Killer Communications

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone when I admit that my isolated lifestyle is starting to wear on me. The fact is that the lack of human contact, physical contact especially, is beginning to make me feel like I’m not even real anymore. It’s like I’m actually becoming what you experience when you read my words – a disembodied voice speaking through a machine. I think I really need to do something about it before I go completely off the deep end.

But what? The most obvious answer is that I should get out of my damned apartment and go where I can interact with people I’d feel comfortable interacting with. I know that such places must exist somewhere in the world outside my apartment doors but, as insane as it might sound, I can’t think of a single instance!

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I can’t think of any places I’d like to go. It’s just that I can’t think of any places I’d like to go alone! Sure, I can tell myself that if I go to the kind of places I’d like to be, I’m likely to meet other people who feel the same way I do about those places. But the fact is that every time I’ve tried that, I felt so alien and out of place that I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye contact with the other people there.

Okay, so maybe the “cold contact” approach isn’t for me. So why not make use of the wonderful technology at my fingertips to meet like minded people in cyberspace? The kind of people that I might want to meet later in the real world? This line of thinking leads, of course, to the world of Internet Chat Rooms and On-line Dating. How could I not find an answer in the seemingly infinite potential offered by the Internet?

The answer to that question is really quite simple, and it actually brings me full circle to how I got into this mess in the first place: I don’t do small talk! As much as that little part of me envies the people who’ve mastered it, I’ve never been able to dedicate myself to mastering what I honestly consider to be the art of spouting bullshit. And as anyone who has spent time in chat rooms or has corresponded using email or Internet Messaging knows, it’s all about the ability to communicate in small, easily digestible, chunks of trivia.

The strange thing is that, according to a study reported in ScientificAmerican.com: Happy People Talk More Seriously:

…sometimes small talk can lead to interesting connections. [But] they found that the happiest participants spent 70 percent more time talking with others than the least happy people. But more than just measuring amount of time spent talking with others, they also found a difference in the type of conversation happier folks engage in…

…The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and only a third as much small talk as those who are least content.

One of my hopes, when I started this blog, was that I’d develop a network of on-line friends with whom I could communicate on a deeper level than I have experienced in my off-line existence. But I must admit that, as much as I have enjoyed the exploration that my writing has made possible, this deeper purpose has not been met. Hell, I rarely even get a comment one way or the other on the posts that I’ve really poured myself into writing.

As far as pursuing on-line relationships are concerned, the most honest communication that I’ve witnessed seems to be happening only on those “hook-up” sites where people are just trying to find a temporary sexual partner. But sites like that are a mixed blessing at best. As someone who feels like some sort of “freak” most of the time, I admit to sometimes thinking that perhaps I’m best off amongst the other freaks. But I suspect that however much “honesty” is communicated on these sites, the relationships, if any, developed through them will be superficial – and strange – at best, and most definitely lacking in philosophical depth!

I also suspect that most of these sites are geared towards getting into an entirely different part of their members pants that what those who seek them out might think: their pockets! I guess they think that if you can afford to date, then you can afford to pay for a date. But isn’t prostitution illegal?

I want ice water.

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31 thoughts on “Killer Communications

  1. This is an interesting problem.

    Once I spent a year in relative isolation. That isn’t to say I didn’t see people at all. I went places and communicated with store clerks, waitresses, and exchanged general social pleasantries, but nothing deeper. For over a year, I had no one to share ideas or concepts with. No one to actually talk to, or argue with or reach consensus with. I was ALONE.

    And damn if it didn’t get lonely!

    But I was okay with it. (I didn’t even have the internet). All I had were television, books, and my brain. I wrote (a LOT), and I taught myself to meditate and to hold a rather grim physical routine that had me running and lifting weights every day – along with a nasty diet of mostly vegetables and fruit. When it was over and I got out of the military, I was in the best shape of my life and I’d written a couple of novels – the first of many to never be even looked at by an agent!

    So, what I’m saying is that I know where you’re coming from. The only solution I might offer is to use the internet to find a group of like-minded individuals (like a book club) that meets at a coffee shop somewhere. My step father does this, and it works out pretty well for him. (He’s retired). A couple days a week, he and his friends gather at a Starbucks and talk about what they’ve been reading, and other stuff, of course. It’s a way to meet people.

    You can also check out local table-top RPG gaming. Go to a hobby shop that carries miniatures and ask them if they host games. Most people who play these types of games are people you can talk about all kinds of concepts with. You’ll find a lot of geeks and weirdos and social misfits involved in role playing, but you won’t find very many morons. (Although I’m certain there will be some).

