Everyone wants friends and followers these days! Do we need to have that much interaction, communication with tonnes of people, I wonder? I, definitely, don’t!

I always had a very strict definition of friendship. As I preferred quality over quantity, I have made very few, but good friends at times.

Question: Why do we crave for a social circle so much? 

Simple answer could be, simply because we are social animals. That’s ingrained in our genetic signature. We are programmed like that. We prefer social interactions over isolation.

But isolation does not mean loneliness. There are heaps of introverts all over the world, who did just fine during the last two years of pandemic, as opposed to the extroverts, who lamented it all the time.

What sort of social interactions matter to us, truly?

Imagine a circle of influence around each of us. In a world of billions of people, there are these teeny-tiny circles of relationships, friendships and casual societal encounters between each of us and the others. We get close to a very small subset of those billions of people living simultaneously simply by being born into a family, by growing up around them, by coming to know them through the sheer act of co-habiting a workspace or a hobby-space.

Most people desparately try to grow their circles of influence and make the circles bigger – goal is to attract more people towards them. That is, more likes, more connections – better is one’s social status. Is it? Ultimately, a friend, in need, is a friend indeed!

In good old days, when we embarked on a journey – we’d meet a few people from different walks of lives. We’d spend a few days travelling towards the same destination. We’d remember some of them for a while, talk about them when we revisit a story of those days. Once, I was visiting Kedarnath and Badrinath temples in Himalayas with my family and I met an elderly couple who seemed to be a perfectly matched couple, in unique unision of two souls. The profound sweetness in their relationship at a fairly old age felt so iconic and romantic, too. Myself and another girl from South India, kinda, got very much influenced by them in those few days. We even wrote letters to them a couple of times. Yes, people used to communicate with blue inland letters in the nineties’ India.

As it is often the case, out of sight means out of mind. Every day life takes precedence over everything else. Procrastination leads to chapter-breaks. Silence falls heavy on such distant communications. Happens in every twists and turns of life with most people. Even someone you walked with, worked with for years, fades into distance as soon as you take a different turn in the life’s road.  This is how it goes in the circle of strangers – everything is a distant memory. Yet, these are important events, and leaves some solid imprints on our lives. Short-time chance-encounters like these are not to be ignored!

The friendships that grow instantly between strangers, sometimes last, and surprisingly transcend years and space, too. I made a friend like that on my first job. I was from Calcutta, while my friend was from Pune. We somehow instantly took to each other, sat together and I can distinctly remember us talking continuously between Bangalore and Whitefield in a bus full of other trainee engineers, who were mostly silent after a few minutes. Nope, I am not a chatterbox. This was definitely an exception. We still talk for an hour at least once in a year, or longer, in the midst of our rather different schedules. She is on my friendship circle, where you can give and receive full support when needed without any obligation of personal synchronisation of moods, wants, needs, or desires. There is a sense of detachment in this circle. You can “walk them home” (quoting from a post on os.me), but will still have the privilege and/or option of not entering it yourself.

Some friendships rise into closer bondings, into relationships. We let people come into our lives, let ourselves be vulnerable to their actions, words and deeds with pleasure. Things get rather complicated here, in this close-knit circle. We get into the turmoils of expectations vs reality. We learn to take one step at one time. We learn to forgive and forget. We learn to put our feet in other’s shoes. We grow up!

It turns out that for a healthy mental life, one needs all these different circles, and even beyond them. It was proven over and over, especially during covid. The casual encounters between strangers and neighbours were almost synonymous to the feeling of acknowledgement that one exists. If someone needs help, on the basis of humanity, a neighbour, a stranger will come along and forge a life-line, blurring the circles of influence that one is accustomed to. Simply, because, family and friends were all isolating separately, and the community full of strangers somehow shined from the oblivion.

In a normal life, we keep throwing ourselves like shuttlecocks from one circle of influence to another, as per our convenience. At one moment, we enjoy the warmth of a relationship and in another, we feel let down when the expectations are not fulfilled. We go and look for a friendly ear to relieve our hearts. Some people even go and talk to acquaintances or even, strangers about the ups-and-downs of their lives. With comforting words from people in further circles, one comes back to one’s life, grounded with its surity and apparent security to suck it all up and take one day at one time. 

The point is: we do need – not a lot, but some people in all these circles of influence. The outer circles exist and are needed to give us the support we need at different junctures of our lives, to live our lives more meaningfully, to enrich our life with more experiences.

However, needless to day that at the end of the day, we still have to own our lives! Either we make changes to make our lives better or we accept our lives as is. A question that I often ask myself is: “Am I trying to accept the current situation because it is harder to change it? Am I being lazy or afraid, or I accept because that is the right thing to do under the circumstances?” Sometimes, our circles of influence help us to come to the right conclusion when we face such dilemma.

So, if bringing a change into your life is the right thing to do, why not conjure up the strength to make at least one change today?

Otherwise, I presume that you’ve already reached a state of equanimity for the good and the bad. Congratulations! 

P.S. Image by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels.