Changing things up a bit from the usual Shadowrun fiction today, hope you enjoy the diversion!
I read a fantastic article today, that put words to so many things I have struggled for years to explain. Check it out here: The Many Flavors of Social Anxiety via GeekDad
I wanted to write a bit about this for a few reasons:
The first being that I have been fraggin’ quiet lately, sorry chummers! Life in the 5th world has been busy, 10 hour days at the corp job have been the norm, and I haven’t had the brainpower for much more than tweets when it comes to writing!
Second, this (social anxiety and introversion) is a subject near and dear to my heart, and maybe to many of yours as well.
Last but not least, this is a timely discussion of the different, and sometimes odd ways that we socially anxious types really shine in situations that would seem counter to our anxious/introverted personality. Gen Con starts in just 2 weeks (!!!!!), and while I am very much introverted, shy, and anxious in “normal” social situations, I find myself becoming more confident when surrounded by other gamers. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a bit.
I’ve always been an introvert, I just didn’t know the word for it ’till I stumbled across some article or another in my 20’s. I’d always been called shy, bashful, quiet…you get the picture; but none of it really felt as accurate as “introvert”. We introverts don’t dislike people, we just need times to ourselves to recharge.
Where an extrovert may end a rough week at work by going out with friends to socialize at a party, I prefer to stay home, with just my husband and our cats, quietly recharging my mental batteries. I like seeing my friends and going out occasionally, but it is draining; both mentally and physically, and I need time after to rest and recharge. I hate small talk, pushy sales experiences, and talking on the phone. I prefer to interact in small groups (my gaming group) rather than large ones (big, loud parties).
That being said, there are certain situations in which I thrive, that might not seem like the most likely places to find a wild introvert. The fast-approaching Gen Con is a perfect example. Last year, there were roughly 60,800 people attending, and I was one of them. Introvert’s nightmare, right? You’d be wrong! For me (speaking only for myself here, what works for me may not work for others and that’s fine!) while there are thousands of people swarming around, I’m not anxious. Why? Let’s break it down a tad.
First, there are over 60,000 people swarming around downtown Indy. This is an advantage for me, because it means I can easily get lost in the crowd. I don’t have to perform the social playacting when everyone has somewhere to be and all we have time for is a quick smile or an “excuse me” as we pass the other thousands on our way to the next game.
Second, and this is the big one, these people are my ‘tribe’. Normal day-to-day interactions, especially with strangers, are awkward because you don’t know what to talk about. I hate small talk, and find the awkwardness almost physically painful when trying to be polite with strangers beyond simple business transactions. Even with co-workers I struggle to do the dance of conversation because I’m never quite sure how to respond or what to talk about.
On the other hand, when I am at Gen Con, I am surrounded by thousands of other people that love to geek out over the same things I do! We may not be in to the same games, but everyone is there because they love gaming in some form or another. It’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation with that person waiting in line with you when you can start off with, “Played any awesome games today?”. Or even cooler, when you meet someone wearing a t-shirt or button from a game or fandom you love, where you can excitedly say, “Cool button! You like Shadowrun too?!” and then geek out with your new friend while waiting in line at a food truck.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that being surrounded by my geek tribe, I feel safer interacting with people in a way I wouldn’t normally. Even if the guy I met in line for a demo doesn’t play the same games I do, it’s a fair bet that he will have heard of them and probably won’t make fun of me for being a geek. (We all dealt with enough of that in high school, right? Don’t be that jerk. Just because your fun is different from someone else’s fun, doesn’t mean anyone is wrong!)
This year, I’m using social media to my advantage. I’m going to try to meet, in person, as many of the awesome people I’ve talked to online as I can. Even if it’s just a quick “Hey! nice to meet you! Have a great convention, I gotta run! Most of these folks I’ve had at least a bit of conversation with online, so they’re not strangers. Plus, I follow people because they are interesting, and often because we have things in common, so it eliminates the need for the getting-to-know-you small talk BS that causes me so much stress.
In addition to all the above reasons that my little introverted self thrives at a huge convention, I’ve also discovered that there are a lot of anxious/awkward/introverted folks within the gaming community. Couple that with the trend of folks being more open about mental health, and I feel a lot more comfortable with my own awkwardness.
Now, while I love my week in the middle of geekdom, and tend to step out of my comfort zone a lot more than usual, it is still draining! I still need my introvert-time; time to breath, recharge, and refresh my brain. We stay with friends in a house full of people, so alone-time can be hard to come by, but 10 minutes in a cool shower can do wonders for my brain. I definitely crash hard after the convention, but that has a lot to do with lack of sleep and busy schedules, as much as with all the socializing that happens.
What do you think, chummers? Are you an introvert? Do you still enjoy conventions, or are they not your thing? Do you feel more comfortable when surrounded by your geek tribe? Tell me about it in the comments!
Hopefully I will see some of you at Gen Con! If you’re going, let me know on Twitter (@JenT0n1c) and maybe we can meet up! I have some silly, handmade, Shadowrun-themed patches I’ve made to give out to folks I meet!
‘Till next time chummers! Stay safe out there in the shadows!