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    • Thanks dood! Your response reminds of two things: first, that I do have readers that make thoughtful comments; second, a similarly diagnosed friend once told me that a depressed person could have a bottle labeled “The Cure For Depression” on a table across the room and still not be able to get up and go get it. The second part comes from my having said to myself so many times that I could at least use my isolation to do some of the things that you did with yours.

      Though I really like the book club idea, my own history with books warns me about potential problems there (see Addiction and The True Calling). On the other hand, the idea of hanging out with other “weirdos and social misfits” sounds pretty good! I’m not much of a gamer, but I am curious about the subject. And what those conversations can lead to is intriguing to say the least!

      Thanks again! 😀

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  2. Hello there. I live in a semi remote location and choose to be a hermit. Psychologists will confirm that all loners aren’t social misfits despite the inclination of the majority to paint us into that corner.
    http://thistimethisspace.com/2007/08/08/all-loners-arent-social-misfits/ That being said I have benefited from the time I spend online in one way. Online I have become far more “social and chatty” than I am in person.

    I do have small circles of friends both online and off-line who are near and dear to me. INFJ is my personality type. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types. My family and friends are fully aware that I’m an introvert, who is not energized by sustained contact, communication and conversation, but instead, is drained by it. The accept me as I am.

    On-line is where we read daily sermons by extroverts who are blogging gurus and internet marketers with target audiences. What do they preach? Createng value in our posts and tweets and forming online relationships so we can “get our message out”. Good advice if you are selling something like yourself or something your created. But also a cover-up. What’s really going on when we are social networking is agreeing to enter relationships based on the mutual agreement to spam each other.

    I became caught up in social media and social networking for a time but then chose to back away from it. I do post the links to my latest published posts. I do retweet articles I find value in. I chat a like on twitter and that’s it. I’m a minor player who does not aspire to increase the time I spend online and who isn’t flogging anything. If that makes me a cold fish and not a member of someone’s “target audience” so be it.

    I’m a reader of blogs, who rarely comments. I’m not a consumer. That’s why I use a browser with AdBlock Plus and it’s also why I laughed out loud when blogging guru remarked that I wasn’t a member of his target audience.

    Thanks for your visit to my blogging tips blog. I followed you back to your own blog because you left a comment on mine.

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    • I stopped by that article to make a comment, but the comments were closed.
      I just want to say that I agree, not all introverts are social misfits.
      Also, not all introverts are introverted in every way. I am, for example, generally introverted in that I don’t necessarily seek social outlets and am satisfied to be isolated for extended periods. However, I have no trouble standing up in front of a crowd of people to speak on a topic I care about (which is typically technical in nature since I don’t like to debate philosophy or opinion). In short, sometimes I’m extroverted and most of the time I’m introverted.

      The most important thing, for me personally, about being introverted is not caring about other people’s opinions so much. If I care about what other people think, I tend to become passionate about making sure their concepts of reality mesh with my concepts of reality. In other words, I want to reach consensus. The history of this (my track record) shows me that this passion to reach consensus is typically a BAD thing (for me at least). And this is why I tend to keep other people at an arms length. We will NOT agree on a great many number of things. It is important to recognize that. No one is ever going to agree on everything, and while debating some of those things can be fun and enjoyable, others can be frustrating and time consuming. This is why I consider myself a social misfit. I don’t fit in with the normal average person’s view of standard reality. And it’s easier to not care about what other people think and stay away from discussing it than it is to bring it up and try to argue about it.

      Being a misfit isn’t bad you know.

      Sorry, this turned out to be a longer reply than I intended.
      I must have become passionate about the subject.
      No I run the risk of caring about what you think.
      Dammit!

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      • @writerdood
        Typical. I set the blog to close comments on posts that are over a year old because all I get as spam and then come along — geesh!

        Above you said: “The most important thing, for me personally, about being introverted is not caring about other people’s opinions so much. … And it’s easier to not care about what other people think and stay away from discussing it than it is to bring it up and try to argue about it.”

        Me too. My reality is a separate reality and I’m not into arguing. I can’t abide listening to fallacious arguments and I no longer wish to teach anyone what they are.

        I have never been shy and lacking in self confidence. I am a persuasive public speaker, so persuasive that I choose not to speak up very often. 😉

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        • Oh man, that was well said!

          I’m reminded of the point in The Fountainhead where Howard Roark is confronted by Elsworth Toohey, the man who was trying so hard to destroy him and everything he stood for.

          When Toohey asked Roark what he thought of him, his response was short, sweet, and so profound. He said, “But I don’t think of you.”

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    • Hi tt. Thanks for your comment. I’m an email subscriber to your blogging tips blog and, now that I know about it, I’m also a subscriber to your this time ~ this space blog as well.

