Cultivating Asocial Behavior

My friend J and I were talking about the causes of sleep deprivation today. One of the main things we came up with was the inability of most people to keep a regular sleeping schedule. Going to bed and waking up around the same time works fine during the week, but as soon as the weekend arrives, all resolutions go straight out the window: I mean, it’s the weekend after all! I get to do something fun, like hanging out with my friends and getting buzzed! Let’s do it!

So you sleep in late on Saturday, then even later on Sunday, and when the alarm goes off on Monday morning at 7 am, you wonder why the heck you put yourself through this. You then take most of the week to recover and become somewhat alert and productive again; well, until Friday hits. I mean, it’s the weekend! I get to do something fun, right?

Wash, rinse, repeat…

This is not an article about sleep, though. What I am getting at is the insane temptation that comes with a certain type of social gathering. This could be a night out with the boys, getting hammered. This could be meeting the girlfriends at the Starbucks for a major gossiping session. This could be a brunch with the fam that lasts for 5 hours.

These all share a common trait: You are wallowing in the warmth of familiar people around you while accomplishing nothing. It feels nice and cosy while it’s happening, but already on your walk home, you cannot help but ask yourself: “What did I do today?! Where did all that time go?”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for being social. Having a long walk with your best friend. Meeting up with an important mentor you haven’t seen in years. Being with your lover. Without social warmth, you WILL become sick, mentally and/or physically. So I’m not arguing for you to become a hermit.

However, drinks after work at Applebee’s? Not the same thing. And still the temptation is there, drawing us in – even though we know of the emotional hangover afterwards. Why is that so?

Because we need an outlet. We need to compensate for a life that is mostly dictated by other people telling us what to do all week, be it your boss, be it your spouse, or be it your parents. In that heteronomous of a life, you just want to get buzzed with others in the same boat as you. The saying puts it just right: “Misery loves company.”

So the social temptation actually holds a double punch: You are at Applebee’s because you need to blow off some steam, and you are reinforced in that behavior by everybody else doing the exact same thing. In effect, there is an intrinsic motivation teaming up with some major social proof, and that’s a killer combination which is damn hard to beat.

How do you beat it anyways?

Knowing and understanding the problem instead of marginalizing it is the first step. Then you consciously cultivate your ASOCIAL behavior (as well as your low-information diet). No more Applebee’s and no more drunken nights, at least for a while. This way, you gain some much needed extra TIME. You need that time to make a fundamental change happen, i.e. to get outside of the system. Start working for yourself, and ideally, start working on something you truly love. Once that comes into fruition, the artificial separation of weekdays vs. weekends will start to dissolve naturally. YOU will want to work on your thing every day, as it provides you with deep rooted satisfaction. Your urge to live it up every weekend will disappear.

But all of this starts with saying no, no to other people, people who call us their friends. They aren’t. They are just comrades in misery, and they desperately want company. And I say that without hate or feeling snobby – I’ve been the company seeking comrade too many times myself… But this is something you can’t make peace with: This is serious and it needs to be addressed.

Being social is what everybody is doing. Be smart, do the opposite.

Until next time.