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Are my extroverted days over?
September 9, 2010 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand why I would rather watch re-runs of The Cosby Show & Roseanne rather than hang out with anyone.

I realize I am the type of person (friend) that a lot of people complain about here on AskMeFi.
I'm a horrible friend.

So, lemme explain...

Until I was treated for severe social anxiety when I was 19, I basically sat behind a computer and ate Little Debbie snacks by the box.

After starting medication, I became social. I started dating, going to bars and clubs - lots of parties. Made a lot of good friends (mostly through a local online community full of weirdos). Sometimes I was out 4-5 times a week. I should mention that I was working second shift - so it was a bit easier to go out all the time at night after work.

Then, when I was 26, I decided to move from Florida and back to the state where I grew up. All my old friends that I grew up with were kind of social but not in the same way - none of them smoked, they were all in relationships, they all had a lot of other friends, etc.
They liked to go out for sushi and talk about dogs. Not my style.

Anyway, I then basically became a hermit again. I wasn't actually afraid of social situations - I just didn't want to deal with them.
Friends would call and ask to hang out - but I really didn't feel like it. I was fine sitting in my room having IM conversations until 4am.
The only time I was social was when I went on dates or was in a relationship. Oh, and having drinks with co-workers after work about once or twice a month.

It really became this horrible thing - because there were times when I didn't want to go to the bathroom because I didn't want to have to strike up a conversation with roommates that were in the living room.
I also ended up ending a few old friendships because they were too demanding and the friends complained so much about me not wanting to do anything.

I'm now 30 and I live with my boyfriend in a new state - and I have no desire to really make any new friends. I keep in touch with my Florida friends and my home-state friends via social networking and sometimes texting.

But this doesn't jive well with my boyfriend. He still likes to go out and party until 5am - and I just want to go home and watch re-runs of Roseanne.

Also, sometimes I miss the old times - but they seem like they're long gone. But when I visit my family back in Florida, I hang out with my ole "party" friends and always have a good time.

Is this just apart of getting old?
Am I really introverted - or am I in a 5 year non-social rut?
Am I just lame and tired because I work 1st shift?
Do I just need to try and find compatible friends? I should mention that it's harder to find compatible people in the state I live in now. The majority of the people I've met are super Christians (and love to talk about it) and have lots of babies.



I do suffer from depression and I have narcolepsy.
But I had (untreated) narcolepsy when I went through my 5 years of socializing as well. So, I don't want to blame my narcolepsy on indifference and lack of interest.
Also, I USUALLY don't really feel depressed about all of this - I feel content. But I'm constantly trying to figure what happened.


posted by KogeLiz to Human Relations (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe your boyfriend and/or where you live are not compatible with you?
posted by dfriedman at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2010


There's nothing wrong with being an introvert. I'm the kind of person who can easily spend hours a day by myself, on a regular basis, with no regrets. However, I do understand on some level that this isn't good for me, and so I've made an effort to do more things socially over the years, because it's good for me, even if it doesn't always feel like it in the moment. Your situation does strike me as being a bit more antisocial than introverted, however, and I do wonder if it's still connected to social anxiety issues that linger for you, and the depression you mention. My introvertedness is due at least in part to this, and I've found that the more I get out, the more I get over my anxiety, and the more I naturally gravitate towards group events that I might otherwise have avoided. My recommendation would be to find someone professionally to talk to about this. If you suffer from depression, medication can help this immensely.

I should mention that it's harder to find compatible people in the state I live in now. The majority of the people I've met are super Christians (and love to talk about it) and have lots of babies.

And I say this in the nicest way possible, but you know that this can't be an accurate reflection of your entire state, correct? It might mean that you could do with some extra getting out, as there's some reality distortion going on from your current perspective.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do think it's (partly) part of getting older, brought on more suddenly for you when you moved. As your peers move from dating to settling down to parenthood, the activities you can do with them will change. As will their interests in general, and maybe you'll find that yours will too, in time. That's the only constant, they say.

Not that this is a one-size-fits-all rule, that all people of a certain age must conform to eating sushi and talking about dogs. There are plenty of people who forge their own path. Generally speaking though, it is hard to maintain a college/twentysomething lifestyle as you approach and pass thirty. Extra challenging if you're still single or dating and those around you have married and started families.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


First of all, those are two really well-written and well-acted sitcoms (at least the early and middle seasons) for wholly different -- and practically opposing -- reasons. So, at least take solace in the fact that you're watching good television.

You have a fun time back in Home State because you're visiting and visiting friends is a great time to party it up. I doubt your old friends are doing that regularly; it's probably cognitive bias because you're the occasion.

