If you’ve ever watched a butterfly in action, you’ll note that they busily work a garden, flitting from flower to flower to glean a little nectar before moving on. The action of the butterfly is beautiful and purposeful, even though such food is necessary for survival. Yet the light passage from standing flowers, and the frequently colorful wings of the insect has inspired the term social butterfly.
It’s challenging to pin down the origin of this term, since etymologists are still arguing over the origin of the word butterfly. It appears that the term, social butterfly, may at first have been used in derogatory fashion to describe young women who dated many different men. They could be contrasted to their opposites, wallflowers, who sat stationary, waiting to be asked on dates, or especially at dances, waiting to be asked to dance.
Gradually, the term became descriptive, and is mostly applied to females, who are extroverted, comfortable in social situations, can talk to just about anyone, and who seem to have a certain grace and ease at parties. Social butterflies in a party setting could move from group to group, briefly sipping in the nectar of each engagement and sharing a few pleasant words with partygoers. Their social adeptness makes it simple for them to be quite at home in large group settings.
Just as the actual butterfly enhances the lives of flowers, the social butterfly tends to be an asset at parties. She or sometimes he can start conversations, praise the looks of the other guests, and keep the party atmosphere more interesting. It would be more difficult to throw a party with no extroverted guests, since most introverted guests need a little encouragement to move about a room, engage in conversation and keep a party lively. A combination of extroverts and introverts tend to balance social engagements more appropriately.
Some people seem to be innately extroverted, and there are now various personality tests which can tell you whether you tend to be more outgoing or less. Generally, you may already know whether you fit social butterfly standards if you’ve had opportunities to take part in social engagements. Do you like to walk about the room talking with various guests, or do you prefer one deep conversation with a kindred spirit? If the answer is yes to the former, you probably are the extroverted social butterfly type.
The term can sometimes be misapplied to people who are obnoxiously social, overbearing, loud, and who make rude comments. They may stomp from guest to guest vociferously voicing their opinions; they don’t flit and they don’t have a light touch and innate social grace. These are not true social butterflies because they detract from a social scene rather than enhance it.