Category Archives: Social issues

What is the radius of your social circle?

Just want to share this brilliant matemathical social life metaphor by Mathematician Cartoonist* Ben Orlin of Math with Bad Drawings, illustrating what a “social circle” looks like on paper.

Social circle Ben Orlin

I quite like the symbolism and its implications:

The social people

People who have large social circles, have plenty of space at their disposal inside their circle. It gives them flexibility, mobility and dynamism, and exposes them to the inputs and perspectives of different people (although people inside social circles tend to be somewhat culturally alike, or at least compatible).

People with large social circles can cover a lot of ground and have many resources of whatever they need within their circle. They know a tons of people who can tip them off to opportunities they hadn’t even thought of, connect them up with useful people, and explain the complicated political insider dynamics of specific social groups and organisation. Also, they’ll typically have had ample social skills practice for many years.

People with large social circles probably don’t need to venture out of their circles often, but due to their extensive practice in navigating social networks, may find it relatively easy to do so, or to expand or alter their circle when they need it.

Radius zero

In contrast, a social circle with a radius of zero is a small and inflexible space. It tends to be more static than dynamic, there aren’t many fresh inputs and blending of perspectives, and not many opportunities dropping by. Outings are lone expeditions, like walking around in a circle, meeting no one, and ending back at start. The boundary is uncomfortably close, like right outside the window, exposing the loneliness to random strangers if the pay attention (they usually don’t).

Loneliness is seen as a mark of dysfunction in society. It signals that “This person is not good enough for anyone in the world”. So a social circle with a radius of Zero has a stigma attached to it, casting a shadow over it.
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Two-track writing

When writing about an experience or event in my diary, I sometimes write about it twice, so there is one version from an objectively descriptive (outward-oriented) perspective, and one version from a personal, introspective perspective.


Analogy: an experience has many layers, that can be explored separately – just like musical tracks in a music editor

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Moments that Lack Glue


About mental coherence & social relationships

This post is inspired by Be here, now by Aspienaut (AKA Paul C Siebenthal) and especially these words:

“I’m aware that I see my life as a series of individual moments and memories that are boxed up, disconnected and independent of each other. I do not think of my experiences or life as a narrative or experiential arc; rather a series of disconnected random events.”

Be here, now by Aspienaut.

Paul is taking about the lack of coherence in how he perceives his life over time; that moments are like separate worlds rather than a coherent story. (I recommend to go and read the whole post!) I can very much relate, and this is a continuation of my comment on Paul’s post.

I wrote about my own issues with mental coherence in Important types of Coherence, which is a sort of personal essay/brainstorm about mental coherence, and how lack of it causes mental difficulties.

Here I’d like to focus on the impacts on social relationships. I know of no particular research to back up my reflections; it is totally my own subjective introspective thoughts and may apply to only me (but I doubt it).
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