It is said that socializing is a great reducer of stress.  And it is said that we get great benefits and good feelings from socializing.

To examine the "it is said" statement, I shall question it.


Why do we socialize?

"Because that is the way we evolved, to be in tribes.  We are naturally social animals."

True, but not a sufficient explanation, I think.

It is possible that we evolved to be "social" for a "reason."  Of course, it had to be for better survival.

What happened in evolution is that those individuals with the genes that worked to survive long enough to procreate passed on their genes. 

And it worked to cooperate, because more people would survive better and longer in a tribe. 

Correspondingly, it worked to get approval, as we needed to not be kicked out of the tribe - so that we would not be forced to live by ourselves in the jungle and to possibly be killed in the jungle.

And it worked to develop "mirror neurons", where we could mirror in our minds and in our own feeling what others feel, so we could understand what was up with them and to determine if they were safe, to be trusted, how they felt about us, etc. 


And because all of that worked, it also became a part of the culture, to be passed down from generation in a sort of "cultural evolution", passing on what seemed to work to each future generation.

SO, WE "HAD TO"...

So we had to be dependent on others and when we socialized we were able to get approval - and some reassurance that we would not be kicked out of the tribe.  Even though we might not actually have been in danger of that, it paid to be damned sure we were on the safe side. 

And every time we were assured, we felt good.  Every time we socialized we had more of a chance of being assured.  And pretty soon it was the socialization that was pleasurable and positive, as kind of a "substitute-by-association" of the good feeling from the reassurance that we would not be on our own and killed.


But what if a person realized that, in today's world, we no longer depend on approval to stay in a tribe, plus we no longer are likely to die if not accepted in the tribe. 

What if the person realized that we all are part of the tribe (or at least a very large one) and that it will keep cooperating in economic interactions to provide what we want, from roads to groceries in the grocery store.

Then we might not "need" to socialize as much, because we were not so needing of approval and therefore we didn't get as much of a reward out of it, especially when compared to what else might be of more value and meaning. 


Well, few people are at that level and/or self-actualized (and strong and independent).  So it is most likely that socializing will stay in a role of giving us pleasure and reassurance from others approving of us - and feeling the good feelings that result from the chemicals that are emitted to have us do actions that enhance survival.  Plus it is an opportunity to express ourselves, which appears to be a "need" for us humans - but notice that we often express ourselves in order to get approval - and some of that so called "expressing ourselves" is a pretense to impress others.  We seem to live to get approval and to avoid disapproval.


This is a question I cannot answer for sure. 

I seem to no longer need much socializing, as approval and most of what people want to talk about is no longer of interest to me.  Still it does, with rare exceptions, "feel good" to socialize, as long as it doesn't get into really boring chit-chat and superficialities.  And I couldn't care less if they thought me unsociable or awkward - well, maybe I care a little, but I do catch myself and remind myself that it matters not what they think of me, as I am just fine on my own.

Perhaps a few people will agree with me, but I suspect that most of us will still seek socializing and that it will, indeed, be a source of stress reduction since being approved of and recognized by other people is reassuring - after all the stress we are trying to reduce is based on some imagined threat or overall feeling of inadequacy or not-competency.  

So, the bottom line here for most people is to use socializing as part of the inoculation from stress, as identified in the Quik View On Health: Physical, Stress, Weight. 

David Brooks, one of the most respected thinkers, wrote The Social Animal - The Hidden Sources Of Love, Character, And Achievement - about this very issue.  An excellent read.