25 July 2010

expounding a point

on the nature of personal social choices, made by me.

It should come as little surprise to anyone that I tend to be a highly introverted person. Part of this is that I have a long-standing relationship with theories, facts, observation, and so on, that tend to require a wide degree of time within reflection and the avoidance of messy personal complications that come with having many friends and associates. I think the average person (since the average person is an extrovert) would say this is a complicated way of saying I have no life and spend too much time reading. But in truth, I do try to from time to time to have a life. There are some complications however that make it harder.

1) Most people do not relate easily to people who have complicated thoughts and express them in preference to small talk. I do learn something about people by observing their stories and how they react to things like weather or how they get around town and how much attention they pay to people who are not in the room with us as topics of interest, but these are trivial conversations most of the time. And in general, I only learn something useful in relation to observing a story that I do not automatically relate to, say, a story that was of something done many years ago without my presence to corroborate and connect myself personally into the equation, by relating it to other parts of a person's narrative that I am more acquainted with. Thus if other people are talking in way which resembles an inside joke, I don't get it until I know anything about the people involved and tend not to respond or contribute anything, or be all that concerned about observing. I also tend not to be that bothered about other people's work environments and jobs. Unless they are very excited about their work and thus interesting and not simply a person who is easily impressed (ooo look a blue car!) or someone working in sales, which is still boring no matter what face I would put on it and puts me on a defensive role immediately on the assumption that they will try to sell me on something instead of engage in a conversation. In general since most people at random gatherings must fulfill these very basic conversations before they start plunging away arguing over political viewpoints (with any seriousness, and not mere ill-considered and easily mouthed platitudes) or the intricacies of the pick and roll defence, it's pretty hard to find a random person to get along with and become acquainted.
2) In general even beyond these boring and tedious small talk rituals, people tend to have stories with which I cannot relate to. I don't have a kid and haven't really thought about it. My parents weren't divorced (I can cheat a bit here because I've had some friends who had). I don't drink. I don't watch and follow football or nascar or ufc unless it's on while at some public gathering that I have dragged myself into. And so on. Certainly there are very common topics on which I can converse (basketball or baseball or sexuality for example), but my conversational methods are sort of uncasual in these subjects. That is, I've probably over-analyzed it relative to the casual observer. A topic which I cannot relate to, or have very limited frame of reference again increases the difficulty curve of me wanting to put up with a person.
3) If I already know a person reasonably well from previous encounters, then new data like distinct interests from my own can be parked in the box where I store everything else about a person. This assumes I had some common frame of reference formed already. This also implies that there was some degree of interest such that I actually want to learn these random tidbits and file them away for potential use someday. Again, without much overlap, it's pretty hard for me to acquire a new interest in something I hadn't previously simply because some random person recommended it to me. A history puts such recommendations in context so that if I hear a movie was good or a book or a restaurant, then I can put some stock in these experiences. I don't tend to advertise these to random people on this reasoning that hearing that a strange person liked X isn't really an inducement to go and experience X if you haven't before. Hearing that interesting person (or friend) Y liked X might be.
4) In general a group of people beyond about 8 is pushing my limitations of tolerance for personal space violations that must occur as a consequence of knowing many more people who have demands and wants of their own. And no less than 4 or 5 seems adequate to provide me with plenty of diversions (I've gone many years with a number less than that, at least locally and frequently accessible). Most days I am quite content to sit around in contemplation or actually, I don't know, work, with very minimal distractions made available from whatever it is I've focused on for the day. If I were to do nothing social whatsoever 5 or 6 days per week, many weeks out of the year that would be grand. Where I am interested in social contacts, it seems necessary to have a sufficient number of core people I can draw upon reliably to "have fun". In some sense, part of the fun is discussing whatever it is I've come into contact intellectually over the week or month or however long it's been. If it is a book, a movie, or a bit of news, it has to be broken down and its component parts fought over or engaged in at least some discourse to insure my brain isn't sitting there passively taking something in and not processing it (I do enjoy some simple things from time to time, but these are different kinds of experiences than cultural creation). This is a large reason why I started blogging, so I could toss my thoughts into a big bag and other people could encounter them at their leisure and whim instead of me cornering them with a debate on Kant and evolutionary psychology. Still, that sort of contact only accounts for some, not all, of my social habit or demand, and often does little to satisfy other people's demands on my time, which may be more complex or demanding than simply discussing objects in space or the latest police shooting during a drug warrant search. Like say, attentively playing a game, talking in actual conversation, and so on.
5) These demands are more arduous without being very cautious with the selection of company, people who are more amusing, more clever, and have a wide enough variety of interests and experiences to provide a broad base of conversation and back and forth on which for me to relate to or at least to observe vicariously (ie, if other people have done something together, their story can be related to me without me being too concerned that I was not included in cool thing X, Y, or Z. At least on the assumption that I did not ask to be included). I do not tend to have stories of my own to relate to others such that they could understand me and find me likable through that, much less keep tabs on what I've been doing in their absence. Instead, most of my interactions are limited to references to better known cultural aspects (comedians, movies, art, books, etc), on the basis that people will readily understand the analogies and I'll get to see what people were talking about without exposing anything or making anything clearer about my own life story.
6) In general this makes me highly selective about company and people. Most people are less so and when they make plans for their gatherings they often include people who are less interesting (to me), but maintain their own private even mutual interests with each other. I don't find this offensive in the slightest, but it does often mean that there are many gatherings where I may be less useful for the occasional remark or observation that I would ordinarily contribute to the group dynamics and which it may therefore be best that others have their fun without me.
7) In general the people I've chosen, over time, to express a little bit of myself toward in actual forms rather than through indirect methods, tend to be rather fascinated (by me) or mystified about the choice (of them). I suspect this is that I've chosen very well (which is usually true) or that its very unclear to others what my interests are in the first place, including themselves. I don't consider myself very complicated, but I've seen this "criticism" applied over and over by well-meaning people who may otherwise be considered as friends or associates. Such people are often very surprised that I am not more open or expressive toward others, as though this is a desirable action. There are some good reasons, such as that it's time consuming to deal with people, particularly the average person where much activity has to be sifted through to find common ground. And some less good reasons, such as that it's risky to be open and trusting of others.
8) Computers have made it easier to keep tabs or communication with people who are far flung across a continent. But since a good chunk of my interactions with people consist of non-physical conversations concerning ideas and activities, it's very difficult to get through to my head that I need to make some local associations with whom I can do actual things with more regularly if need be. I have decided that is a problem that requires a solution, at least minimally.

So I could
1) Take vacations to where people of interest live or work
2) Move. More long term that one though.
3) Figure out how to put up with more people and meet them in more non-specific forums.
4) Write about less dense topics and encourage people to read and catch them in the web that way.

I'm leaning toward some combination of 3 and then 2. Some factors involved may push 2 upward or backward though. I'll see I suppose.

Another possibility is to expand my narrow band of interests slightly.
For example, I like music, but don't like dancing (or do any of it). Music can be easily (and often best) enjoyed in private. But there's options to exercise it with company. Of course, that does little to attract attentions that I'd like to exercise in all cases either. But the example suffices.
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