Are Intellectuals Social?

by Jay Deragon on 02/07/2011

An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence (thought and reason) and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.

The term “social” is used in many different senses and regarded as a fuzzy concept, referring to attitudes, orientations, or behaviors which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account (in contrast to anti-social behaviour) .

The highest performing individuals possess both an intellectual and social capacity. For those who possess one without the other end up under performing in the sense that their work, while it may be considered outstanding, isn’t likely to attract the larger market of interested parties.

Keeping Balance Between Intellectual vs. Social Capabilities

I have a friend who is extremely intellectual.  His thoughts are deep and insightful. His perspectives on the future and how all things social play into a new economy are tough for many people to comprehend. While other intellectuals are attracted to his ideas many can’t argue his perspectives because they have difficulty comprehending them.  My friend has little patience with people who don’t comprehend his thoughts or act without thinking about what they are doing.  His attitude sometimes comes across as anti-social, arrogant and intolerable to folks that aren’t as smart as he is.

I have another friend who is gifted with social skills and knows how to use social media tools very well. He propagates lots of information and has a large following of people who are attracted to his social skills. Most people would consider him as a fun person and easy to talk to. The question I often ask him is how useful is the information you push out everyday. His response is “I have no idea but lots of people consume my information”.

Social without intellect leads to doing the same thing over and over and not gaining anything. Intellect without social means discovering transformational opportunities to create a better future but only a few people will listen and understand “how to” create a better future.

What We Really Need Is Social Intellectuals

Purely from observation and experience I have found that those who have both the intellectual capacity and social skills are people who stand out from the crowd.  While they may have a significant position in a company or university and/or they may be influential entrepreneurs, they possess the ability to influence people with knowledge and do so in a way that is “social”.   These social intellectuals actually respond to emails and inquires from their followers. They aren’t “puffed up in their own mind” rather their hearts are motivated to serve the audience and they appreciate the engagement.  These folks don’t care what their “klout score” is or their rank in the ecosystem of all things social rather they care about assisting the human network desire to progress, improve and innovate.

Being smart while not being social is the wrong attitude. Being social without learning to be smarter brings little progress, improvement or innovation.

If you think I am wrong help me learn why. If you are offended ask yourself why.


Stockton March 28, 2012 at 3:14 am

I think raw intelligence – logic – as measured by IQ is pretty darn good. Intelligence isn’t that difficult to define. But it is just one ingredient needed to make a successful person. Emotional intelligence (maturity), professionalism, ethics, and interpersonal skillls are the other ingredients. I think there’s room for all types, but I think one can have great interpersonal skills in a university or work setting and make it a long way without necessarily having great “social” skills – meaning personal relationships for pure pleasure and enjoyment of others.

For some reason this subject makes me think of sorority girls. Many see the stereotypical sorority girl as having a very social facade (live, laugh, love, life), which they interpret as ditzy or lacking intellectual capacity. However, as many others know, you can’t always judge a book by its cover and some of those social butterflies have an incredible intellectual capacity, which they don’t always feel the need to utilize and choose not to be defined by it.

Cassandra Rose February 8, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I enjoyed your post as it is the elephant in the room and why to me our society does not move forward ~ As the social one who is attracting others whether it is politics or commerce are not the ones with Real Knowledge…

I blame the TV… for short attention spans and living in fantasy that majority of population seems to do… Why is it someone who has charisma and charm… people are instantly attracted and does not matter what they are saying ( which is usually BS spin) they are memorized…. Most people get bored with intellectual conversation… They want the buzz and the laugh….They want the Bsing back and forth of nonsense…

I am in the intellectual world… and of course no one in general population has any interest to discuss the research I want to… They are too busy talking about food or latest fashion or color scheme of their home…
They say to me… Oh you are a know it all… Oh you think you are so high and mighty…
when I try to share insight or correct information with them… just so they can become educated… They immediately put up walls like intelligent conversation scares them..
when I in a social setting….
So that is the fine line to walk… that you are talking about…. that I am learning.. just let it go… do not correct them… be light and fun… but then that is not me… so I am finding I only want to be with people ( who i can be via Facebook ) that share my same interest,
beliefs etc…
It is a interesting dilemma as to how we change this as you say; “Being smart while not being social is the wrong attitude. Being social without learning to be smarter brings little progress, improvement or innovation.”

As the social people have a resistance to learning preferring false shallow bravo… and the smart people get tired of having to be a fake just to fit in … in social situations… Meeting ground of Relationships and communication is needed 101….
A huge problem right now…in adults but I think kids in college now have it better as they are all educated to a degree now..

Oliver Thewalt February 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I have to add one point: your idea that we need social intellectuals is correct, but does the system we are living in promote that kind of species? This is a question for parents, politicians, teachers and researcher or human resources manager and some more groups. We could by promoting an other learning culture, neuro-didactics or an other reward system. The internal receptors of a human being are not really affected by our economic reward system and so is the reward system of the brain. In so far I agree with you.

Oliver Thewalt February 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Intelligence and the human brain are very differentiated. It is even not clear what is intelligence: the ratio, emotional intelligence, problem solving, neuronal networking, use of human senses, unconsciousness, genetic factors, areas of the brain, right and left brain, links between the brain components, social context, context, survival strategies, internal programs and some more and the combination of those. Emotional intelligence can be more powerfull than the ratio. So you can find evidence for each variant of your thesis. As differentiated as humans are. I think that your thesis is not ment seriously and has the aim to open the field for discussions like this. The thesis you are looking at is not asking the right question. Sometimes it is not easy to ask the right question. A better approach would be to ask: what is the interrelation between intellectuality and social behaviour or why do human beings have a social component at all? Is it from evolutionary origins? Are the survivial conditions significant better with social behaviour and can intellectuality break this rule? The answers you may find in evolution theory, scocial systems and neuro-biology.

Bill Dorman February 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

That’s me; I was so bright my dad called me son…………..

It’s a mix, but I think if you are well read you can comment and weigh in on many subjects. You can be insightful and have enough depth to carry on a conversation. The key is to let them do all the talking, which most intellectuals are happy to do.

The social part of me allows me to interact with just about anybody and even though I might not be the sharpest tack in the box, I do know how to get other people talking and just sit back and listen…………..sometimes……….

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