Recently updated on: October 13, 2023
TL;DR - Social minimalism is the application of minimalism in our social life by carefully choosing the people we are willing to spend our time, energy, and attention.
I've talked about minimalism several times in this blog and how it can be used to live more intentionally by limiting the number of possessions in our lives. Minimalism can also be applied to our personal finances.
Minimalism may also differ from person to person, and no one can quantitatively define the exact number of items you must have before you are called a minimalist.
We also talked about digital minimalism, another essential principle we need to implement in our lives by limiting our time with our electronic devices. This way, we can commit our free time to other more significant activities.
Today, we will talk about social minimalism and how it is good to know and hopefully help you.
Table of Contents
What is Social Minimalism?
Social minimalism is the application of minimalism principles into our social life.
While having many friends is fine, there is the danger of being unable to distinguish which connections we truly enjoy and value. So, there may be a need for limited social interactions.
It is also about limiting the number of significant relationships we maintain and allowing them to enter our lives, which can conserve our time, energy, and attention to use on other aspects of our lives.
It is important to note that social minimalism is NOT about placing an absolute ceiling on the number of friends we have and discarding the rest.
It is also not about losing all social interactions and living alone outside society to become a hermit.
Defining the quality of our relationships will dictate how much time we will be willing to spend with the people in our lives.
While you can find other definitions of social minimalism, in this post, I will define social minimalism as having fewer social connections and intentionally spending more time with the people who matter in our lives.
Gone are the days when we spend time with so many people that we can't find enough time to spend on the important people in our lives, and even with ourselves.
What is the Dunbar's Number?
Dunbar's Number is a theory that says that humans can only maintain a maximum of 150 meaningful connections at a time.
It also extends up to 500 people considered acquaintances and up to 1,500 people we can recognize.
However, some groups in the US argued that people could have up to 290 stable relationships.
Though some contend that this number may only be valid for introverts but will be hard to implement for extroverts, it is still a good baseline.
How to Apply Social Minimalism
Social minimalism can be applied in various areas of our lives. Here are some:
1. On Friends
When we are younger, especially when we are still students, we want to have a lot of friends. We want to connect with many other people we can interact with.
However, as we grow older, we notice our social circles are slowly shrinking, leaving only a handful of people who share the same ideals and aspirations.
Social minimalism allows us to limit the number of real connections with the people who truly matter.
For instance, I have several inner circles of friends of three (including me). The small quantity allows everyone in the group to spend enough time and energy that they can allocate.
2. On Social Media 'Friends'
Look at Facebook. It has a maximum number of 5,000 friends, and many people try to max it out by accepting every invitation that comes their way.
However, if you think about it, how many of these people really know you and vice versa?
It may even trigger negative feelings like fear of missing out (FOMO) and envy.
Though the 150 Dunbar's Number is not absolute, it gives us a guide of the number of people whom we can have valuable interactions with.
Maybe limiting the number of connections we allow on social media platforms is better. We can unfriend or unfollow some of them.
3. On Other Connections
If you've been on LinkedIn, you will notice the usual advice that more connections are better. They will even tell you to interact with them and build a relationship as much as possible.
But if you think about it, is it possible?
We have our families. We also have workmates, childhood friends, and high school and college friends. We also have other communities like churches, social clubs, and sports clubs.
I'm not suggesting cutting people off your lives and simply "ghost" them. However, we must be more intentional with the people we will allow to enter our lives.
Find Meaningful Relationships
We need to find meaningful relationships and not just increase our acquaintances.
However, establishing new relationships outside their family, work, or school life is difficult for some people. This is where intentionality may come in.
It is vital to build a support group of a few friends (maybe three or four) with whom you are comfortable sharing your thoughts and aspirations and who would correct you if you're wrong.
Social minimalism allows us to be more intentional with our relationships by spending more time, energy, and attention on the people that matter.
By deliberately increasing the quality of the relationships in our lives, the number of people who usually surround us, in effect, will decrease.
Relationships are essential, and that is one of the privileges of being human. So, if you have relationships that you value and return the same, be thankful for them and treasure them.