Anyway, it sounds like you're in a place where you haven't met your crowd yet. There's going to be fewer of them, yes, and you may need to put more effort into finding and hanging out with them, but they're somewhere out there. Unfortunately, they're probably on the DL, especially if their likes don't mesh with the culture of the place you live. Do you have any friends at all aside from your boyfriend? Not coworkers, not neighbors, but friends? If the answer is 'no,' it sounds like you need to roll up your sleeves and make yourself some. How? Well, you don't really delineate your interests, and I don't have any advice how to make friends in not-a-city, but I'm sure others will.
posted by griphus at 1:23 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's good you're getting some medical stuff, like the narcolepsy, looked at. My guess is that the new state has a lot to do with old behaviors popping up. When we're uncomfortable we can regress to behaviors which might even be maladaptive but they're familiar. OTOH, you might just have social differences with your BF, too. Or both. Maybe know he's going to party on Fridays but that you will stay in and watch Roseanne if you'd like? Give yourself some time to get comfortable with the new state and don't beat yourself up or try to "figure stuff out" too much. Focus on what you can do here and now, like start going to a book group once a week. Anything, once a week, then twice, etc. when you're ready. Just not a book group for Super Xtian Babbys.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:25 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm like this to an extent. I get really bored with people. I feel like I will have nothing to add to the conversation, and that I'm not really interested in listening to their opinions. It's far, far easier to sit home and watch TV, so my vote is for inertia. The medication kicked off your extroverted days, but right now you have nothing to act as a catalyst, so you'll have to make one.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


there were times when I didn't want to go to the bathroom because I didn't want to have to strike up a conversation with roommates that were in the living room.

If that's not anxiety, then what exactly are you feeling when you think about having to converse with your roommates on the way to the bathroom?
posted by mpls2 at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2010


Life is short, and you should do the stuff you enjoy as much as possible. If right now that means you watch Cosby a lot, go right ahead. My philosophy is, there is a two-step process to being happy:

1. Take care of the people who are depending on you
2. Spend the rest of the time doing stuff you love

#1 changes a lot over the course of the years - you get married, you have kids, you start a business, all of those things create situations where people depend on you. Which reduces the amount of time left over for #2.

So, figure out where you are on #1. Who is counting on you being there for them, helping them, serving them, taking care of them? Assess that list, and then with whatever time you have left, you can pour it into whatever you feel like doing, with a clear conscience.
posted by jbickers at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why don't you try going for long walks instead of watching TV and IMing? Exercise could help with the depression.
posted by goethean at 1:57 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it will be very, very important for you to discover which social interactions provoke anxiety (if it is anxiety) and which do not. So first, is this a problem with being in crowds? Large masses of friends? Or does one person elicit this response? Does the degree to which you know the person or persons involved matter? Can you go to the DMV and have no problem, but a bunch of people I have known for a while makes you want to skitter off?

I know that I am more comfortable in my social interactions if my social interactions are not in person. I enjoy people more at arm's length, or cable's length, or with a latency greater than 100 milliseconds. Your comment about conversing over IM struck me as somewhat similar to my experience, because I usually do not like being around people, physically, in the plural sense. Being around one to three people, that is not too bad. Bunches? Ugh.

What finally twigged me to the source of my discomfort was discovering that I was acutely overaware of the body language, intonation, scent, gaze, pretty much everything, of people, particularly people in bunches. As an experiment, if you wear glasses, try meeting up with your friends and then taking the glasses off. I get through things like concerts with earplugs, alcohol, and actively ignoring any distractions from the show proper, though repeat exposure has not made things any better.

If it is anxiety, it could have other sources. Experiment until you find a consistent set of stimuli that provoke this response, then try to figure out what the common factor is.

On the other hand, you may be dealing with apathy. That's a whole other ball of wax, which has, at its center, the heavy question "Do I care enough to do anything about this, anyway?" Apathy is a unique poison of behavior; like curare, apathy makes it rather difficult to do anything about the situation once you've got it in your system.
posted by adipocere at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because Roseanne and Bill Cosby are freaking AWESOME. (I'm biased, you mentioned my two favorite sitcoms of all time. Praise [insert deity here] for the Oxygen network.)

