Its doubtful I would have noticed a social spot lighter in my youth. I’m not going to lie, when I was young I was very popular. At age 7, I remember the teacher having to create a hand holding rota as there were always arguments in the playground as everyone wanted to hold my hand.
Skip forward to secondary school and I was in the complete opposite situation. I had moved into a school all my friends went into but it wasn’t that simple for me. Everything felt overwhelming – the large building, the amount of teachers and all the people constantly rushing past. I was from a similar background to everyone else so I couldn’t understand it.
I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of people, classrooms, corridors. My group of friends changed several times in secondary school and I never really found a place I belonged.
Introverts and extroverts were not as commonly talked about then as it is now and I’d never heard of social psychology . This meant I spent too many years thinking their was something very wrong with me. I tried to make sense of why I struggled in social situations and found it harder to chit chat than most. For a while I withdrew from society as a result of this and a trauma a younger me went through.
Now I’m older, I have a smaller circle of close friends and loved ones. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with social interactions such as at the school gates. The difference is now I have now taught myself to listen and create a safe place inside my head. The interactions at school between parents has become something that both fascinates and scares me. All this brings me into what I call social spot lighting.
What is a social spot lighter?
Have you ever been talking to someone and really felt like they were listening to you? All their attention, energy and most importantly eye contact was all shining on you? Congratulations your with a social spot lighter and your in their social spotlight. Feels pretty sweet! All bright and shiny. Then someone else comes along to join the conversation. The person your talking to either knows them better, is wealthier/smarter/add your own in here than you. Their whole body shifts, eyes, head. Immediately the social spot light you were basking in is removed and shined on the new comer. Its rather cold and dark now in the shade. Do you walk away? Leave? Try to join in? You have just been social spot lighted.
Why do people do it?
Good question! Possibly certain people can only maintain conversations with one person. Maybe they struggle with certain social situations too. It could be they prefer the one on one interaction with someone they know more intimately. Possibly it could also be they just like the other person more than you and you were simply a place holder.
Do we all do it?
Hopefully not. I haven’t noticed my friends do it when I’m with them. Being extremely socially aware, I always try to include everyone when I am talking to a group. I try to maintain eye contact with them all, adapt a relaxed and open body posture.
What do we do about it?
Nothing actually. Being aware of it if you are one, could help people adapt and change if they wish to. Is social spot lighting a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so, if your able to find the funny in it. It really hurt my feelings before I gave it a name and made peace with it. Now I watch to see if the new person who is in the social spot light, gets left in the dark as well.
Have you experience social spot lighting? Are you a social spot lighter?