This exercise was originally developed as an activity for Part 2 of the Illuminating Social Isolation workshop series; it is effective with or without watching the accompanying video, but you can find the series here if you'd like the extra guidance!
Social circles are a tool used to look at who a person interacts with. While often used in businesses and marketing models, it is also useful for understanding social isolation and seeing how you compare to the healthy average. Here are some quick steps mapping out your own social circles. The method I describe below ends up looking a bit like the spider web of connecting names.
Step 1: Social Outlets
Draw something in the middle of a paper to represent you, then make a quick scattering of names and groups around you.
These are all the people you interact with and have relationships with. Not just your friends but also family, work interactions, religious groups, hobby groups, volunteering, neighbors, or people from places you visit a lot as well (for example that barista who gives you your coffee almost every time you have gone in the past couple months).
You can group them together under one title or name or name them all individually. Put them in shapes if you want, it is up to you. Just get your social connections down.
Step 2: Rate Your Connection Strength
Connect the names back to yourself with meaningful lines. Dotted, dashed, solid, loopy, it does not really matter if you can record which people you are most connected to and who you have the strongest and closest relationships with.
Here the lines with the arrows are the most meaningful, with the solid lines after, and then the zigzag lines, and finally the dotted line. If you want to break up groups at this point because you have a different relationship with some people in the group you can.
Step 3: Assess Inter-Relation
Next, connect anyone people or groups that are connected to each other. While this step is not required, it can be insightful later. Connect them by circling them, drawing lines between, or some other method. It just needs to make senses to you.
Congrats! You have a rough map of your social interactions. By itself though, it can’t do much. Now you need to ask yourself some questions.
Who are the people you are closest to, maybe your top 3? Do you have a trusting, strong relationship with these people?
If something were to happen, and you could not talk to one of those people consistently, who would you talk to instead when you needed something?
Is there anything else that surprised you about your social circle?
When you start to think about how to make changes in your life to ensure your social health, you can come back to this to start to get an idea of where to start.
Ready to take the next step in increasing your social circle in healthy ways? Join the Neighbor Network and select "I want to gather my neighbors" at registration and Zoe will follow up with you personally!