Saturday, August 21, 2010

Having a Hard Time with Socializing

So I was all excited because I love the Internet, which led to loving podcasts, which led to loving The Nerdist. And all was well and good, until I overheard (overread?) my friend Molly on Twitter, talking about a new online forum/hangout joint for nerds called The Node. I'm all, That's awesome, but it's invite-only and I'll never get invited. But then I did!

This means more to me than to a lot of people because of this reason: I'm looking for another online community with which to integrate. I've been on the same BBS for 18 years, following its transition from dial-up to Web-based, and it's great, I love it, but I still feel an urge to be a part of other online communities. It's not unrelated to my yet-unsatisfied need to be a regular at a bar. The problem with both of these problems is this: I'm kind of stuck up. It's not that I think I'm better than other people, it's that I find great many other people insufferable. People think I'm boasting or being purposely insulting when I say something like that, but they never stop to ask why someone would ever confess such a horrible thing and expect other people to interpret it as a point of pride.

I'm being honest. This is a problem I wrestle with, my intolerance. I know that if I were more... well, anything from "open-minded" to "standardless," I would be a lot happier. I used to believe that it was acceptable for me to be very in-touch with what I like and what I don't like, but now I know that's false and it doesn't work. But saying that doesn't make it so: I can't walk into a nice bar full of douchebags and hipsters and still enjoy the bar. I don't blame the bar for its patronage, but the patronage can ruin my experience because I'm not open-minded enough to accept hipsters and douchebags.

So it is with online communities. I was all excited about getting into The Node, thinking I'd find some people to converse with, geek out with, all that good stuff. Oh, of course there would be Twilight fetishists, excitable youth who haven't moved past Monty Python recitations, but aside from that I thought I could find interesting new people to socialize with.

I found some jackass who wanted to talk about a musical genre called "dubstep." I didn't know it but posted a link to a fun dub-generation interactive game I've always enjoyed, and people I introduced it to seemed to think it was cool. Instead, this guy was immediately insulting and ungracious. His profile features of picture of him shirtless in his bedroom. Why is he on The Node? Why would he want to be? If he's just an insulting jackass, why would he want to hang out with a group of nerds?

But even among the nerds, I encounter problems. In a discussion about the possibility of encountering extraterrestrial life, there are exactly three posts.

The first:
"I think that if Stephen Hawkings says so we need to stay away from Aliens. I mean they dude is basiclly a computer on wheels, fyi someone really needs to get him on the Node!"

The second (mine):
"I heard a long lecture on the unlikelihood of alien contact, and how bad it could mean if it happened.

"Right off the bat: if they contact us, either we benefit in ways we can't predict, they bring some new disease that wipes us all out, or nothing results.

"However, there is nothing to be had on Earth that cannot be had much more easily on planets/asteroids much closer to other civilizations, in all likelihood. It would be an unnecessary expenditure of resources to reach us and pass up all the other sources along the way, not to mention to transport them back to the home world (unless, of course, they treat Earth like the vikings did Iceland, stripping it of materials to rebuild their ships on their way to somewhere else, which is also extremely unlikely). It would also be impractical to send out mortal beings on trans-universal flights, so if we did make contact it would be more likely to be with a robotic drone, which in no way guarantees reciprocal communication.

"However, there is one motivation that drives otherwise sentient beings out from their homeland into the unknown without forethought or a plan to return, and that is religion. If some alien civilization is bent on proselytization, they will find us and kill/subjugate everyone they can't convert, just as most orthodox religions have done on Earth.

"Then again, all those theories are based on human metric, and we have absolutely no way of predicting or even guessing at alien logic."

And I thought that was a thoughtful response. I thought it addressed the topic and looked at various possibilities. I thought I was providing useful, topical information to contribute to a conversation.

The third (quoting the first post):
"Yea. That man is smarter than I can ever hope to be. If he thinks it will be all badness who am I to disagree. Also i can't imagine anyone spending that much time and energy to find out little backwater rock and just wanting to hang out."
That's... pretty much how it goes. I think I'm contributing, I'm trying to add content, trying to build on others' conversations, and it's one person without a clue agreeing with an illiterate person in debt of one clue.

And anyone would say I just need to give it some time, but I'm already seeing some patterns emerge. There's a group of attention whores who just post and post and post, regardless of topic or content, so that they can stay high on a list of top contributors. That was a huge problem with Open Salon and it carries over here.

This is just like when I try to go out to an event and I'm unable to appreciate what's going on because I'm too frustrated and affronted by the people around me. Saying it aloud, it sounds like a serious mental problem, further reinforced by how often I have to apologize to my wife for my poor attitude. Quite frequently I also apologize to her for having become saddled to a man who's no longer capable of having fun (at least the type that involves other people). I don't imagine she could relish a long lifetime with someone like me. And so I try to fix my face into a smile and I can't think of anything nice to say but I can hold back everything that's going on inside my head and lie and say I'm having a great time. All other women should be aware of what a bullet they dodged, in not getting involved with me. Life has shown me that marriage is like a dance, in that the most valuable men are those that make the women look their best. More grounds for me to apologize to Rebecca.

So, if The Node was created for nerds who don't fit in other places, where do I go when I don't fit in with the misfits, when I have out-nerded the nerds?

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