For some reason being socially awkward has become a fad. I have no idea how this happened and I honestly wish it would stop. These days people are constantly announcing their social awkwardness … confidently … usually to a crowd of adoring fans.
Which is the exact opposite of what it is to be socially awkward.
If you are truly socially awkward the idea of announcing anything is an effort.
Let’s say, for example, the socially awkward person has noticed an errant flame in their immediate vicinity. Loudly announcing this discovery to the other humans in the area in the traditional manner is actually more terrifying than the possibility of a painful, fiery, death.
The truly socially awkward person would be more likely to quietly seek out someone with more social ability, unobtrusively get their attention, and then ask, politely, if perhaps the rising column of red-orange heat producing energy would be something that should be looked into, or acted upon, by the rest of the group.
This doesn’t mean that we in any way lack compassion. Asking for validation for perceived course of action from others first is a learned trait.
For example, this happened when I was 16.
Because my grandmother was worried about my lack of social interaction, she sent me, with my cousin, on a church youth group outing. A common fun summer activity for north Floridians is to go tubing. You float gently down the stream for no particular reason other than to float gently down the stream. It’s actually really fun. And, since all of the cliques had been pre-established, I didn’t really have to socialize.
At this particular tube run, there was a tram that would haul you from the end of the run, back to the beginning. During one of the trips back, a boy from another group, probably about 8-10 years old, slipped off the tram and spilled onto the pavement…and under the tram. Without thinking I jumped off the very slow moving tram to make sure he was ok, while everyone else was just yelling randomly.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that the proper social protocol was not to go to the child’s aid, but to yell, incoherently, at the tram driver until he finally decided to see what all the yelling was about and eventually stop. What I had done was something outside the standard social mores, and therefore garnered special attention.
…and induced personal panic afterwards.
The church wanted to give me an award. In public. During some sort of ceremony. With everyone looking at me.
No, no, no, NO AND NO!
The same thing happened to me again when I saw a middle school girl get hit by a car while running for her school bus. I am human, so my natural reaction is to immediately try to render aid in crisis. But since this is not the standard social reaction I end up being singled out for something that I thought was normal behavior. This time, by a reporter who wanted to interview me about it.
And I’ve since learned that being a mildly attractive female human only increases the chances of this kind of thing happening. I’m propaganda worthy.
So now, I leave handling a crisis to those who can handle the attention later.
Being this level of awkward also means that, even if I’m talking about a subject I feel confident in my knowledge of, if people start looking at me, I shut up. This happened a lot when I was going to mechanic school. It turned out that I understood carburetors better than most of my classmates. I discovered this while I was quietly trying to help my partner map out the air/fuel flow through the device. Suddenly, I realized that the classroom had gone quite and everyone, including the instructor, was looking at me.
I was struck dumb with panic.
But, since I was apparently getting it all right, I was asked to continue. NOPE!
Because of being socially awkward, and terrified of other humans, even if I know a subject, I’m not going to talk about it.
But people insist that I should. Why? Because not knowing how to people is wrong. And you are wrong for it. And because it’s wrong, everyone else around you is going to try to make you change it.
Which is stupid.
I need glasses to see but no one is out there taking my glasses away from me and forcing me to try to function without them just because my vision is “wrong”. No one tells me that if I was just less dependent on my glasses I’d be able to see much better… which is what people who tell socially awkward people to just go out and socialize are doing.
“Just go out and meet people.” Why? There are people on my computer. I’m comfortable with those people and I can stop talking to them at any time without having to go through all of those personal interaction ending rituals that I just do’t get.
I hate those. You can’t ever say to someone that you have currently exhausted your social interaction levels and now wish to terminate the present interaction. No. You have to make some sort of excuse instead. “Hey, this was enjoyable, but now I have to go do some brain surgery.” You are under social obligation to lie to people. This is considered being polite, and it actually helps build social trust. How does this make any sense at all?
The worst though is those people who assume that not wanting to socialize means that you are somehow depressed. That you somehow hate yourself for not being able to people. Granted, these people mean well. But it never occurs to them that all of the normal deceit that comes with social interactions is more depressing than not socializing at all. If you aren’t in person socializing with people you don’t have to lie to them and constantly deceive them… so how is that LESS depressing than not acting within a group?
And let’s be clear about something. Most of us who don’t know how to socialize are actually very happy with it. Not surrounding ourselves with people who make us uncomfortable anyway is actually very comfortable. We only get unhappy about it when other people tell us that we should be unhappy. Then we’re not so much unhappy about not being social, we’re unhappy that now we are going to be expected to be more social.
I generally like people. I enjoy hearing about their lives. I want to know their stories and experiences. I also enjoy watching people interact with each other. The human mating rituals are especially interesting.
But because so much more than I want to commit is expected of me in social situations I end up just saying things like “I don’t like people” or “I don’t like crowds” just to get out of the social expectations and to avoid the horror of some kind-hearted person trying to draw me out.