Lifestyle Factors That Can Affect Your Social Success
This article covers various lifestyle issues that someone may want to keep in mind as they plan how they'll try to improve their social skills in the future. It covers similar ground to some other articles on the topic. This one is about how you can actually handle it when some of those factors are having a negative impact on your social life. Another is on factors that can sometimes make your social situation improve very quickly, many of which are related to aspects of lifestyle.
Lifestyle factors can exert a big effect on your current social success. They can also have a large impact on the opportunities you'll have to practice and develop your people skills going forward. The role of these factors changes over your life. When you're younger you have little control over them and have to do the best you can with the hand you're dealt. In college they're often slanted in your favor, as university is a bubble set up to give students a good social experience. It's once someone graduates and is out in the work world that lifestyle differences can really exert their influence.
Take two people who are still fairly shy and socially inexperienced in their mid-twenties. One of them lives in some far-flung part of the city, and has to work 60 hours a week, mostly on their own, at a soulless corporate job. The other lives right downtown, and has a laid back position and a ton of fun co-workers. It's not hard to tell whose social life is likelier to turn around.
Lifestyle factors are especially relevant because a lot of people with social issues have tendencies that won't naturally cause them to go out of their way to get out there and be around others. When you're already inclined not to be particularly social or comfortable with others, then you just need a little resistance from your environment to push many opportunities too far out of reach.
If you haven't overcome your shyness and social difficulties, then bad lifestyle factors can keep you stuck in that unhappy place for years more to come. On the other hand, good decisions can shift things in your favor. Of course, you still have to make the best of your situation's potential. You could be in the middle of the world's greatest lifestyle set up, but it won't amount to anything if you sit alone in your room all day.
Here's the list of lifestyle factors that can affect your social progress. You obviously can't control every last one of them, but if working on your social skills is important to you, you may want to consider them when it's time to make decisions about things like where to live or work.
A lot of variables come into play here. Some of them are:
Living with your parents vs. living on your own
Everyone knows living with your parents can cramp your style. You can't have friends over as easily, or have the freedom to use their place however you'd like. Some people may also be embarrassed to still be at home, though it's not viewed as the failure to launch that it once was, and in some cultures it's standard. It does have some advantages. If it allows you to save money, you be able to use that cash to help your social life in other ways. The location may be good. Also, the whole arrangement may come with a car you can use.
Living in a dorm vs. living on your own
This is a big factor in university, where people who live off-campus often mention that they miss out on the easy, built-in ways to meet a ton of people.
Living on your own vs. living with roommates
There are lots of pros and cons to having roommates that don't have to do with socializing. But thinking about that area, it's also a mixed bag. If you get decent, compatible roommates you gain a lot of little chances to be around people and practice your interpersonal skills. Also, you'll often have plans on the weekend, since roommates often hang out together at least some of the time.
On the other hand, if you really need your own space and lots of alone time, having people constantly around may be too much for you. Or if you want to be social, what are you going to do if your roommates aren't very outgoing themselves and make a stink about you having a lot of people over?
Living with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife
You can meet people through your partner, say by co-hosting get togethers. Some people start to neglect their social lives when they're living with their partner, since he or she fulfills most of their social needs. Even if they logically realize they should have other things going on socially, they're not quite 100% motivated to go get them. This may not be a problem for a long while, but sometimes they'll wake up one day and realize they barely have any friends, because they spend so much time with their spouse.
Having a good place to entertain friends
It's that much more of an advantage if your place is fun to hang out in, or has other perks. It's easier to get people together, because you can always say, "Hey, let's all watch a movie on my giant TV, and then we can use my apartment's free rooftop BBQ, and then all sit on my balcony and enjoy the summer evening."
The kinds of people in your building or neighborhood
If you're young, is your building full of other students and young professionals, or did you somehow end up in a place full of seniors? Same with your neighborhood. If you're fifty five are your neighbors in the same place in life as you, or are you stuck in a student ghetto?
Closeness to amenities
Someone who lives downtown, near all the good places to hang out, is in a better spot than a person with an apartment off in the middle of nowhere. It's way easier to motivate yourself to go out when most venues are a ten-minute walk away vs. a forty five-minute trip on the bus or a half-hour drive. Potential friends are also way more likely to accept invitations to do things at your place if it's convenient to get to.
How safe your neighborhood is
If you live in a sketchy part of town people may be more hesitant to visit you, and you may rightly not want anyone to come to your place to begin with. You may also have to consider things you wouldn't have to think about in a better area. For example, if friends come over you may worry about them staying too late and having to walk to the subway station at night. You'll have to ask them to leave early enough, drive them home, or make sure they can arrange to take a cab. It's all that much more of a hassle.
The city you live in
Aside from the practicalities of what kind of housing you have, where you live is also really influential.
Presence of enough people who are compatible with you
If the city someone lives in is big enough usually this takes care of it itself, and there are going to be enough people from their scene or subculture. It doesn't always work that way though, and sometimes people need to move to a city that's a better fit for them. A common example is a liberal, non-religious person moving away from a conservative part of the country.
This is also a pretty big factor if someone is from a minority group and doesn't want to be too isolated. An immigrant coming to North American from India likely doesn't want to move to a small town where they'll the only person within miles who speaks Hindi. A lot of LGBT people from smaller towns move to the city, where they can join a sizable community of their peers. The alternative is staying in their hometown where it's just them and thirty other LGBT people, two thirds of whom are closeted.