Anyway, I am like you sometimes. The same thing happened when I moved. I was super social, working a ton and going out every night. Then I moved, made a couple of new friends and got comfortable at home. I'm completely happy to not leave the apartment all weekend, but then on Sunday night I think, "oh, that was a waste of a perfectly good weekend." The answer is to force yourself to go out. It helps to make commitments in advance. Like, happy hour next Tuesday! Then Tuesday rolls around and you're either forced to flake out or suck it up and just go. Brunch on Saturday! Do you really want to be the person ruining someone else's brunch plans? You're not going to feel like it, it's gonna seem like a chore, but just go. When you get home a few hours later, your apartment will still be there in all it's cozy goodness, and you're gonna think, "yeah, I'm glad I went out, that was fun."
posted by AlisonM at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hesitate to give you this answer because it seems so silly and dismissive, but that's not my intention. Others have pointed out there might be issues with depression and so forth and I fully agree and think you should talk to someone professionally.

My dad refers to this as the Matt Dillon syndrome. Back in the day on Gunsmoke, there were a few episodes where Sheriff Dillon leaves town and goes on these random adventures. Sometimes he was out chasing an outlaw down, sometimes he was just out to help somebody who lived out of town, the why he left Dodge City never really mattered. What was important was the episodes where he left town were, in my dad's opinion, the best ones.

So whenever I'd fall into a book and stay in my room for ages, or just sit on the couch too much as a kid or teen, Dad would say "Gotta get you out of Dodge City, this is one boring episode." And oddly enough, even though I'd bitch and moan by the end of the outing I would realize I'd had a good time.

I still do this. And it's hard, I've moved to a brand new city and don't know anyone here but my fiance and his work friends, but we make an effort. Because really, you can't sit around Dodge City and stare at Festus all day long...you'll go crazy.
posted by teleri025 at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


It sounds like you've got the social anxiety under control - the way you describe the hermit thing and the avoiding roommates sounds more like mild depression than social anxiety, for what it's worth.

I vote for needing to find more compatible friends - people who do things that you enjoy doing, but also people that understand that you do the hermit thing sometimes!

You sound like you're stuck in a bit of a rut - maybe just try to go out once a week / set a goal to have one interesting conversation a day with someone who's not yet a friend (anyone - a work colleague / a neighbour / one of your boyfriend's friends) - interesting being about something you're interested in - and if they're interested too, then there's a possible friendship there!) / think about things that you like doing that you haven't done in a while (drawing / going to see a band / skydiving - whatever) and making plans to do that.

And also make a point of not flaking on things you've agreed to do - often when you force yourself to meet someone for a drink, even if you don't feel like it, you have a great time. And that positive feedback loop can help get you out of the rut... Worst case scenario, you appreciate Roseanne all the more the following evening!

Very few people can be extroverted all of the time - almost everyone needs downtime to sit at home and chill and watch telly - so don't beat yourself up about it too much.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


KogeLiz I should mention that it's harder to find compatible people in the state I live in now. The majority of the people I've met are super Christians (and love to talk about it) and have lots of babies.

SpacemanStix And I say this in the nicest way possible, but you know that this can't be an accurate reflection of your entire state, correct? It might mean that you could do with some extra getting out, as there's some reality distortion going on from your current perspective.

I'm going to very from what I think is the default answer here: it is possible to live in a place where you are so different from the prevailing culture, it's extremely hard to find people to hang out with. I grew up in a place like that. When I moved away and overcame my social anxiety issues, I visited home and was excited to finally be friendly with the people I'd always felt alienated from. Instead, I found them as difficult as ever despite reaching out and trying to form bonds the way that had worked in so many other places.

Yes, there are people in your area that you can be friends with, but as you mentioned it's very hard to meet them. And a bigger problem is, they might fit into the prevailing culture better than you, so it's tough to find a group that is mostly comprised of people that you feel a connection with. This is tough to tell someone, but you might want to consider whether location & culture are triggers for you. There are regions in the country that, if my SO asked me to move there, it would be as tough as them asking me to move to a small village in Siberia - I would be sacrificing a close circle of friends, I would have serious concerns about finding people to really connect with, and I couldn't do it for life.

I don't want to give credence to social anxiety, but if you feel good around a certain type of person and don't like interacting with everyone in your town, then maybe you have to realize that there are places you can't live. I can't tell if that's what's going on here, but that's what I realized when I became honest with myself so I thought I'd drop the suggestion that maybe you can't fix this entirely in your head and need to evaluate your environment as well.
posted by Tehhund at 3:11 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tehhund: it is possible to live in a place where you are so different from the prevailing culture, it's extremely hard to find people to hang out with.

I agree with Tehhund.

I wasn't actually afraid of social situations - I just didn't want to deal with them.

This is exactly how I felt when I was away at art school for a year. After a week in Chicago, I was absolutely sure it wasn't the right place for me. But I knew for the next year, I'd have to be there so I had to at least try to like it. And try I did. But the people I lived with, I soon found out, were so incompatible with me (kids sitting on my bed, talking to my roommate about how drunk they got last night...up until 3 AM watching the OC), that I totally shut down.

