When You Feel Like Your Social Circle Is Indifferent To You
A social problem some people have is when they get this feeling that their friends are indifferent to them. They feel like even though they hang out with a social circle, no one in it really cares if they're there or not. They may also get the impression that they're not on their friend's minds at all when they're not around. It's a hard situation to be in, and it's easy to get a little insecure and wonder whether they really like you or not.
Some statements you'll hear that express this feeling are:
- "I feel like I'm tagging along."
- "When I'm out with my friends, no one really talks to me."
- "I don't get invited to things. I'll do nothing on the weekend and then find out on Monday that everyone did something without me."
- "If I want to be included in my friend's plans, I have to constantly keep after them to find out what's going on. Everyone else just seems to be kept in the loop."
We can't totally know what's going through other people's heads. As with any situation where you don't like your friend's behavior, but aren't sure what the intentions are behind it, there's nothing I can say that will clear up each individual situation. All I can do is lay out some possibilities and ideas for you to think about. You have to look at all the factors for your own circumstances, then take your best guess about how to respond. Maybe when you read this article you'll realize your feelings of being left out were a misunderstanding, or there are things you can work on to be more included. Or maybe you'll decide another group of friends is a better fit for you.
If someone senses their social circle feels lukewarm towards them, there are a lot of possible reasons why that could be. My thoughts on the issue are below:
Ways a person's social group may seem indifferent to them
There are a few broad ways that a person's group of friends may create the sense that they're not all that into them. More than one of these factors can be going on at once. The points below will talk about how someone may fall into one of these categories:
- The person is just a more peripheral member of the group
- The person is flying under the group's radar. Everyone likes them just fine, but they're easy to overlook
- The person isn't the best match for their group. Everyone will still hang out with them, but won't fully embrace them either
The person is a more peripheral group member
Sometimes a person's social circle comes across as indifferent to them because they really aren't that close to most of the people in it. When it comes time to make plans, or even choose who to talk to at a get together, the peripheral person naturally isn't at the top of everyone's list. The problem is when the peripheral person thinks, or would like to think, that they're a full-fledged group member and then wonders why they seem to get overlooked.
Being peripheral to a group isn't inherently good or bad. It depends on what the person wants. If they want to become tighter with everyone, then it's something they'd want to work on. On the other hand, a person can't be super tight with everyone they meet. They may have no problem only associating with a group on more casual basis. You can still enjoy relationships with people that are on more of a 'friendly acquaintance' level.
Also, if you only know one or two other people in the group, but don't really interact with the rest of the people in it, it's possible everyone sees you as having more of a position on the periphery.
Sometimes people get left out for harmless reasons
Before I go further into this article, I'll point you to another one that lists some of the ways friends can accidentally get left out things. Some of them may apply to you, or factor into other ways you may be getting overlooked:
They're overly quiet around their friends
Someone not being talkative enough can be one way they'll fly under a social circle's radar. Sometimes people will notice that one of their friends is being quiet and take steps to include them. Alternatively, as friends get caught up in their conversations or the activities they're doing together, their attention naturally gravitates to the people who are also taking part. In a benignly thoughtless way the quieter people drop out the group's awareness. Or a member may notice the quiet person, but really only think something like, "Hm, Susan's not saying much" before their attention is pulled back to the others.
If someone is quiet pretty consistently people may even unconsciously decide, "Yeah, Mike doesn't say much. I even tried to include him a few times too. If he's not going to talk that's his thing to deal with. It's not my responsibility to work to keep him in the conversation all that time. I've got other friends here I can effortlessly have fun talking to. I'm going to focus on them" This sounds harsh, but people don't usually think it in a mean kind of way. They may think the quiet person is nice and have nothing against them. They more just matter-of-factly decide, often without really putting it into words, that if someone is quiet then they're going to let them do their thing.
Quieter friends may also get left out of invitations because they're forgotten about at the time that plans are made. Friends may more actively leave out a quieter person as well. They figure that since the person never says much, there's no point in having them along. Again, they may still like the person just fine, but not really get that much out of having them around. They may also think that since a person is quiet, they don't fully enjoy everyone else's company, and so are being extended a courtesy by not being invited to things.
