The Social Five

Superior, but not Separate

Social Five may seem like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, but Fives have their social subtype just like all the rest of the numbers.

In any fixation that practices detachment, the detachment is for the sake of superiority. The reason people withdraw is to establish themselves as independent, not needing others. Well, anyone who can get along without other people feels superior to them, and "ordinary" folk tend to look up to people who can "go it alone." We often attribute great wisdom to them. Literature is full of wise old men or women who live alone in the woods. They spend their time thinking, while we are practicing commerce or some other mundane thing. They are spiritually superior. When the hermit speaks, the seeker listens.

Now, the problem for the social Five is to be superior while still somehow in the group. A common way they do this is by joining a group that it itself superior. I'll bet anything Mensa (the elite group of high IQ people to whom you can belong if you can prove you have a 140 IQ or better) was started by a 5. At any rate, IQ scores measure what Fives do best.

They love to belong to a group that shares superior information. The ideal job for a social Five is editor of a newsletter that only goes to 32 people, and these 32 people are the only people in the world in this field of high level arcane research. And they never meet, they communicate through the newsletter.

Says who?

The social Five does not care what the crowd thinks, but they are intensely concerned about their position in the elite group. The question is what do the people who matter think?

Social Fives are often a bit more extroverted than the other two subtypes, but the extroversion usually shows up when they are dealing with information. Jerome Wagner, who has a PhD in the Enneagram and its relationship to the Myers-Briggs typology sounds and looks like a Seven when he presents his material. He is funny, lively and thoroughly enjoys himself, as do his students. But he loves research, something a Seven might not relish.

The superiority might not be entirely intellectual. A social Five, like Johnny Carson, had an unerring sense of what needs to be laughed at. Humor is distancing. The person making the jokes is the person on top. The person laughed at can be humiliated.

Social Fives can work within an organization or community, but they require a lot of autonomy. The faculty member who fusses and fumes over all the paperwork and social obligations of teaching, who resents faculty meetings, who nevertheless wants to be invited to a symposium on marine microbiology as an expert could easily be a social Five. The autonomy is also for the sake of self-sufficiency. When you combine self-sufficiency with distance, you get hierarchy. Not necessarily a political hierarchy, but a hierarchy of whose opinions are the most valuable.

Natural habitat

In an organization, Fives can work with others, but a private office is pure gold.

Fives often flourish in academia where intellectual prowess is valued, where research is valued more highly than teaching, where bureaucracies are kept at arms length by tradition or policy and where one's social needs can be met by exchanging information. This exchange can be in the form of teaching, but it can also be sharing research or publishing.

The function of the group is not so to provide support or much pleasant companionship, it serves rather to establish identity. The social Five is concerned about where he or she stands in the group. Is their work, their intelligence, adequately respected? Respect is as important as love. This can flip, however. If a social Five cannot achieve independence, they may become abjectly concerned about their relationships, especially romantic and family relationships.

Social Fives will probably be friendly. They feel distant, not hostile. So if you have something real to talk to them about, they will be fine conversationalists. But they don't like small talk much and you can see them fade from immediate presence. Actually what you feel is yourself fading from their view. They can be fierce snobs. The feel themselves civilized, proper, but several steps above the mundane and ordinary, especially in the quality of their information and their judgments about complex matters.


  1. How clear are you and how concerned are you about your class standing?
  2. With what inflection do you say the word, "stupid."
  3. How many friends do you have that do not share your intellectual pursuits?