Social interaction is hard. Sometimes people act like all we need to do is learn some strategies and then go out and do it, but that is such an oversimplification. Yes, of course we need to learn strategies, but what people often forget is that simply knowing those strategies won’t really improve life for us. We need to implement them, and even at the best of times, we might be too tired to do that. It’s not easy to remember it all and use those strategies in real life. Think about it for a moment. If it was easy to learn to use it in real life, would any of us ever have problems socially? No. It’s difficult, so no matter how many clever tricks and strategies we learn (even though it does get easier with time and practice) it is never really easy.
Sometimes, we all need a break. Right? But then we feel guilty, or at least, I do.
I use my mobile to do lots of different things, don’t you? So, sometimes in the past I would “forget” to bring my mobile with me when going grocery shopping or if I went out for a walk or something. Whenever I left the mobile at home, I would feel this odd sense of freedom for a little while, and I’d feel more relaxed and happier. Then, I’d come home, and I immediately feel worse than before I left because someone left a passive aggressive text because I didn’t answer or maybe there were lots of messages or well, anything could have happened. Whenever I have unanswered messages on my mobile I immediately get exhausted by the idea that I have to reply to “people”, but at the same time I feel guilty for not texting back.
Honestly, sometimes I get really, really tired by the thought of even replying to a single person.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I never want to text anyone. I text people. That’s right. People – plural. I just need breaks, you know. I need space in between conversations, sometimes I need space in between texts.
I can get exhausted from texting someone in the middle of the conversation and then I want nothing but to throw my mobile far away. Often I feel trapped in the conversation though– sometimes I even started the conversation myself! People sometimes get upset if I suddenly just don’t feel like talking anymore. It’s just, I never know when I’ll run out of energy. I can’t feel it. I talked about this before.
You may say, people have their own lives as well and sometimes they don’t get upset when we don’t reply right away. The problem for me is, I never know when people expect a reply and when they are perfectly fine getting a reply a few hours or days later. I just can’t tell the difference between the texts others feel are important and the texts they don’t feel are important.
So, my question to you is, are you like that as well? Do you get exhausted from social interaction of any kind and need a break once in a while? Or do you perhaps know someone like me and wonder why they stop talking for a moment and then suddenly, a while later, continue like nothing happened?
Well, just because I need a break sometimes, it doesn’t I’m not interested or that I feel done with a conversation – it literally just means that I need a break. I need to “recharge my batteries” as they say. I always feel guilty for that. Like, I feel like I should finish what is started… or maybe I get caught up in the idea that neurotypicals need social interaction in a way I don’t, and I am afraid that I am not living up to their expectations and needs?
No, I know that I’m never going to live up to their expectations, so I try my best to at least fulfil some of their needs (not all their needs, that has to be impossible for everyone, and I would never survive trying to do that).
The problem is, they generally seem like they need a lot more from me than I can give. It’s not that they can’t accept or tolerate if I cannot fulfil their needs, but more like the more I try to fulfil their needs for social interaction, the more they expect and want from me.
You know what people always say? “Just reply when you feel like it.”
They never actually mean that, do they? Especially if you happen to read their message, or open it accidentally without reading it, then suddenly they think you’re upset about something, ignoring them or maybe that you don’t like them. People can react rather aggressively when they feel like they are being ignored. It always comes as a surprise to me, though.
So, it becomes a spiral of me trying to fulfil their needs, while their needs and expectations grow, I give more, they need more and more… and it never ends well.
My advice today sounds a bit silly, but honestly, it is one the things that has made the biggest difference in my everyday life. I started muting people on social media and certain apps. Not everyone I know, but a LOT of people.
I have some friends I have known for years and I know they could not care less about how slow my response is because they care about our friendship in whatever shape or form it is expressed. There are some people, however, who aren’t like that, and I always end up feeling bad when I don’t reply quick enough or well enough. I clearly don’t live up to both their expectations and their needs.
Sometimes, when I was really exhausted, I ended up muting everyone for a while and as a result, I felt a lot better.
I also don’t feel a need to know every time someone liked something I posted somewhere. I don’t need to always interact with people online – but that doesn’t mean I don’t. I do care, I just really need to do other things too. I need to practice guitar (and yeah, I use my mobile sometimes for that too) without seeing push notifications pop up telling me things that are not related to me practising the guitar. When I am done with that, I might check if anything happened, but I might not. Maybe I’ll make a sandwich and eat it. Maybe I’ll take a nap and I’ll enjoy it.
The point is, when I feel ready and have the energy to do so, I will check my messages, my e-mails, the reactions to my posts etc., but social media just feel a little bit like going to a huge party with too many people to count and just the idea of that makes me a little tired. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go to the party, it just means I need to be well-rested to do so.
I need space. I need to do other things than stare at my mobile all day and I hate feeling guilty because I prioritize things that makes me feel good instead of things that make me feel bad.
So, here’s an idea. Turn of notification on whatever things you wish you weren’t getting notifications from or just turn them all of, either for a while or always. I am not saying to ignore your friends, but if you need space, it is perfectly okay to create that space for yourself.
I am sure even those neurotypicals who thrive on social interaction sometimes could need a bit of a break from all of that themselves. Notifications are sort of pointless anyway. Check your messages when you feel ready, when you have the energy to do so and when you want to.
Practise not feeling guilty if you turn of those notifications and know that if some people get upset, that’s okay. If they feel their feelings are hurt, be honest about your own feelings and apologise if you feel you need to.
The thing is, if it feels like the right decision for you, then trust that you are making the right choice for you. A break from forcing ourselves to interacting with others might just give us the energy boost to interact happily and willingly with our friends – and that is someone everyone will be able to feel and appreciate.
Also, should you want notifications again, just turn them back on. No problem there. The people who truly matter, they will understand. The people who care about us, they will want to understand if we explain it or they might just accept us as we are without the need for any explanation.
I did lose potential friends doing this, and in a way it’s sad that something with potential never become what it could have been, but on the other hand, the potential was only potential as long as I wasn’t being honest about what I need and, in that way, was it really potential at all? I am not so sure.
It also helped me let go of people I had no desire to build friendships with, because sometimes I would answer people to be polite and they would misunderstand and then suddenly I’m caught up in this social interaction or relation that I have no interest in. I never really know how to get out of that kind of situation – I’ve actually struggled with that for years.
Now, some people automatically start leaving me alone – both those who might have had potential and those who didn’t. This way I can use my limited energy on the people who really matter to me, on those who don’t care if I reply an hour later if I am too tired the moment they text.
Again, this is far from easy advice and seriously, proceed with caution. People can get so upset, you wouldn’t believe it. Most importantly, practice not feeling guilty prioritizing your needs sometimes. Sometimes, we need to prioritize others, that’s true, but not always. Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves and be kind and compassionate to ourselves. Try not to feel guilty when you do that, because we all need it and if you need a bit of space, take it. If someone you know needs space, let them have it.
The people who care and accept me, they accept me as I am – even if I don’t reply to a random text all day. The same is true for all of us, right?