is little or no other way to explain how two siblings can be raised in the same environment, with the same parents, and exposed to the same life factors, and still be polar opposites. Not talking about individualism, as everyone is different, I mean complete opposites, night and day.
To continue with my opinion of socialization, part of it is what one is born with (the biological hardwiring), part of it is the influence exerted by our parents or other guardians or other role model that made the strongest impression upon our child-brain, external influence from the media and our entertainment choices and finally, our own choice of what path to take each day. That’s right, I think, just like all our other choices in life, we decide each day what kind of person we will be whether we realize it or not.
And, that leads to what I think the reason people have a need to socialize comes from. Partially, I think it has to do with how many siblings we had and if it was relatively normal. My stepsister is the oldest of the sibling group. As such, I think, she feels more comfortable in the group environment where she can talk, listen, and attempt to guide others and be nurturing in her own way. I was an only child for a long time, so I developed a way of doing every thing alone, right down to entertaining myself, so I sometimes still have to learn how to interact correctly with other people. I attempt to nurture people, but find it awkward at times, just like my sense of humor gets me into trouble because I’m not very good at expressing things correctly and end up hurting the one I care about most. (very sad face).
It’s been stated that children develop their personalities by the time they are age 6. And, I read a recent study that says, the personality one has by the time they reach elementary school, is the one they will most likely keep throughout life. Notice I pointed out most likely, that is because random factors, personal choices and environmental stresses can help shape one even after that defining age. Playing is an important part of personality and behavior growth. It just makes sense if you have a lot of other kids around to play with, or a lot of adults that allow you to participate in their conversations or even listen to them as they interact with other adults, you will learn faster how to deal in the real world. That is all childhood is, a defining, refining of one’s personality and learning how to interact with other human beings in the real world. It is the time we have to make the choices we need to be the type of person we want to be.
Small children pattern or bond to the ones they spend the most time with, or sometimes the ones they perceive as the most authoritative, (trust me on the latter, small children are not stupid). Usually they bond to their mums because that is whom they spend a lot of time with, but they will bond with any figure that is consistent in action and care-giving. As an interesting side in how small children perceive the “people” of their surrounds, I give you this. In 2007, researchers at the National Academy of Sciences put a robot in a room of babies and toddlers to see how they interacted with it as part of their peer group. The toddlers responded to the robot as if it were human, right down to hugging it affectionately. More information on that here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/11/071105-toddlers-kids.html
As another side note, the Chinese custom of arranged marriages takes into account the position a person has in the sibling order, as well as the year they were born, in order to make a more compatible relationship that hopefully will last. In other words, they prefer to pair a person that was the oldest sibling (usually more responsible and nurturing) with someone who was the middle or youngest child (usually gets a lot of attention and is very outgoing). Psychologically and sociologically, we still play a “role” when we get together in work groups, with friends or in relationships with our future spouses. It’s the easiest relationship format for us to fall into, it’s comfortable and familiar. Many won’t believe that, but examine your own life and the best relationships in your life. You will likely find that you and your best friend fit into that old “familial” stratigraphy. In my opinion, the only child has to adapt to being the “baby” when in the company of all adults, and tends to take on the aspect of the “oldest” child when in a group of child peers. In other words, only children seem to grow up being more flexible in their peer roles.
Socialization is said to help keep people mentally active, and healthy overall, and it is said to help the elderly feel less lonely and more mentally stimulated, thus healthier. Japan has begun creating robots to assist the elderly, but I suspect it is also to give them a companion for mental stimulus, as well. Some make simple meals, and some even wash the dishes, or do both. http://www.jsk.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/research/irt/index.html
So, why do humans need to socialize? To me, it has to do with how big of a family you had, how well you got along with your siblings (if you had any), what sort of role models you had and what kind of person you are from your inherent biology, (some people are just shy, some people are outgoing, some are anti-social), but it also boils down to what you choose each day and how much social interaction you need to keep your sanity. Sometimes we have to be around more people than we choose to, but that is part of life and adapting to it. Some of us only need our best friend to be happy in life, while others truly need a herd to be happiest and fulfilled. Like my Dad, who needs a crowd of people around him all the time to be completely socially happy.
ADDENDUM: I’ve noticed a lot of people looking for the answer to whether or not humans do actually need socialization? The simple answer is, yes. When you are a child, your parents and others given authority over you, (nannies, religious leaders, teachers, etc.), give you a sort of moral compass, which you need as a child to have your psyche be somewhat normal. Peer should only be a very tiny fraction of that, in other words, one should not be pressured by what their so-called peer group does. For one thing, no one in this world has YOUR best interest at heart, believe me. Most people are simple just that selfish, and are only interested in themselves and what you can do for them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some people that are not selfish and they do care about the world as a whole, but they are rare. Next, when it comes to peers, most of them are just as lost as you are. Everyone is looking for “structure” and “support”, but they don’t want every one else to know that, so they fake it! That is why bullies can get a crowd to harass an unsuspecting person. Everyone wants a leader, and no one wants the responsibility of being the leader, a good leader, not a jerk, which is what bullies are. It takes a lot of strength to stand up and do what you know is the right thing. That is why we do need socialization, we need GOOD examples in our lives. If you don’t have a good example at home, (ie. parents are drug addicts, or just not there), then find a good role model or role models. A good role model is one that stands against the bad and bad people in this life. You have to find that one for yourself to meet the needs in your life, and you don’t have to hang out with them to get the needed valuable lessons from them. As you get older, you have to auto-correct your moral compass at times to weed out that selfishness. Socialization plays a role in this, as well. Some people rely on their religious affiliations to help keep them on the “straight and narrow” road to doing right. Some people simply have friends that are decent like-minded people that help them stay away from trouble and give them emotional support in the times they are down. You need some amount of socialization to keep yourself sane as possible. Supposedly, socialization also helps you feel validated and have self-worth. If you isolate yourself, you can fall into depression, become obsessive, angry, have self-loathing, doubt about your worth, begin to hate things for no reason, etc. to the point of making very bad life choices. Everyone has to find the amount of socialization that is appropriate for them. Because it is like this, every thing has to be in moderation in this world. One can spend too much time with other people to the point of losing their identity. So, find your happy medium and keep yourself sane. Find people that are like minded, and have honest goals in life and make friends. Be yourself, don’t lose your identity, be honest and helpful, and be for others what you want them to be for you. It’s that simple.
Heres’s a nice song about relationships. “Contagious” by Trapt. =) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5vKQIWD75I
(Photo and information credits: Wikipedia, American Psychological Association, Internet in general, National Geographic, University of Tokyo, Youtube)