Size of your community
People vary in how much they like bigger cities. According to the cliche, a lot of people leave their dull, suffocating, close-minded small towns to go somewhere where there's more going on and they can disappear into the crowd. On the other hand, smaller towns can have a better sense of community, may be more friendly, and not everyone wants to live in a cold, sprawling megalopolis.
Weather (i.e., does it get ridiculously cold where you live?)
It's one thing to go out in the summer. Going to a pub or walking to a friend's house is a different game entirely when leaving your apartment feels like you're stepping into Siberia. Everyone who lives in a northern country has skipped a social event because they couldn't be bothered to put on their winter gear and face the freezing temperature outside.
Suitability for important hobbies
For some people a particular interest is a central part of their lifestyle and their social life. Someone who loves skiing probably isn't going to be happy living in an area with no good mountains around. A committed musician or actor needs to live somewhere with a good arts scene.
Some job-related factors are:
Number of potential friends at your job
There are other ways to meet friends, but it never hurts if there are lots of interesting people at the place you work. Also, if you could use every chance you can get to practice your social skills it's good to have plenty of colleagues to chat to.
The hours you work
I mean this in terms of how much you work, and when. Someone who puts in an easy 9-5 four day week is going to have way more free time to be social than someone who logs twelve hour days, or who works odd hours, or both. A chef who has to toil late into the night every weekend, or someone who works graveyard shifts as a security guard, is going to have a totally different kind of social life compared to someone who keeps a more regular schedule.
How draining your job is
A lot of people have jobs that are mentally or physically draining, or annoying and stressful, and they need to "come down" after they're done their day. They tend to be affected by jobs like this in one of two ways. The first is to have way less energy to go out and spend time with their friends. They want to just veg out in front of a TV for six hours when they get home. You can see how that's a problem. The other reaction, which may not hurt at all from a social perspective, is to feel really restless by the time Friday rolls around, and want to go out and blow off steam.
The kind of person your job may turn you into
Some jobs insidiously alter a person's social success over the long term by gradually turning them into an abrasive, overly competitive jerk, or a passive-aggressive, anal-retentive control freak. The requirements of the position or the corporate culture may encourage it. That kind of behavior may make total sense on the job, but be totally unpleasant in day-to-day life. Someone may realize it's happening and fight it at first, but after a while their personality may change more than they think it has. Alternatively, some jobs may improve your personality as a nice little side effect.
If someone has a long, grinding commute it tends to exacerbate the other job-related factors I just mentioned. They're that much more tired and grumpy at the end of the day, and it cuts into the amount of spare time they have.
You hardly have to be rich to have a fun social life. Many people's fondest social memories come from a time in their life when they were broke. Still, if you have at least a little cash on hand it can make many aspects of socializing way more practical and accessible. You can instantly accept an invitation to meet your friends for dinner, because you know you can afford it. You don't think as much about having to pay for cover and coat check at a club. You can go on a weekend road trip and not have to worry about the cost of gas.
Although they can be money pits, having a car makes your life way more flexible. You're not tied to the public transit system, or having to rely on someone else for a ride. You can easily take trips out of the city. You can go to areas that are too inconvenient to get to in other ways. You can stay out downtown as late as you want and not have to keep an eye on the clock for when the buses or subways stop running.
For the most part people choose their university based on academic or financial reasons. However, if you have a choice between two fairly equal schools, and one of them is way ahead in terms of the social factors, why not go with that one?
Some colleges are in vibrant, colorful cities, while others are in the sticks. There may still be a lot to do on campus, but having possibilities outside of that is always good. Also, within a city a university may be located right downtown, or in some distant suburb.
The school's social scene
Some colleges have a legendary party scene, while others have a reputation for being really uptight and boring. The vast majority are firmly in the middle, and should provide more than enough fun and social opportunities for the average person. Still, if you've been hearing nothing but rumors about how lame your potential future school is going to be, or how it's going to be more rowdy and non-academically-oriented than you'd prefer, it might make you want to think twice.
The number of men and women at the university
Most colleges are going to have a relatively even ratio of men to women, but every so often you'll hear a single straight guy complaining that there are hardly any women at his super-technical institution, or a hetero woman bemoaning the lack of men at her small arts-oriented college. A gay guy or lesbian has to worry about the number of same-sex students. Certain majors are also known for being very skewed toward one gender (e.g., engineering, psychology). That makes it harder to meet dates as you go to your day-to-day classes, but you can always look outside your program.
Kids and pets
Obviously if you really want to start a family or get a dog you're going to do it anyway. I don't really need to explain all the ways having children totally changes or limits your social options. Everyone knows those already. I'll talk about pets though, since sometimes people take one on impulsively without really thinking about everything that's involved.
Pets can cut into your ability to be aceept plans and be spontaneous. Cats and many smaller animals aren't so bad, since they're self-sufficient and can be left alone for a few days. At worst, if there's a longer trip you'll need to pony up for a kennel or rope someone into taking care of them. Dogs can cramp your style more. At the very, very least someone's got to be home a couple times a day to feed them and take them outside. You can't just agree to outings at a moment's notice. On the other hand, they get you out of the house, and create chances to socialize and meet people, like when you chat to other owners at the dog park.