social butterfly (n.)
“a very sociable person who flits from one social event to another”
“ someone who is VERY social and easygoing; can be either a male or a female. Usually these people don’t belong to a particular group, but rather jump from one group to another. They are somewhat accepted in all of them, but don’t really have any deep friendship connections in any of them.”
Whenever one tries to define the term “social butterfly,” it tends to imply a certain degree of extroversion in the spoken-of person. Yet, in fact, there also exist the *introverted* social butterflies, whom I identify myself with. Although not especially outspoken and easygoing, we still find our way into multiple groups of friends and acquaintances where we live, work, or study. It is for me more a matter of nature than one of choice. There have been both up- and downsides, from which I believe we all can learn something, butterflies and non-butterflies alike. At the same time, I would like to make an appeal to those who are the opposite of social butterflies--i.e. those who belong to exclusive groups. I will refer to them as the "bees."
So here goes… the confession of a social butterfly
(Dis-)Advantage #1: The butterFlight Membership
As commonly perceived, social butterflies do not hang out with any exclusive groups of friends. Instead, they enjoy their freedom in choosing when, with whom, and how to spend their time. They usually project themselves as independent individuals and set up the expectation of their “partial commitment” within each group early on. Once the expectation is formed, the group grants the butterfly a “pass” - basically meaning he/she is welcomed, but not expected, to join the group’s future activities. A social butterfly is someone who possesses several of these “passes,” allowing him/her to freely go from one group to another.
With great freedom unfortunately comes a great price. Despite being part of many different groups, social butterflies do not feel especially connected to any. The reason seems rather obvious: He who divides his time for many persons should not expect to form stronger bonds, than were he to devote all of it to one person. While a group of friends makes the memories of their lives, a social butterfly may miss out simply by spending time with other people. He/she eventually feels "left-behind" as the bonds grow stronger among the group- but not between him/her and the group. A “pass” simply can never make up for the real experiences - the butterflies know that all too well.
Issue #2: Social Dilemmas
As they go back and forth between different groups, social butterflies are easily seen as superficial in relationships. In actuality, they appreciate their different friends as much as anyone would, and it is not uncommon at all for them to have BFFs. This “inability” to detach one’s self from his/her groups becomes visible as we move on to see the second challenge of being a social butterfly.
Let us imagine, for instance, that a fight of interest breaks out between two groups of friends of the social butterfly. In such a predicament, a detached person may simply step out to avoid inconvenience. The social butterfly, though, more often feels obliged to act as the mediator, even when not explicitly called for. An insider of both sides, the butterfly is perhaps the most able to resolve the conflict.
For another instance, social butterflies also have to set priorities when their friendships go through challenging periods. One normally needs to invest significant time and energy in order to overcome these occasions, yet a butterfly might face several struggling relationships at the same time. This means more stress, as well as less time for the other groups, which has never been much to begin with. Balancing between the many groups which one belongs to is as much a strength as a necessity for these butterflies.
Issue #3: Close Friends?
As said above, social butterflies can share intimate relationships with others. Their readiness to engage with people -and many at that- allows the butterflies to find friends with surprising levels of similarity. Shared values, interests, backgrounds, personality traits, propensities,... all contribute to the foundation for genuine and long-lasting friendships. Although social butterflies may not clearly associate themselves with any group in particular (refer back to #1), they can nonetheless establish intimate connections within the groups.
Being a social butterflies leads you to meeting with great people, claims Odyssey contributor Ally French in her article 5 Perks of Being a Social Butterfly.
(#4) The Three Ps: Perspectives, Patience and Pathos
Another plus (or so I deem) of being a social butterfly is that, by maintaining and fostering our many relationships at once, we develop great empathy and patience.
Being in groups with different interests, goals, and dynamics exposes a person to a wide range of beliefs and arguments. Under such circumstances, one continuously learns to listen, to see other perspectives, and to ultimately sympathize with them. A person’s friends help shape his identity, especially during young adulthood, and so is a social butterfly influenced by the many groups he/she belongs to. The butterfly’s identity is the collision of countless differing and sometimes even contradictory ideas.
The Social.. Bees
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned a special type of people whom I referred to as the “bees.” When it comes to friends, such a person only hangs out with a fixed group and is reluctant to leave his/her comfort zone - like a bee who always sticks to its swarm, hence the name I gave them (yet let us not dwell any further on this analogy). Contrary to the social butterflies, the bees are especially connected to their respective groups. They feel obliged to stay exclusively with the group, whenever there is a chance. As a result, a bee’s sphere of relations is rather limited and he/she is also more inclined to groupthink and biases. In the long run, this exclusivity among the bees will strip them of their individuality and even of their open-mindedness. I certainly have no proof, but I doubt that bee-like groups can survive for long.
I made the bee-butterfly comparison regardless, as everyone lies somewhere on the scale defined by these two extremes. Some are more like butterflies, while others more like bees. Most of us, perhaps, are somewhere in-between. While social butterflies have their own problems, the bee traits are of greater concern as they usually do more harm than good, both within and without the group. A common example of bee-like groups is what we call a clique. Another example - we call a cult. Both practice exclusivity and make themselves as well as their individual members less approachable by the exterior world.
If there is only one thing my readers can take away from this article, I hope that you will never limit yourself from making new friends, even if you already belong to a tight-knitted group. At the same time, pick your friends carefully. To have many friends does not mean to make friends randomly - only those who stay, count.
Friends are especially important during college, so get out there and find your best buds. Join or start an interest group, raise your voice, and share your passions. Above all, explore new things and new people. The Lycoming College community harbors various clubs and organizations, each aligning with certain values and/or interests. What are you waiting for?
Experience Lycoming's vibrant social community firsthand by planning your visit today!