Tag Archives: social awkwardness

“Find the Others”

I do not want to have to start carrying a shield around wherever I go just so people leave me alone.

So I tend to like Ze Frank’s videos, but once in a while I seem to disagree with them. Find the Others would be one of those (note: words are apparently not by him. they are by Timothy Leary).

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close”

This is true. And the point in the video is that it isn’t true for anyone, which I also more or less agree with. People are different from each other, nor am I inclined to angst about homogeneity amongst the masses. People are the same in some ways, different in others, we’re all individuals, it’s cool.

“it seems the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider”

Hm… ok, this is also true. I’ve been doing less and less trying to fit in the past few years, and while I do still feel like an outsider (to the point that it has religious significance), I find I worry about it less and less as well.

“watching the ‘normal people’ as they go about their automatic existences.”

Wait, what? I think I’ve just been insulted. Am I really supposed to view other people that way? Do other people view those around them that way? I admit, I don’t really spend a lot of time (any time) thinking about the personal existence of Random Guy I pass on the street, but I don’t go thinking his existence is automatic. I mean, that seems incredibly unlikely. People aren’t robots (and even if they were, maybe they’d be like Data).

“For every time you say club passwords like: ‘Have a nice day’ and ‘Weather’s awful today,eh’, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like: ‘Tell me something that makes you cry’ or ‘What do you think deja vu is for?’

Wow, no. As I’ve written about before, I am increasingly of the opinion that the things we do are rarely, if ever, meaningless. Even if we don’t consciously know their meaning, the fact that we keep doing them says something, and I don’t think that something has anything to do with Just Being Normal or Just Playing Along.

Ritual still has a place in our society, even if we’re less direct about it. Those “club passwords” are social rituals, helping to create connection between strangers. Personally, I don’t tend to yearn to say those types of forbidden things to complete strangers, and if I’m saying “have a nice day” to someone I know, it’s probably a ritual farewell and asking a “deep” question would be inappropriate at that time. Yes, I do yearn to have those types of conversations with people I’m close to, and with my friends when I say “how are you doing?” I actually mean it and want a real answer. But if I’m playing a ritual with a person I really don’t have much of a connection with, then I am also understanding that leaping to those other questions might have to wait. I mean, I’m not super thrilled with the idea of telling anyone what makes me cry, much less someone I don’t have a good connection with.

“Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator.”

Are you kidding? No I don’t! Nor do I want some random stranger to talk to me when I’m in an elevator and have no way to escape. Plus, I do not owe some random stranger my time or attention just because we’re in an elevator together and they happen to want it. There are times and places where it’s ok to approach strangers, and elevators are not among them.

“But what if that girl in the elevator, and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work, are thinking the same thing?”

Since I’m not thinking it, I’m not going to go assuming they’re thinking it. Aren’t we all supposed to be individuals here? Are we getting homogeneous again?

“Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger?”

Ok, this one seems to be true enough. I certainly don’t know what I might learn, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go approaching strangers everywhere. Anxiety, shyness, and social awkwardness aside, this just doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Once in a while, yes, I get amazing conversations with strangers, and I like that they happen. I still don’t want Random Guy In The Elevator to ask me what makes me cry. Because creepy.

“Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. No one comes into your life by mere coincidence.”

What puzzle?

Ok, maybe not “mere” coincidence, but unless you believe in a deity (or something) directing all of our lives as though we are pieces on a game board (I do not), coincidence plays a role.

“Find the others…”

Sounds nifty! Finding connection is amazing and fabulous and I highly recommend it. But I am not going to go about it in the ways described above.

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Bullying

It’s generally understood that bullying is a problem, especially in schools. It’s talked about, games are made on the matter, people wonder what to do about it. However, I consistently get the impression that the bully people are trying to stop is the bully pictured in the image above. The stereotypical “school bully” – usually male, low self esteem, physically large, generally mean and disliked by everyone beyond other people similar to him.

As a person who has been bullied quite a bit in my life, well into adulthood, I want to say that my experiences of bullying have not fit into that archetype. My bullies were often popular, well liked, and charismatic. Often even the teachers liked them, certainly more than they liked me. I can remember one instance when a student was chatting and laughing with a teacher and saw me coming and said something cruel in my direction. The teacher simply laughingly said “that was mean!” and they went right back to chatting.

As for me, I was painfully shy, socially awkward, and I didn’t shower often enough. People found it easy to dismiss me and hard to value my concerns over their general like of my tormentors. So, predictably, I was dismissed and few people cared about what was going on. I had teachers look on and watch but do nothing while other students repeatedly spat gum into my hair. Or watch another student physically shove me out of a desk onto the floor, and then take me out into the hall to scold me. Teachers can be bullies too.

It’s much the same story in adulthood. I’ve been targeted, and frequently the person doing so was popular and charismatic, so everyone was far more interested in looking the other way than in acknowledging the bullying and maybe doing something about it. I have found that the unpopular person with low self esteem is usually the one getting bullied, not the one doing the bullying.

Part of the problem (beyond the ever-present social awkwardness and anxiety) is that I am, and always have been, quite vulnerable. I tend to be naive and I take teasing very personally – I have a lot of trouble with things like “friendly insults.” Sadly, this makes me a target. Again, not a target for your stereotypical bully like you might think, but a target for the charismatic popular person who happens to be really cruel to some subset of people. I can’t say it’s something I understand, but it’s real, it happens, and it’s a problem. While I’ve worked on my vulnerability quite a bit and it’s much better than it used to be, it’s still there, and it means it would be all too easy for bullying to happen yet again.

I do not actually have any real answers to the bullying problem. Mostly I want to see more acknowledgement that bullying isn’t about a type of person, but about behaviors. I want to see people understand that the awesome person they really like might also be acting a bully towards someone else. I want people to recognize that however much they like that person, just looking away because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge is the wrong answer. Also, I want people realize that bullying is not something that “other people” do. It’s altogether too easy to engage in bullying, given that targets of bullying often have issues and are so very vulnerable. I want to see people be more willing to really look at their own behavior and see where they might be acting cruelly, and realize that however much they dislike the target, that kind of behavior is not ok. I don’t think the solution will come from watching the trouble makers and problem kids. It will come from looking at ourselves, and seeing how we might be contributing to the problem. And then, importantly, changing that.

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