Social Diversity

How diverse are your social groups ?

Up until graduating from college we are really inside a net that restricts the types of people you interact on a daily basis. Teachers and parents don’t really count since you don’t have much choice in picking them. Every single person you chose to spend your time with tend to be almost your age at that time. Friends, class mates, cousins – all tend to be pretty close to your age group. This pattern sticks until you get out of college and enter the so-called real world.

And the real world has a whole lot more people and they come in a variety of ages – zero to approximately 80 years – give or take a few. You start meeting a lot of people, now that you are not spending 8 hours a day inside a college campus, and they seem to be everywhere. At the office, bus stop, grocery store, gym, theater, park and in a lot more places; there are many people, sometimes too many.

Now stop and think about the various ages of people you interact with on a daily basis. Count the number of groups. To keep things simple, include anyone you can safely predict that you will meet and/or communicate with at least 3 or 4 times a week. We can include electronic communications like email and Facebook messaging as long as its done at least a few times a week. If we can club them into 5 year groups : ages 0-5 is one group, 6-10 is another group and so on; how many groups does that come to? Yeah, stop reading this post, pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and write down the groups. Now count them, I’ll wait.

How many groups do you actually have in your life?

Obviously, a majority of the members in your social circle will fall within your age group – friends, co-workers, colleagues – and  few will be in the age group that is slightly higher than yours. They are the senior colleagues, uncles and potential mentors. The standard groups of outliers, significantly older or younger than you, will be parents, close relatives and possibly siblings. Together these groups give a nice little picture of your experience in life. Since we are counting the ages of only the people who play an active role in your daily life, your everyday experiences and overall view of life are directly correlated to it.

Do you see the number of missing age groups there ? May be you have two big groups of late twenties and early thirties, but no one in the groups from 40s, 50s or the late teens. How much does that impact what you see and perceive in life ?. Off the top of my head, no 50 year olds in your life means no one is really telling you that you should save money for retirement and no teenager means you probably have no good opinion about the new Twilight movie.

I was startled to find out that there is absolutely no one that I know in the 10 – 20 age group or the groups of ages 65 or higher.

It is safe to assume that the more groups you have in your life, larger is your social circle and richer is your overall experience in life. People of different eras bring with them perspectives that are quite different from our own age group. For example, my 8-year-old cousin will never know what a floppy disc is unless myself or someone from my age group or older informs him about those funky plastic drives. Sure he can read it from a book but it’s not the same as a memory shared at a personal level. No book can ever fully convey how awful a floppy disc was. Same thing for rotary phones, employment exchanges and snail mail.

The more age groups we have in our lives richer will be our experience. But in today’s hectic world, its much harder to create and keep these relationships. If you are lucky enough to have them, it’s probably best to not let them go waste. You may never know what you might be missing.

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