When You Feel Like Your Social Circle Is Indifferent To You
A social problem some people have is they feel like their friends are indifferent to them. They suspect that even though they hang out with a group, no one in it really cares if they're there or not, or gives them any thought when they're not around. 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."
It's a hard situation to be in, and it's easy to get insecure and tie yourself in knots wondering what everyone really thinks of you. Hopefully this article will do its part to clear things up. Of course, no one can 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 about the intentions behind it, there's nothing I can say that will answer 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 make your best call about how to respond.
Possible reasons your friends may seem indifferent to you
More than one of these may be in play at once:
Possibility #1: Your feelings of being overlooked are in your head, maybe fueled by some misunderstandings or differences in friendship style
Sometimes your friends have nothing against you, and in their minds are treating you like any other buddy, but you're misinterpreting their actions. If you're naturally insecure you can be prone to reading the worst into everything. For example, your friends may just not be the types to text each other much between in-person hang outs. If your previous friends texted all the time, you may think the current group is intentionally keeping you out of the loop.
There are lots of ways friends may get their wires crossed, and I can't go into all of them, but here are two articles that cover some types of misunderstandings:
Possibility #2: You're a more peripheral member of the group
Sometimes a person's social circle comes across as indifferent to them because they actually aren't that close to most of the people in it. They may only hang out with the group occasionally, or only know and talk to a few of the members. For example, they may work with two people in the group, and only see everyone else every few weeks at bigger parties. When it comes time to make plans, or even choose who to chat to at a get together, the peripheral person naturally isn't at the top of everyone's mind. The problem is when you're peripheral, but you assume you're a full-fledged member, and then wonder why you get left out.
Being peripheral to a group isn't inherently good or bad. It depends on what you're looking for. If you hope to become tighter with everyone, then it's something you should work on. You should try to see the group more often, and take time to try get to know any members you haven't spoken to much. On the other hand, if you realize you're more peripheral than you thought, you may decide you're okay in that spot. You 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.
Possibility #3: You behave in a way that makes you easier to overlook
Sometimes everyone likes a group member just fine, but they tend to fly under the radar and become easy to non-maliciously ignore.
You're overly quiet around your friends
Not being talkative enough is one way you can fall through the cracks and become overlooked when everyone is spending time together. When a group member is being quiet sometimes their friends will notice and take steps to include them. What can also happen is everyone gets caught up in the main conversation or activity, and their attention naturally moves to the people who are also taking part. In a benignly thoughtless way the quieter people drop out the group's awareness. Or someone may notice them, but really only think something like, "Hm, Susan's not saying much" before their focus is pulled back to the others.
If you're consistently quiet people may even unconsciously decide, "Hm, they never say much. I even tried to include them a few times too. If they're not going to talk that's their thing to deal with. It's not my responsibility to work to keep them in the conversation all that time. I've got other friends here I can effortlessly have fun talking to. That's where I'm going to put my energy." This sounds harsh, but people don't usually think it in a mean kind of way. They like you as a person. They more just matter-of-factly figure that if you're quiet then they're going to let you do your thing.
Quieter friends may also get left out of invitations because they're forgotten about at the time plans are made. People may more actively leave them out as as well. They figure that since they never say much, there's no point in having them along. Again, they may hold no ill will toward them, but not really get much out of having them around. They may also assume if someone is reserved that they don't fully enjoy everyone's company, and are being extended a courtesy by not being invited to things.
If you're overly quiet and are unwillingly getting passed over 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:
You stick to the sidelines too much when you're with your friends
This one causes similar effects to being too quiet. When a group of friends are out, and doing something together like playing a game or dancing some people are right in there, and others hang back 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. When it comes time to make plans for the future, they may not think to include you, because in the past you haven't been in the mix when it counts, even if you've been chatty at other times. 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 slip everyone's mind 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 they're building 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.
Possibility #4: You're not the best match for your friends
Usually if you're not well matched with a group you'll never become friends with them in the first place. At other times you'll end up in the group for one reason or another, but once you're there you're not quite compatible with everyone, and they start showing indifference toward you. They don't dislike you enough to actively push you out, but they don't fully embrace you either.
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, and that was their way into a larger circle they don't have as much in common with.
- They mostly hang out with everyone to do an activity like playing poker, softball, or Dungeons and Dragons. As a participant they hold their own and are worth having in the roster, but they don't click with anyone on a deeper level.
- 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 around, because they can't really prevent it. But the true commonalities aren't 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. However, the other 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.
You don't have the same interests as your friends, or can't completely keep up with them in theirs
One way you may be mismatched with a group is you don't enjoy the hobbies or activities that they do. Or you may like the same pastimes, but can't or don't take part with the their level of intensity. For example, you don't like video games, or that when you've played with everyone in the past, you weren't as enthusiastic. If the group stays in and plays games most of the time when they hang out, it's not surprising if they don't make much effort to get you to come. Again, they may see this as a thoughtful move, since they figure you wouldn't have a good time.
You've ended 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 you'll end up with some "friends" who don't really like you, but won't just come out and say it. Instead they'll subtly be mean to you, and hope you'll eventually take the hint and go elsewhere. This kind of thing happens most often in high school, when everyone can be more petty and immature, and circumstances and social dynamics can force people and groups of friends together that probably shouldn't mix.
What you can do if you're not a good fit for your group
If you decide you're not the best match for your social circle you've got a few options. Before you do anything though, realize that being incompatible with a group doesn't automatically mean you're a social failure who did something wrong. No can can click with everyone they meet. You could act the exact same way with a separate group and get a totally different response:
- Find another group of friends who's a better fit for you and appreciates you more. You might feel like your current group is your only option, but there are always other friends to be made.
- Accept you're not a core member of the group and mostly pull away from it, but continue to be cordial and hang out with everyone here and there when it suits you.
- Try to raise your standing in the group, for example, by showing more interest in the things they're into, or by generally working on your social skills. Be careful with this route. You don't want to chase the approval of a group that may never see you as one of them. Sometimes it's better to move on and find another group that truly fits you.