      It’s been quite a while since I attended the in-patient workshops where I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators, so I actually had to look up what INFJ meant. I don’t even remember what my assessment was. I do admire how well you seem to handle being an “oddball.”

      I wrote this post out of the frustration I felt when I realized that I was trying to use the Internet to achieve the same kind of culturally proscribed “social network” I had failed to achieve off-line – completely ignoring the fact that that’s what got me all “screwed up” in the first place!

      For people like me, who are uncomfortable with the whole “sell yourself” mentality, playing the “my network is bigger than yours” game is a dangerous and futile exercise. Thanks for reminding me that I don’t have to play that game to be happy.

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  3. I understand how you feel. I don’t really fit in anywhere at my school. The sad part about it though, is that small talk isn’t that SMALL. It starts the whole conversation and without it one can get nowhere. Research may say that people who have genuine conversations are happier or whatever, but they need small talk to get them to the genuine conversation.
    I apologize for not commenting on some of your more serious posts. Usually when I don’t, it’s because I don’t know enough about the subject (politics for instance) to make a valid comment.
    Lol, it’s only prostitution if you don’t buy them dinner first.

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    • “Lol, it’s only prostitution if you don’t buy them dinner first.” Can I substitute the dating site fees for the dinner? 😆

      I know what you mean about the small talk. For me though, it’s easier to make small talk when it’s a natural part of sharing an interesting experience, like when you’re both trying to make sense of the same piece of art. Coming up with small talk as a way of meeting someone is a whole other thing to me. 😳

      Oh and don’t worry about the comment thing. I read a lot of posts and leave without commenting when I don’t have anything I want to add. 🙂

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      • Lol, I suppose that would be fair.
        I understand what you mean. You just kind of have to take an extra step is all. Since there might not be a piece of art in front of you to talk about, you just have to find a subject that both of you knows about and can talk about freely. For instance; I sit by a girl in class and we don’t really know each other. I listed off about 10 movies before we found one we had both seen and liked. It just depends.

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        • You make it sound so easy Willow. The sad truth is that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve mustered up the courage to approach an attractive girl/woman I didn’t know!

          I think it’s the old “my mouth can’t keep up with my brain” problem! 😆

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        • Hahaha, I have that all the time! I never seem to be able to express my ideas unless they’re being read on a computer screen or a piece of paper. It IS difficult though. I think the problem with the both of us is that we need to simply turn our brains off. Or at the very least turn them down. Minds have such a wonderful way of getting in the way of things. It’s luck they never developed legs. They don’t need help tripping us up.

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          • I know it’s just a matter of practice but, for the moment at least, I don’t do “live” very well at all! I only hope that thing about old dogs doesn’t apply to middle-aged men! 🙄

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  4. ‘The strange thing is that, according to a study reported in ScientificAmerican.com: Happy People Talk More Seriously’

    I almost wrote about this yesterday Mak! And the funny coincidence is that I’m also in the same predicament as yours: I’ve been isolated for too long too. My problem is that the positive people I should go in contact with are too far away and I can’t afford the travel.
    Talking seriously isn’t a prob for me since I almost always talk serious and like it.

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    • I feel ya poch! I don’t own a car, or a license for that matter, and it’s a half hour walk to the nearest bus stop! Obviously, travel is a problem. Some of the most enjoyable exchanges I’ve had on the net were on your Plato On-Line blog. I really hope that we can keep it going at your new place.

      Like

    • Oh man, that’s hilarious! Unfortunately for self-conscious quasi-agoraphobics like me, it’s imagining myself being viewed in this way that keeps my mouth firmly locked shut when I’d actually love to strike up a conversation with the gorgeous woman that just walked in! 😳

      Now back to reading your Sex Over 70 post! 🙄

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  5. ok. I’ve read the post and the comments. All I have for advice is what I did when I became uncomfortable in the dating scene or with people. I DID resort to online dating, and you know what, Some of the best people I have ever known have come out of it. I met my Significant Other through this one site I swear by and highly recommend to others, called PlentyofFish.com
    Completely free. People there are generally honest. I had great lasting conversations with a few people there and went out with a few people too who became close friends versus romantic interests (until I met Jeff that is…)
    I can tell you right now that most people on these site are now using it because no one wants to pick someone up in a bar, or they have no place to really meet people in their areas. It’s not Taboo like it used to be, it’s effective and I know several success stories (Marriage or Long Term Relationships, etc) coming out of it. I really wish you the best, because I believe that you are a decent person and you deserve happiness. Now take charge of that happiness and go get it.
    With love,

    Kymlee

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    • Now that’s just TOO amazing! I’ve had a profile on POF for months! The thing is that I’ve never worked up the nerve to actually write one of the women that they say are a good match for me. There have been a few who wrote to me, but none of those ever went anywhere. The one that seemed the most promising never wrote back after I suggested that she learn more about me by looking at this blog. 🙄

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      • That site is wonderful. It just takes putting yourself out there a bit, even if that means rejection…. You can’t get results if you don’t throw yourself to the wolves so to speak.

