Deferred Interactivity

I’m not proud of the fact that I am not a gregarious person. I tend to be socially anxious, unless I’m with people I’ve known and liked for some time. When necessary I can compensate by “faking it”. While I don’t exactly embrace this characteristic about myself, I don’t think this has to be bad: a person is the way they are and shouldn’t always feel guilty about that (although I think that often society disagrees). However, for the sake of consideration, I’m willing to stipulate that social anxiety is not a desirable personality trait. Now, with some tendencies we may not like about ourselves, simply repeating the disliked behavior enough times can cure or eliminate the anathema. Perhaps the unliked activity builds up up metaphorical calluses, or exercises atrophied metaphorical mental muscles. For example, until recently I wasn’t a flosser. I’ve always known I should floss, much as I know I should (perhaps) interact better and more often with people. With flossing I started slowly, literally one tooth-gap the first day, two the second, etc., until I was doing the upper teeth one day and the lower teeth the next, and really hating it. The metaphorical scar tissue or muscles weren’t happening. It turns out that the floss I was using sucked, and when I started using a better floss, I immediately switched to doing the whole jaw every day, and I’ve kept it up.

With socializing, especially with strangers or just acquaintances, things are different. I have repeatedly gone from the rewarding sloth of minimum interaction, to increasing amounts of it, generally dictated by necessity (such as job situation), until a breaking point arrives. “Breaking point” may be an exaggeration; what I mean is that after enough of these interactions of necessity, there is a lull, that prompts my becoming overwhelmed (perhaps I exaggerate: suffused? permeated?) with feelings of relief and “I never want to do that again”. Perhaps this “lull” is partially self-created; I simply start backing off and avoiding participation in optional events. If frequent social interactions are again required soon thereafter, I really have negative feelings.

I use words like “perhaps” and “exaggerate” above to convey some skepticism about whether all this is necessarily a problem. Certainly, it makes various life situations more difficult, and certain career paths likely impossible. I will never be a glad-handing manipulator. Don’t get me wrong: I use those negative-connotation words to emphasize my own feelings. What for me are glad-handing and manipulation are for others sincere attempts to help people take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities, although I don’t doubt that there are actual exploitative, zero/negative-sum glad-handing manipulators: they do suck.

Possibly ironically, I love public speaking. Maybe this is a dominance behavior. I am grandiose and have an agenda, and frankly I find most people haven’t thought through or properly studied the areas of my own interest and advocacy – to be sure many of them are more or less grandiose and have their own agendas – and they would benefit from listening to my perspective. To be fair, I usually take the attitude that I, too, would benefit from others’ perspectives. I am delighted to be found wrong about things that are important to me, if “found wrong” means as demonstrated using factual information and logical argument rather than self-righteousness and ideology. My ego may be the “improved floss” that encourages me in public speaking. Whether there is “improved floss” for me socializing somehow, I wonder.