The term “social butterfly” is often used to describe, well, a highly social person. And while it’s not a medical term, social psychologists understand and acknowledge it in their work and with patients. “‘Social butterfly’ is a term used for people who are socially skilled, extroverted, and well-liked by others,” says William Chopik, PhD, a social-personality psychologist and associate professor at Michigan State University, adding that social butterflies fit in well in different situations, make friends easily, and tend to feel pretty positive on a regular basis.
But what’s often not understood is that, in actuality, being a social butterfly is more than a personality trait–it’s a full-blown lifestyle–and one that isn’t necessarily the effortless breeze that it’s often presumed to be. In fact, it can come with its own set of challenges to navigate.
So, whether you’re a self-described social butterfly or have one in your life, keep reading to learn more about this anything-but-a-wallflower type of person, challenges they’re likely to face, and whether or not you can become one yourself.
Social butterfly traits
There are several traits that can help you pinpoint whether someone is a social butterfly. For starters, “usually, these are the people who are easygoing and charismatic and can walk in a room and start a conversation with anybody,” says Asim Shah, MD, professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. “By the time they leave the room, everybody loves them.”
“One of the core features of being a social butterfly is that they are extroverted–this means that they’re often outgoing, pleasant, approachable, and talkative.” –William Chopik, PhD
And in order to squeeze in all that face-time, social butterflies tend to have packed social calendars and lots of friends, Dr. Chopik says. “One of the core features of being a social butterfly is that they are extroverted–this means that they’re often outgoing, pleasant, approachable, and talkative,” he adds. “They’re more active and also, sometimes, tend to have a socially dominant style when talking and interacting with them.”
Social butterflies also tend to have a lot of energy. “Being enthusiastic across many different interactions several times a day takes energy,” Dr. Chopik says. “Social butterflies have a lot of it.”
Challenges of being a social butterfly
But while these extroverted, gregarious folks tend to possess the energy required to connect with anyone and everyone in their sphere, the social butterfly life isn’t perfect. “It comes with a lot of challenges,” Dr. Shah says. Here are three examples:
1. Sharing the spotlight
Some challenges have to do with how social butterflies get along with others in their life. For instance, while they like to be the center of attention, they might have trouble sharing the stage. “They might not let someone else be in the spotlight, even if they need or deserve to be there,” Dr. Shah says. And that can end up causing friction in personal relationships.
2. Having deep, authentic friendships
Quantity doesn’t always translate to quality, and that can be true of a social butterfly’s extended social circle. Even though social butterflies have a lot of friendships, they tend to be more superficial ones, Dr. Chopik says.
3. Making risky or impulsive choices
Social butterflies are also more willing to take risks, which can be positive–but only to a degree. When taken too far, such risky choices may “create trouble for themselves because they tend to be a little more impulsive,” Dr. Chopik says. Social butterflies may also tend to say whatever comes to mind, and as a result of this lack of filter, “might make an occasional social faux pas or be prone to accidents or misunderstandings,” he adds.
4. Being bored
And since these extroverts thrive from togetherness and community, they may struggle with the fact that life can’t be a huge party at all times. Being able to put up with bouts of monotony and boredom “makes you more successful in a lot of different domains,” Dr. Chopik says.
How to get along with a social butterfly
Getting along with a social butterfly is easy–at first, Dr. Shah says. But, it can become tricky over time. If you feel like the social butterfly in your life is constantly making things about them or is saying hurtful things (even if unintentionally), he recommends speaking up about how they make you feel.
It’s also important to set “reasonable expectations” for a long-term friendship with a social butterfly, Dr. Chopik says. “Social butterflies tend to have more social commitments and be pulled in many different directions,” he says. “Given their draw toward novelty, the broadness of their social networks, and their desire to hang out in larger groups, they have a lot of friends and attend a lot of social events. That might translate to disappointment if you were looking to spend a lot of intimate, one-on-one time with them.”
Can you become a social butterfly?
If you’re not a natural social butterfly, that’s certainly okay. But, if you want to become one or even simply expand on extroverted-leaning traits, it’s possible to work on making it happen.
“We have some evidence that people can change their personalities if they want to,” Dr. Chopik says. “If people have a desire to change and enact specific behaviors that social butterflies tend to do, then they just might find themselves becoming social butterflies themselves.”
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