Some psychologists call this "social grooming" and it is interesting that when I went from our elementary school (which was small enough that you knew everyone in your class) to high school (where there were hundreds of students) the incidence of social grooming increased. Throw in the onset of puberty, and you have a perfect storm.
Sadly, many young kids look at high school as some sort of new norm, and not just the four-year transitional period in their lives which will soon be forgotten. They put socialization and popularity at the top of their priorities, not realizing that being Prom King or whatever, is not something you'll put on your resume later on in life (you could, I suppose, just to amuse the HR person before he tosses it in the trash).
As adults, some folks never move beyond this high school mentality. Kids in college (who are kids not, no longer earning the right to be called "young adults") continue the four years of high school, albeit with less supervision. Protesting the macaroni and cheese as being "culturally inauthentic" or whatever is now more important than studying for finals. Hey, if the professor gives you a bad grade, you just protest and have him fired, right?
And sadly, this is overflowing to the "workplace" today. We no long work in America anymore, we go to a "workplace" which according to our television cues is not a place you do actual work but a place to socialize and of course, act outraged when your "rights" are trampled upon.
And after work, of course, you have to "go out" with friends, particularly on the weekends. Why stay home and do laundry and read a book when you can go to a noisy crowded bar, spend all your weekly income on overpriced and watered-down drinks, end up getting date-raped and a lovely STD? It's a complete package of misery is what it is.
And yet many people are obsessed with having a "social life" - going out with the same people again and again, and then gossiping about whoever isn't present. And it goes on forever, it seems. Even here on old people island, the "social" thing is strong. If you don't go to Parcheesi club every Thursday, you are deemed a "hermit".
There is, however, too much of a good thing. While it is good to see friends once in a while, overdoing it on the social scene can result in a depletion of your emotional energy and your estate. Constant partying and dining out is going to wear on you mentally, physically, and monetarily.
And if you place yourself in the position of desperately needing to be accepted by other people, you've given up what little power you have in your life. Because like the "mean girls" in high school, once they figure out you are desperate to be accepted, they will figuratively and literally beat you up - mentally and even physically.
People do a lot of bad things - and a lot of self-destructive things - in order to be "accepted" by what they perceive as their peer group. One of the pivotal moments in my life occurred at age 25 when I realized that my "peeps" were a bunch of drug-addled losers. And while I liked them, I realized that I had to escape that circling-the-drain lifestyle and move on with life.
Years later, I was on a discussion group that talked about changing your life and I mentioned that getting away from drugs - and my drug friends - was an essential step in turning my life around. The response was rather sad and predictable. One fellow posted, "Yo, so you ditched your friends!" as if somehow having "friends" was more important than my own happiness, or that I owed them something.
But I realized that there are a lot of sad and pathetic people out there who think that their perceived social standing and social life is the most important thing to them. And often these people end up in a variety of troubles. For example, they put their friendships and social life ahead of their marriage and family life (after all, the husband is almost a stranger, right? And what your girlfriends think is far more important!).
I guess like everything else, moderation is the key. If you put "social life" at the top of your list of priorities, I think you are headed for a world of woe. Because being popular and socializing is fun and all, but it certainly isn't a very deep or important part of life.