I’ve always dreaded social gatherings. It’s not that I can’t do small talk, no, that would be a lie. I’m abysmal at small talk. Thirty seconds into my part of the conversation, I start seeing blank stares and glassy eyes. At forty five seconds, they usually develop an urgent need to visit the bathroom or refresh their drink.
I no longer take it personally. I realize most people don’t even care when I talk about the importance of a tank holding aggro in an MMORPG or how easy it is to develop a project using an Arduino. With the advent of the smart phone and my Kindle account, I can continue reading my book without having to be obvious about having a book with me.
I’m seldom the only social isolationist at a party but most hosts try to avoid inviting too many of us to the same party. There’s usually enough corners for us to go to our separate corners and avoid the semblance of gathering. I was OK with this, I never wanted to be the hit of the party and attending parties gave me a lot of time to catch up on my reading.
I’m starting to see a disturbing trend though, amateur social isolationists. You know what I’m talking about. These are the people that find their social circles on Facebook and Twitter far more fascinating than the people stuck in the same room with them.
You would think that I would applaud this trend, now that I’m no longer the only person engrossed in my phone. The problem is these people are amateurs. They don’t know or respect social isolationism. Worse, since I’m as engrossed in my phone as they are, they think I’m one of them.
Why is this a problem you might ask? They’re amateurs, they don’t understand the rules. Here I am enjoying my book when someone sits down beside me and whips out their phone to check their email. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know as soon as they finish getting their mail or checking Facebook they’re going to turn and try to talk to me. They think I’m one of them.
Before checking your phone in public became socially acceptable, people would take one look at me and realize that unless they were going to talk about the latest trends in processors or science fiction, it was far better to ignore me. No longer.
Even worse, more people start gathering around us to check their phones because it can’t be rude if everyone is doing it. Looking around, I can see that I’ll need to move to an open area to get the isolation I want. All the corners have been taken by hordes of amateurs trying to connect on Facebook.
All my life I’ve been sitting in the out of the way corners, practicing my body language to stay isolated and trying not to look too miserable. Now that technology has given me the means to be entertained, the lure of that same technology is causing other people join me and has forced me into the open.
A word to the wise host, practice has not made my small talk any better. By avoiding the crowds and moving to the center of the room, I now look like the most sociable person in the room and my host feels obligated to talk with me. A word of caution to my host, practice has not made my small talk any better.
It is because of this that I come to you with a plea that I never thought I would have to make. Please, if you consider yourself a sociable person, leave your phone in your pocket. This is a social gathering. Take your time and interact with the people around you. Let your host enjoy the pleasure of giving a successful social gathering.
Please. There’s just not enough corners for all of us to be isolationists.
I found it fitting to use this post as a link to my latest short story. Spending too much time avoiding small talk can often lead to unforeseen consequences, A Fascination With Flame.Opinion by pen