Almost everyone benefits from belonging to a tribe. Groups started first as a small family unit or a larger clan. Some researchers think that as far back as 4000 BC we started forming groups outside of kinship. The world has expanded so we are not stuck with a tribe of those just around us. Today we can belong to many tribes and that changes as we evolve. Your school tribes may have been replaced by user groups, book clubs, cooking clubs, workout groups, and others on social media. Meet up groups are very popular and there are some fairly unique groups out there. You could start a meet up for gluten free people who only wear purple clothes and own parakeets. You might find a few others with those exact interests and a new tribe is born.
The pandemic created a greater sense of isolation and took a toll on mental health for many. Having a social network improves our heart health as much as quitting smoking according so some studies. So you might say I have over 1.000 Facebook friends, I’m not isolated. Not according to Dr. Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford. After some study, he came up with a figure now known as “Dunbar’s number.” Between 100 and 200—is the approximate size of a person’s social circle, or the perpetually changing group of friends and family members that you would invite to a large party. You could have far fewer than 150 of these people in your life, however your brain can’t hold a close connection with over 150, I’ve often heard we are most influenced by the 6 people we see the most. He says your closest 15 relationships are the most important when it comes to your mental and physical health.
One thing I don’t see mentioned is how tribes can validate us. When I worked as a Project Manager I managed testers. We had unique skills that I felt were not always valued in the company. We were also the last phase of a project cycle. When things got behind (as they always did) our schedule was the most compressed. We worked a lot of over time and put out a super human effort. I joined a local testing user group. The meetings provided valuable technical information. Also very important was the support from other people who really understood my role. I learned testers were also not valued in other companies. It was comforting to know my perceptions were correct.
I found a tempory tribe (a one night stand tribe) at a music event. Years ago I accidentally bought only one ticket to a Damien Rice concert. I did not see my error until I was mailed the ticket (yes in the olden days tickets were only mailed out) and no more tickets were available. I was embarrassed about my mistake and going alone so I tried to sneak in as a single ticket person. I was early and as I sat I tried to sink low in my seat. A woman yelled at me, “Hey girl are you alone?” I admitted it. She said, “I’m alone and so it that guy and that woman over there and that other guy.” We all gathered to talk about our love of his music. All of a sudden I was not alone I was in a temporary tribe of big Damien Rice fans. It was one of the best concerts I have attended.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. … A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. Yes, I think it’s okay to abandon the big, established, stuck tribe. It’s okay to say to them, “You’re not going where I need to go, and there’s no way I’m going to persuade all of you to follow me. So rather than standing here watching the opportunities fade away, I’m heading off. I’m betting some of you, the best of you, will follow me.”
I once saw a poster that said your vibe will attract your tribe. Look at the tribes in your life and see if you need a new one to join or maybe even lead.