Saw a huge Tumblr thread about introverts and party-going behavior that made me so sad

I already posted about this on Tumblr, but no one reads my Tumblr, so I am going to write about it here too. Someone wrote:

Okay but like. Here is what I have found. There are other introverted people at the party. So when you see your friend get that, “okay we’ve had a little too much friend time” look in their eyes, look around the room and find the other person who’s not talking to anyone or awkwardly hanging on the edge of a conversation and try talking to them. It’s awkward and difficult but it gets easier every time you do it. Your social skills aren’t set in stone. You can work on them! And maybe you’ll never be a social butterfly, but you can at least get to a point in your life where you’re not the clingy friend.

And then someone else reblogged and added:

I should add that if you are the social butterfly who dragged your poor shy friend to a big party it’s actually your sworn duty to spend the first 15 minutes after your arrival playing platonic matchmaker. Don’t just be like “Okay, I’m go talk to these ppl over here BYE” and leave your shy friend in the dust. Wander along, while you friend follows you, and find someone your shy friend can talk to, and maybe nudge them into speaking, and sneak away once they get a conversation going. You’re good at this. It won’t take that much effort. Do us proud, wingcitizen.

Reading these advices, I was shocked. Do introverts really think this way? I feel like there’s a profoundly cold idea of human friendship and of party-going behavior that is at the root of this advice. 

I don't understand this meme. To me, it'd be pathetic if they _didn't_ get hammered just because there were no girls. But then, there are many things that I don't understand.
I don’t understand this meme. To me, it’d be pathetic if they _didn’t_ get hammered just because there were no girls. But then, there are many things that I don’t understand.

I am no introvert, but if I went to a party with a friend, I’d be pretty annoyed if they spent fifteen minutes trying to fob me off on other people and then went along to do their own thing. Similarly, I’d also feel pretty annoyed with my friend if he or she just flirted around the edges of a party in a lonely manner instead of coming over to me and joining whatever conversation I happen to be in.

The whole reason you go to parties with friends is so that you: a) can use them as social proof to demonstrate that you are a normal person who has friendships and is not just a creepy loner; b) have someone to hang out with during the awkward interludes when you’ve got no one else; and c) can just generally enjoy everything more because you’ve got someone to talk to about everything else that happens while you’re there.

Whereas it feels like the two people above think of friends as people who get you into the door of a party and thereafter owe you nothing. Of course, I’m aware that most people on Tumblr are in high school, so maybe this is just a high school social dynamic at work (i.e. in high school you can have friends who you are close with but who don’t want to be seen too much with you when they’re in the company of other people…)

However, if that’s the case, then high schoolers should take notice: that is not cool! 

The whole way that going out on the town works is that you’ve got your 1-3 close friends who are you are ‘in it’ with, and you form sort of a temporary pact to roll together. Oftentimes the formation of this pact involves meeting at some kind of staging ground: sometimes a bar, but usually somebody’s apartment. And then you go places and do stuff. And sometimes that involves meeting other packs of people. But, in my mind at least, there’s a very clear distinction between the people you start the night with and the people who you meet during the night. You have a duty to the people who you start with. It’s okay to have other plans later on (as long as it’s clearly stated), but it’s not okay to suddenly ditch your people or to treat them like strangers. The implicit assumption, when you start the night with folks, is that you’re happy to spend 4-8 hours with these people.

Now that I think of it, though, there is another situation here, which is when you go to a party and you find that there’s only like one other person you know (and sometimes not even very well) and you glom onto that person and chill pretty hard with them until you start to wonder whether they’re maybe tired of you.

That situation, though, really consists of two separate types of situations. If the person you know is the host (or is the occasion for the party, is in a wedding or birthday, etc), then you cannot monopolize them. You’ve got to do your best to talk to other people, because you know that the host needs to make time for lots of people.

But if they’re just some other person at the party, then, in my opinion, it’s better to risk overstaying your welcome than to break from them too early.

In modern American society, the problem isn’t that we have too much intimacy and too much closeness: it’s that people are distant and their relations are superficial. And part of the reason for this is an excessive fastidiousness. People are afraid to talk about more personal things. They’re afraid to spend too much time with each other. There’s a sense that everyone is bustling and busy and no one has time to kick it. 

But beneath that outward bustle, there’s a desperate loneliness. Everyone wants more intimacy in their life. Everyone wishes they didn’t need to be so restrained. Everyone wants to break through the polite barriers. And yet we continue to end interactions too soon, right at the moment when something more might happen. And, I agree, that’s a pretty awkward moment, because it occurs when you’ve exhausted the list of things that people with your level of relationship have to say to each other. But I think that in all of us there is a constant struggle to move beyond the bounds of the things that we are supposed to say. 

If you go to a party and hang with someone for awhile, and then break away from them in order to engage in more polite mingling, then that’s fine and it’s safe. But, on another level, what’s the point? What’s going to happen? 

Sometimes I think that peoples’ model for finding friends is to just talk to lots and lots of people until they find someone who shares a conversational interest that allows them to talk for long periods of time without feeling awkward. It seems like the only time people feel safe in a long conversation is when it’s about some sort of subject matter. For instance, geeks feel comfortable talking for each other because they can talk about anime or Doctor Who or board games or whatever.

And that’s fine…but I don’t think that discussing our mutual love for the Fallout series is the only way of opening up and feeling intimate with people. 

Anyway, this has been a very long post. I’m not saying that I am amazing at these skills. In fact, many of these are things (particularly breaking conversations in too early and abrupt a manner) that I do way too often. And I’m sure there’ve been many occasions where I’ve imposed on people for way too long and bored the hell out of them. But…I mean come on. Meeting new people is terrifying not just for introverts. Its terrifying for everybody. But there’s also a huge upside: every time you meet someone, you have the potential to form a genuine connection, no matter how brief, with another human being. 

But if you go into every interaction with a defensive posture (i.e. with the idea that you need to do whatever you can to avoid putting any weight on your friendships or imposing on anyone in any way) then you reduce your ability to form those connections and sort of miss the point of the whole venture.