Low Social Optionality

From Weekly I/O#58

Approach social interactions as if we are stuck on a desert island with the other person because low social optionality situations make genuine connections.

Podcast: Low Optionality and Adult Friendships

In this episode, Taimur introduced the concept of "social optionality," which refers to the degree of freedom we have to switch from one person/group to another during social activities. For instance, a large party with 40 people has high social optionality, a small dinner gathering of 10 people has lower social optionality, and being stranded with only one person on a desert island has the lowest social optionality.

Having lower optionality in social situations changes how we view our interactions. When meeting someone new at a large party, we might constantly assess them like, "Could I be friends with this person?" because we know we can easily walk away and never see them again. However, it is less convenient to make such a switch at a smaller dinner gathering, and we may have to wait until the dinner is over. If we are stuck on an island, we may have to stay with the other person forever without the option to leave.

Because of this lack of optionality, our mindset on the desert island turns from "Could I be friends with this person?" to "How can I connect with this person?" In low optionality situations, people are encouraged to find ways to connect genuinely, as it is for the long haul. Therefore, Taimur states, "I sometimes feel like being stuck on a desert island with someone is the only way to interact with them truly sincerely." And he concludes beautifully:

"Wanting to connect for no other reason than because you're two human beings on the same floating rock — this is the intention with which I'd like to approach all social interactions. Low optionality situations make this significantly easier, and I've started prioritizing them when choosing how to spend my time."

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