On being anti-social

Coachella main stage 2011The thing no one tells you about growing up is that one day, you’ll look around and realize that all your best friends, the people who have chosen to walk with you through life (unlike family who are stuck with you), will move away (or you’ll move away from them) and begin the process of leaving you to your own devices. People will also neglect to tell you that, while this sucks, it doesn’t have to define your current reality.

Today was that day for me. And I’m writing this post to convince myself of the latter statement. Because I don’t want this sadness of life changing, and everyone moving far away to be the only side of life I focus on. And also, because I’m the one who kind of made it this way.

I tell my friends all the time that I love people. All but the people who know me best or least snicker whenever I say it. Because I don’t like talking to people I don’t know; I don’t like touching people I don’t know; I don’t even particularly enjoy being around large groups of people I don’t know.

Because I’m rather anti-social.

I don’t particularly enjoy having to interact with others. Left to my own devices, I’ll stay at home all day reading (or occasionally watching anime or catching up on missed tv). At parties, I’m the girl off to the side/in the back/tucked away in a corner. I used to always have a book (every purse I own, with 1 exception, can hold a standard trade edition of a novel), but since I downloaded 2 ereaders for my smartphone, I’m usually reading something on that.

But this doesn’t mean that I dislike being invited to parties or being around people. I do like people; I just don’t want to have to talk to people I don’t already know.

I missed the lessons on small talk. I find inane conversations about sports I don’t care about or weather that I already know soul-devouring, but I don’t want to pry into the personal lives of people I have only tenuous connections with. When posing the question, “How are you?” I emotionally prepare for any type of answer, hoping for the truth. Because I honestly do want to know how the people who surround me are. But if they choose to take my inquiry as simply a formality, I don’t want to push them.

There’s a fine line between misanthropic and anti-social that people who are neither have difficulty understanding. I love that people exist and live their lives as they see fit and that my path crosses theirs, so that I can observe another perspective on life. I simply want to remain an observer of these other lives.

But the true conundrum reveals itself in one simple fact: I love having new people in my life that I can talk to and turn ideas over with and learn to love.

Because I don’t enjoy the small talk of bars or gyms or other location based social meeting places, I try out new activities. I applied for the job I have now partly because I needed a source of income, but also because I felt like I needed new people in my life. I participate in organizations I find interesting to learn more about a topic, but also to have new people in my life. Because if simply exist as part of my life, I will do my best to get to know them (se above: I love people). And joining groups means I have something in common to start with, so I can get to know a person more easily. As long as they’re ok with silence from time to time.

See being anti-social doesn’t mean that everyone else must crawl under a rock and die. It means that I don’t want to have to talk to you if I’m feeling contemplative and a little mopey or morbid or simply prefer my own company for the moment.

But I do need people around me that help bring me out of the mopey times, because (again) left to my own devices I would remain in my head, regardless of the very negative consequences. And this is where I rely on my friends. Because sometimes I realize when I’m too much in my head, and sometimes I need a friend to come along side and remind me that the world exists, and my head lacks a fantastic view of the beauty and joy and love life holds.

So the next time someone mentions the extent that they don’t like meeting new people, offer anti-social as a term. It could just make their day.

And besides, misanthropic simply indicates too sad and lonely of a life to ascribe to anyone.

7 thoughts on “On being anti-social”

  1. I think anti-social may be too strong a term. I read your blog entry on your commute to work (my own current commute is 62 miles, though with little traffic in my direction each way) and you sound far too eager to help the other drivers to be anti-social. Maybe I just don’t know the terms well enough, but I think “shy” would be a more applicable description.

  2. I could see how shy could also fit, but it doesn’t seem to quite encapsulate the feeling I have concerning social interaction.

    And I’m not sure I understand your comment concerning my post on driving. I didn’t intend to have them connected; they just ended up following each other.

  3. I checked further on how anti-social is defined and it is not at all how you characterize your behaviour. According to Wikipedia:

    Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Axis II (personality disorders) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR) as “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

    Since you aren’t seeking to harm others, it oversteps as a description of your behaviour. I have no training in psychology whatsoever, but if you describe yourself as anti-social, people might think that you’re saying you have that disorder.

    I also saw up there information on Avoidant personalities and generalized social anxiety. Again, I have no training, but you might want to look at those to see if the descriptions sound more suitable.

    Sometimes, I hesitate to talk to people I don’t know as well. I think it’s actually pretty common. It’s just a matter of how often and how much we each feel discomfort in venturing outside our “comfort zone”.

    The one connecting element between the post about driving and this one is… they are both written by you. When discussing Shakespeare, one could talk about both Hamlet and MacBeth, even though they are separate playes. Everything you wriite expresses something about who you are….

    1. Thanks for the information, but it’s a more literal definition than I ever meant. And I feel like you aren’t quite understanding what I meant when I said the posts weren’t related. Of course you can draw whatever connections you want between the posts, I just didn’t intend to write them with connected themes or topics.

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