I too, grew up as an only child, born in 1985. I was surrounded by video games, DOS games, tv, but didn't really notice my own lack of, I think for those learning tango, they call it "unconscious incompetence". I only started noticing it as I turned 15-16, I had difficulty getting along with others (especially girls). Only when I reached "conscious incompetence" did I realize how socially maladjusted I was.His highlighting of unconscious incompetence prompted me to posit my own version of the Dunning-Kruger effect: is a true social maladroit so socially inept that they're unable, because they can't receive the relevant human signals, to grasp just how socially inept they really are? This at least gives me pause whenever I think about some disastrous, isolating behavior and mutter, with relief, "At least I'm not like that." How can I be so sure?
Jonathan M. writes:
B.S. Johnson? That's pretty much me. Rubbish at building bridges and pathologically averse to self-promotion of any kind.Although B.S. Johnson seems to have burned bridges actively and self promoted aggressively but in the worst possible way. Therefore, if you're just not good at those things, you're still a step ahead of one of Britain's greatest avant-garde novelists of the 20th century. Not so bad!
Poor old me could be an ideal case study for the correctness of your thesis in this installment's last sentence! [i.e., "If there's one thing I've realized for sure about the lack of interest in developing social adeptness and an inclination for broad engagement with the outside world, it's that, to the extent that someone doesn't straighten it out, they are so fucked.]ed_rex brings Steven Pinker to the table at the conclusion:
Having concluded that (non-abusive) parents have little to no affect upon how their children ultimately turn out — he makes the case that happiness, success, beliefs &cetera are determined roughly half by genetics and half by one's peer-group(s) — he rhetorically wonders why a parent need bother treating his or her child well, why invest in the music lessons or sports equipment, or whatever it might be the child is interested in?On her own blog, Janet Berkman synopsizes the series thusly:
Simply put, Pinker's answer is Because they will have a happier childhood, that's why!
Marshall discusses how communication today, particulary via the internet, including so-called social networking sites, has become "autistic", or non-collaborative. Tweeting, Facebook, blogging, he argues, are intrinsically one-way forms of communication and as such, we may be losing the ability to interact socially in a give-and-take manner, whether face-to-face or online.That's pretty good, though I should clarify something about which I was a little muddled in the original. I doubt that social networking and such causes isolation and the loss of social and/or communicative abilities. I do think that the way people use social networking is an indicator of how bad we've gotten about all this, though, whatever the cause may be. I just don't want to come off like a jerky-kneed, tech-fearing trend-piecer.
Since completing The Plight of the Social Maladroit, I've been thinking about it alongside the lessons I've learned from interviewing. (That post gained a much wider readership, which I can only assume owes to my having written it close to the noble form of the list of n things.) If you want to get less social-maladroit-y in general, I can recommend spending years hosting and producing your own interview show. Then just apply everything you trial-and-error yourself into learning — stay curious, follow your guest, ask what you actually want the answer to, and for the love of YHWH don't bring a question sheet — back to "real life" interactions.
But I think the point most relevant to the social maladroit is "Reveal your ignorance":
Hey, it beats the alternative. There's no shame in not knowing what your guest is talking about; if you don't, chances are a lot of your audience doesn't either. I rarely cringe so sourly as when I'm listening to an interview and it becomes obvious that the host is bluffing his was through something for which he neglected to prepare. I'm not about non-preparation; by all means, prepare as much as possible. But you can't know about everything in heaven and Earth.Describing the condition of "smart"-labeled children, I probably should have just copy-pasted the line about "pretending you already know, have fully improved and are perfectly evolved." Even outside the realm of the whiz kid, the harder I try to observe social ineptitude, the more of it seems explainable as protection. It's all starting to look like arms clumsily huddled around the Jenga tower. If you remain in isolation, after all, nobody else can knock it down.
Besides, you're in this game to develop, aren't you? Nothing impedes learning, improvement and evolution as much as pretending you already know, have fully improved and are perfectly evolved. Let's not even get into the embarrassment of realizing that you're a thousand steps up your wobbly Jenga tower of half-truths, guesses and elisions with no safe way down in sight.
When someone refuses to engage with people around them because they "don't have anything to say," that's probably a lie. At least I know I'm lying to myself when I make that excuse. Of course I have things to say; I can ask questions. What if "I don't have anything to say" means "I don't have anything to say that won't reveal what I fear is my ignorance"? Or "I don't have anything to say that won't shatter my carefully constructed illusions about already having determined what I like, what I dislike, where I belong and What Really Matters?"
Shed those illusions and it suddenly becomes a lot easier to communicate. Easier said than done, I realize, but if you no longer fear being effectively "called out," you're free to act in a way you formerly would've thought out of character; free to associate with people, places, and things that would've previously conflicted with your self-mythology; free to ask about things you formerly thought you should've already known. In the intensive Metafilter-combing that led to this series, I ran across a hell of a lot of users commenting that one the most charming, disarming, likable, interesting, etc. quality was being "comfortable in your own skin." I suspect a lot of that comes down to being comfortable with what you don't know.