Social Energy

Thinking of energy, most people think towards physical or emotional energy. Either in the guy that can run a marathon at the drop of a hat or the gal that just exudes enthusiasm and positivity, these forms of energy are the most obvious. But there is an often neglected form of energy that is every bit as crucial. Social energy.

Social energy comes from spending time in a stimulating environment with other people. The symptoms of a lack of social energy are obvious. It happens when you stare restlessly at your computer screen, watch television or surf the internet hoping for some stimulation. You don’t feel tired or unenthusiastic, but agitated, bored and restless. When you lack social energy you can spend hours trying to work and failing to get anything meaningful done.

What About Introverts?

Is social energy is only for really extroverted people, perhaps if you are a self-proclaimed introvert you don’t need it? Wrong. Introverts need to take care of their social energy far more than extroverts do. Being introverted simply means you have a lower need for social energy, not that you don’t need it at all. Just like extroverts need time to be alone and think, introverts must get social energy.

Introverts are much more likely to become drained on social energy than extroverts. This is because:

  • Introverts may not recognize that they need social energy. Extroverts are usually more sensitive of their need to get social energy and get it fulfilled. An introvert may spend a week or two in a drained state before realizing the need to recharge.
  • Introverts may have less developed systems for creating social energy. Building networks of social groups takes time and can’t be done on demand. Because the threshold of social energy for many highly introverted people is low, they may not have developed adequate systems for fulfilling social energy when they need it.

Whether you are an outrageously gregarious extrovert or you haven’t seen natural sunlight in a decade, you need social energy. Introverts may require less to be productive, but that doesn’t mean they are at less risk for being drained of it.

How to Get Social Energy

The answer to getting more social energy is obvious, socialize. Have a stimulating conversation with a friend, arrange a poker night with your buddies or join a new group organization. Recognize when you need social energy and fulfill it adequately. Surfing the web or watching television probably won’t provide enough stimulation to fulfill your needs, so don’t waste time on activities that can’t give you the energy you need.

Set up systems in your life so you can regularly get social energy. Many people have commented that Toastmasters meetings are the highlight of their week. Meeting many people in a friendly and supportive environment injects social energy back into their lives. Schedule some group outings that you can do with a few friends every week or two to recharge.

Don’t Bankrupt Your Social Energy

About a year ago, I was deeply entrenched in my very introverted goals. I was running this website, posting regularly, exercising by myself and working hard on my interactive goal-setting software. I had scheduled many habits that increased productivity in the short run, slowly cut down my systems for getting social energy.

Starved for social energy, it took me until the middle of last summer before I realized I was lacking it. But by then, I had withered down many of the systems I normally had in place for retrieving it. My social circle was in a deficit and I had few organized systems for meeting people.

When I moved to University, I immediately set out to create a huge social network. Now I’m rarely at a loss for social energy. I have dozens of friends I can meet with and I have organizations I’m a part of to help fuel my energy.

Social energy can’t be received on demand. You can sleep when you are tired, but if you haven’t set up systems for creating social energy in your life, you will feel perpetually drained. Don’t go into a bankrupt. Even if you don’t desire a lot of social contact, take a bit of time to create small systems to feed it back into your life.

Image courtesy of flickr