        I say, start talking to women like you talk on your blog here. You may be pretty surprised at the replies… Women are looking for real men. Not cheesy pickup lines or small talk, they want the meat and potatoes of a convo, because if a woman feels like she can talk to you, the instant awkwardness of meeting a stranger disappears. Women on that site are there for the same reasons you are, and trust me they are just as nervous… I’m routing for ya big time Mak.

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        • I actually got a note today from a lady who seems just about perfect! Naturally, I’ve been quivering in my boots ever since I replied. 😳

          As honest as I tried to be when I wrote my profile, I did neglect to mention just how terribly shy I am. In hindsight, I probably left that out because I’ve heard what a turn-off that is for women. Maybe I should update it? 😕

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          • well isn’t that wonderful! See 🙂
            I wouldn’t mention it on your profile, but of course you can mention it when you have established a connection with someone, casually… Less of a turn off and more like just a personality trait. I don’t know why it works like that, but I think after breaking the ice so to speak, both sides tend to calm down a bit for expectations… Strange how the same thing can be perceived in different ways according to circumstance…. (end ramble)
            anywho, glad to hear you are conversing with a lovely young woman…. ::pat on back for you::

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    • I’m telling you, I’m a social outcast with superb social skills. A misanthrope who’s a people person. I like sandwiches and soup. If you’d like, I’ll allow you to take me out and buy me said food stuffs.

      I’m not a cute girl, but with some well-placed balloons and a quick shave I’m easily mistaken for one.

      Either way, the interwebs dating scene is good for a few laughs, but when you do stumble upon worthwhile people, it’s not as misreble as you’d think. I’ve been on two “dates” this week, and using my wit and candor (and chloroform”, things went pretty my-way.

      …that was a joke. Do not use chloroform…

      I need to watch the advice I give.

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  6. I read this last night and wrote a post (roughly) inspired by it: http://blogmella.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/small-talk-made-easy/ .

    I’m really sad that you feel so isolated but I have a little advice…

    In real life: Do an evening class, that way you’ll be called upon to speak – so it’ll break through your shyness (by force, but still). Get to know people slowly and don’t think too much about how they see you, because they are almost certainly much more concerned with how you see THEM. If they have a trip to a bar, or whatever, make sure you go along. It only takes one person to invite you to a party, or something and you’ll be on the way to meeting even MORE people.

    Failing that, volunteer! Helping with a group project will get you out and about and people will THANK you for coming. My hermit type friend volunteered at his local Tenants’ Union and they snapped him up, with his computer skills (very basic). Soon he was designing leaflets and he arrived to work to a chorus of people saying “Hi!”.

    If you have a hobby, join a club. Or join a walking club!

    Online: Hmmmm, you’re doing well here! I must admit though, LiveJournal is very good for social things (I met my b/f there). Just like in real life, joining interest groups, or establishing contact with people LIKE YOURSELF (in their tastes) is much better than hanging out in meat-markets, looking for quick sex. Sometimes it takes a while but sooner or later a lady pops up who actually likes you, through what you have written.

    Blimey, don’t I go ON?! 😉

    Like

    • First of all, I’m amazed that you even FOUND this thing! And it’s just plain gratifying to think that someone has been inspired by something I wrote! 😳

      Your advice is very well aimed, particularly the bit about volunteering. I have considered doing that many times (I know the VA clinic I go to uses them), but I’ve never gotten around to checking into it. I’ve also thought of taking a class or two, perhaps something to help update my PC skills would be nice. You can rest assured that I’ll not be hanging around in “meat markets,” as hanging out with people getting drunk while they’re “on the make” is just about the worst environment that I can imagine! 🙄

      Finally, you’re welcome to go ON and ON here anytime! As you can see, you’re in like company here. 😆

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  7. I’m super shy too and isolate a lot. For about 3 years as a teenager I became somewhat agoraphobic. I’m so shy that people I chat online w/ in instant message or on FB chat usually have to speak first. But if you start a convo with me I manage fine, weird.

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  8. It’s the same with me. I kept telling myself that I’d visit chat rooms and do the IM thing once I got a better PC, but here I am doing the same old thing – nothing. Also like you, I do just fine (more or less) when the contact is initiated by others, even when I’m in the dreaded “out there.” Hell, I even bookmarked chat rooms and dating sites designed specifically for shy people. And there they’ve sat for all the months since it occurred to me to search for them! 😕

    Like

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