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I work for a small company (6 full time employees, including owner/ director, 1 part time employee), and have been there for almost a year. Occasionally, one of my colleagues will organise an evening out where we go for drinks/ a meal, etc.
Most of the time, I do go to the social events, and am happy enough going along. I get on well with everyone at the company, and the office is a pleasant environment to work in- even when the pressure is on with deadlines, workload, etc.
However, I have quite a busy personal life outside of the office- play a couple of different sports one or two nights a week, and am involved with running a youth club one night a week, other personal commitments another night most weeks, and every weekend.
Fairly frequently (two or three times a month), one of my colleagues will organise a social event- obviously checking everyone's availability first- and send everyone an invitation. As I stated above, I am usually happy enough to go along to the events.
I would say though that I have quite different interests to most of my colleagues- the company is a technology company, and our main products are a couple of software programs that we provide to a few companies (we do also supply some hardware). While I work as a software developer (have done for a number of years), and find the work interesting, I have absolutely no interest in technology outside of work. For me, the work is a means to an end, and I enjoy logic/ problem solving, which is why I pursued software development as a career, rather than because I have any particular passion for technology. This seems to be quite a different approach to most of my colleagues- they would enjoy reading up on various technologies during their spare time, or work on their own personal software projects, etc.
I often find at lunch times during the week, or when out for a meal/ drinks with my colleagues, that the conversation tends to steer toward technology/ software development/ other similar areas, which is fine, but as I have no interest at all in these things outside my professional life, it just ends up feeling like work, and I would rather spend that time playing sport/ catching up with friends/ doing something that takes my mind off work- just being able to switch off for a bit.
There does seem to be an expectation that we attend most, if not all of these social events, and while I am happy enough going along once every month or two, provided I am available/ don't have other prior commitments for when it's organised, I would really much rather spend my own time relaxing by playing sport/ catching up with friends, or doing something else that takes my mind off work, rather than with the people I spend most of every day with, talking about the same stuff we talk about every day... even though they are all pleasant enough, and I don't have any problems with any of them.
What is the best way to politely decline these invitations when I just don't have any interest in this sort of thing? I will obviously make sure I attend any 'important' socials, and go along every now and again, but what about when I have been to one recently, and would just rather not go again?