As I removed and deleted the TeamReach App from my iPhone earlier this morning I contemplated the particulars of the gregarious personality and related communal distinctions. It astonished me to learn that in the wild, trees are usually gregarious plants; and, that wasps and bees are considered gregarious insects because the parent guards its larvae from threatening parasites (hence wasps are perhaps more accurately described as contiguous than gregarious).

Sociality is a survival response to evolutionary pressures. For example, when a mother wasp stays near her larvae in the nest, parasites are less likely to eat the larvae.

The common meaning of gregarious is sociability; that is, affable, outgoing, sociable, clubby, companionable, convivial, cordial, fun, outgoing, friendly, social. But the word gregarious is also regularly identified with herd, flock, school, colony, cluster and crowd.

When you’re one of the herd, it’s tough to avoid being social. The origin of gregarious is from  the Latin noun grex, meaning “herd” or “flock.” When it first began appearing in English texts in the 17th century, gregarious was applied mainly to animals, but by the 18th century it was being used for social human beings as well.

The gregarious person has been described as one instinctively or temperamentally seeking and enjoying the company of others; hence, “He is a gregarious person who avoids solitude.” Synonyms: social. living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups.

Interestingly no birds of prey are gregarious. I also learned that flowers arise in the context of gregarious though more pursuant to the definition of inflorescence.

An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. Morphologically, it is the modified part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed on the axis of a plant. The modifications can involve the length and the nature of the internodes and the phyllotaxis, as well as variations in the proportions, compressions, swellings, adnations, connations and reduction of main and secondary axes. One can also define an inflorescence as the reproductive portion of a plant that bears a cluster of flowers in a specific pattern.

It would be a misrepresentation to say that a person who is not gregarious is either solitary or anti-social. Nor is it accurate to denote either person ostentatious or isolationist (though naturally the possibility exists on both sides of the equation). The crowd or herd mentality (if I can call it that) is in my mind simply less precise or acute than the alternative. Often the elderly disapprove of social congregation for the simple reason that they cannot hear what is being said, either because of deafness or loudness. Other people survive upon detail rather than the bluster and generalities so often communicated in crowds. There can also be practical obstruction to social gatherings such as inadequate seating, walking distance from parking, lack of facilities, etc. Finally some people may feel that they are not part of the herd for whatever reason, generally lack of conformity though sometimes inspired by less than charitable reasons such as superiority or inadequacy. There are of course some who thrive upon sociability for reasons related to social status; such as being a member of the right club or invited to the right party. And then there are the political groups on either end of the pole and everything between.

If indeed the solitary person represents the antithesis of gregarious, he is usually identified by singularity, privacy, selectivity, distance (sometimes called in politics the “back room”), novelty and often niche-style. These attitudes obviously do not preclude social involvement; the parameters are simply different. The solitary person may still make contribution to the crowd but usually only upon his or her own terms and seldom with any corollary.