If you're overly quiet and are unwillingly getting overlooked because of it, the solution is to talk more and get yourself in there. This can seem difficult if you feel inhibited or like you don't know what to say, but it's something you can work on, either by becoming more comfortable speaking up, or by figuring out more things to talk about. Here's one article you could check out, though any of the ones on conversation may be useful:
They stick the sidelines too much when they're with their friends
This one causes similar effects to being too quiet. When a group of friends are out, and all doing something together like talking, playing a game, dancing, or watching a movie, some people are right in there, and others hang back more and don't take part.
If you don't generally participate when you're out with your friends they'll shift their focus away from you, and towards the people who are doing things with them. When it comes time to make plans for the future, they may not think to include you, because when you have come out you haven't really been in the mix. They may also reasonably assume you don't like the activities they do, so you wouldn't want to attend anyway.
When you're not in the middle of things with friends, you can also fly under the radar because people aren't forming memories and associations around you. Say you're out at a park with a bunch of people and some of them decide to get a game of soccer going. You decide to hang back and watch. No problem, they don't begrudge you for that. But as they play and have fun, they're forming new memories about each other. They're creating associations of certain people being fun to hang around, and someone to think of when they want to have more good times in the future. If you're always on the sides, you're not going to be as much of a part of those mental images. You'll be more like an extra in the background.
They're not the best match with their friends
The rest of the headings will talk about how mismatches between you and your friends may be fueling their seeming indifference towards you. The main and obvious one is, overall, whether you're a good fit with the people you're hanging around with. Sometimes if you're not well matched with a group of people you'll never end up becoming friends with them in the first place. At other times you'll end up in the group for a variety of reasons, but once you're there you don't quite jibe with everyone and all the symptoms of indifference may result. Like I've been saying, the group may be composed of nice people who like you as a person, but when it comes down to it you're incompatible with them.
Some ways a person may fall into a group they don't totally match up with are:
- They're friends with one or two members of the group, and that was their way in to a larger circle of people who they don't have as much in common with.
- They're co-workers or classmates of a group that exists at a job or a college program. When the group is together they're fine with other co-workers or classmates being present. But again, the commonalities may not be there.
- The group is their boyfriend's or girlfriend's friends which has given them a free pass into it.
- They're still in a group where they were originally closer friends with everyone. The members have changed and grown apart from them.
- The group formed as a mass of people who were all eager to have a social circle at the beginning of college. However, over time it's become clear that some of the members actually mesh well together, while others don't really fit in, and just got swept into the group during its chaotic formation.
- Sometimes a person really does tag along with a group of people they're not a good match with. The group doesn't want to reject them straight out, but doesn't make any effort to include them either.
If you decide you're not the best match for your group you may want to move on, or you may be able to fix it. If you have totally different interests and values, you may be happier elsewhere. However, maybe by working on aspects of your social skills you may start to gel with everyone better, or have more to offer them.
One way a person may be mismatched with a group is that most of the members enjoy certain hobbies, and they don't as much. Or they may enjoy the same hobbies, but can't/don't take part at the same level as the others. If this is the case for you it's not surprising that invitations to hang out won't be flying your way. Say you seem like you don't like video games, or that when you've played with everyone in the past, you didn't approach things with the same level of intensity. If the group is planning to stay in all evening and play games they may pass on inviting you.
The odd time someone will actually end up with a group of jerks
I've emphasized in this article that most of the time when someone's friends seem indifferent to them, the indifference or seemingly exclusive behaviors don't have bad intentions behind them. Sometimes though a person will end up with some "friends" who don't really like them, but won't just come out and say it. Instead they'll subtly be mean to the other person, and hope they eventually take the hint and go elsewhere. I get the sense this kind of thing happens most often in high school, when everyone can still be more immature, and circumstances and social dynamics can force people and groups of friends together that probably shouldn't mix.