Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Balance – Social

So you’re a geek but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a social life, sure some of us aren’t great in crowds of people but we all like to get out and enjoy ourselves and should do so to keep us in balance.

It can be very easy to stay in front of the PC/Laptop and lose yourself in coding or gaming and not actually leave the house much apart from going to work and if you’re single possibly not seeing many people. When I was a lad gaming was generally a solitary past time but nowadays with online gaming you can be part of a much larger community of people and you do get to talk to other people but it isn’t the same as actually interacting with people.

People need to socialise and various psychological studies have shown this, possibly the best well know is Maslows “hierarchy of needs” which usually shown as a pyramid which has 5 levels:

  1. Physiological (base of pyramid) – what you need to live: air, water, food
  2. Safety – safe place to live, job, etc.
  3. Social – friendship, belonging to a group
  4. Esteem – recognition, social status
  5. Self Actualisation (top of pyramid) – quest to reach your full potential

Now with Maslows theory you cannot move up the pyramid unless you fulfil the lower levels i.e. unless you fulfil Safety you cannot move to Social. As you can see social is slap bang in the middle of the pyramid, people need to socialise and feel that they belong to a group.

You’re probably asking yourself ‘and?’, my point is that to have balance in your life you need to be interacting with other people, to grow as a person both professionally and personally social interaction helps you in many ways such as improving communication skills, empathy, etc these are all things that will help you inside and outside of work.


In a recent discussion at DDD Scotland one of the attendees was telling me how he was having to introduce himself as his twitter handle as that was how people knew him. This was backed up later when a comment was made in the “Ask the speakers” session that for a lot of people twitter has become where they most interacted with other people.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having an online network but if you only rely on this and nothing else then in my opinion I believe you are missing out.

If you take the time to go to a local user group or alt.beers you get a better balance between the electronic and social networks and you’ll be surprised who you meet.  Attending a group you more likely to grow your network of contacts and you are you’ll get to see good presentations or at the very least get away from a screen and have a beer with like minded geeks and talk tech & gadgets.

Focus on who you’re with

In my post about balance and family I mentioned a quote by Scott Hanselman’s wife in the disconnecting episode of “This Developers Life” which, paraphrasing,  is about you effectively saying you value the people online more than the people you are with.  This particular quote came back to me at the dinner held before DDD9 when talking to Guy Smith-Ferrier who observed that he looked around the table and out of the 10 people 8 were on their phones twittering away rather than talking to the person next to them!

Guy’s point was that people should actually talk to one another when they were together, a sentiment echoed in the comments to this blog post where the blogger believed it perfectly acceptable to effectively ignore the people he was with to “check his phone” but I think you’ll find that the majority of people believe the opposite, just read the comments to see what I mean.

When you are out with friends/colleagues they may well understand the need to keep up to date with twitter but just do it in moderation and balance it with interacting with the people around you and never whilst in the middle of a conversation.


Next up I’m covering balance in work including the subject of burnout.


  1. Hi,

    Great series. On the subject of social I think that connecting with a network of different minded people is also important for your balance. It can be very interesting because you get in contact with different points of view which can be important for your personal growth. You can do this by, for example, joining a sport club or do some after hours non technical course.

  2. Jose I completely agree.

    Not only do you get to mix with people other than geeks but the different view points can often help solve problems by coming at them from a different angle.