So the reason I agree with Tehhund is because our environment has much more influence on us than we give it credit for. Sure, I found a few people who weren't like the others, but they were so hard to come by and so overshadowed with the more prevalent "type" of people (I'm talking about my school and the surrounding area here, not all of Chicago) I encountered, it was so tiring I came to a point where I'd rather just stay in my room and save myself the trouble. I became really very depressed.

desjardins: right now you have nothing to act as a catalyst, so you'll have to make one.

This too. If you really have nothing urging you urgently to go out there and become the person you've always wanted to be...no matter how you try, it's really difficult to do! And it won't be long-lasting. And get your boyfriend out of there at 5 AM—I'm sure that sort of extreme isn't pushing you to open up more.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am of two conflicting opinions on this, because I suffer the same kinds of issues. I live in a 12 unit condo building, and it seems like any time I try to do something like laundry or sorting out the shit in my car, one of these assholes in my building starts talking to me. So I avoid doing these things.

What I can't figure out is whether it is rational. ARE these people really assholes and is my avoidance rational? Or is there something wrong with me and I'm making an excuse in thinking they are assholes?

I think that's what the OP needs to do. Because there's nothing wrong with being an introvert, but true introverts don't care that they aren't socializing. If you want to go out more often but are held back by something, that's something besides introversion. I would try to examine my thoughts whenever the avoidance feeling comes up. Eventually, you will come up with an answer.
posted by gjc at 4:49 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everyone has a limit to how much sensory stimulation they can handle, and often "introverts" are people whose limits of stimulation are low. So the "anxiety" may just be the feeling that you have reached your limit and any more social interaction is stressful and meaningless because you are unable to process it. It's not that you don't like being social, it's just that for whatever reason, at that time you have reached your social interaction limit. Maybe your nervous system is more sensitive; after being out in the world with all of the sights, sounds and people, you need downtime, and watching re-runs of Roseanne is your way to get it. (btw I love Roseanne and I went through a period of watching Roseanne re-runs everyday).

By the way, I got this theory from the book THe Highly Sensitive Person. It really helped me to realize that my sensory limits are less than other peoples' and I need to be social on my own terms, and I need downtime every day. I really recommend that book.
posted by bearette at 6:08 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the replies.

Well.
I'm thinking I do need to at least force myself to be social and see how that goes. I will have to talk to my boyfriend about this again. Every time we head out, I tell him I don't want to be out until 5am and it always ends up that way. Either that or I end up leaving him at his friends house and picking him up in the morning.
I think it would be easier to be social if it were in smaller doses!

I feel like my good times have gone and no matter how much I try, it's not good enough. Sort of like trying to find that "high" again.
I guess I'm not really giving it a chance, though.


If that's not anxiety, then what exactly are you feeling when you think about having to converse with your roommates on the way to the bathroom?


I'm feeling like I don't want to have a 45 minute conversation. My roommate was more like a good friend. We were friends before I moved in. But he wanted to talk and hang out all the time. So it was strange - because, yes, I DID feel anxiety - but not because I was afraid of social interaction - it was because I had to go to the bathroom/go to the kitchen and I was afraid I would end up trapped. BUT if I ended up "trapped", it wasn't bad at all. We would end up laughing and watching TV or walking to the store. So. I don't know.

On the other hand, you may be dealing with apathy. That's a whole other ball of wax, which has, at its center, the heavy question "Do I care enough to do anything about this, anyway?" Apathy is a unique poison of behavior; like curare, apathy makes it rather difficult to do anything about the situation once you've got it in your system.

I'm leaning more to this, since it's been 4 years since I've been social for more than one day a month or two. :/

Yes, there are people in your area that you can be friends with, but as you mentioned it's very hard to meet them.

It is. I'm used to living in Boston - where I can meet (screen) tons of people online. Where I live now - all the city-related forums (like Yelp) are totally dead. Online is how I met pretty much all my friends that I've had as an adult.
I do some volunteer work and have done it a few times since I moved here - but the other volunteers all seem to be much older and from local churches.
There are some people I have made somewhat friends with. My boyfriend grew up here - so he has quite a few friends. The guys are all musicians - so it just turns into band practice if we all hang out. There are some wives involved - but they're taking care of the kids.
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posted by KogeLiz at 8:45 PM on September 9, 2010


Also,
I will say that I have been off all medications for the last year and a half because I am uninsured.
But the "anti-social" behavior started while I was still on my meds. I think once I get insurance and start medications again, maybe I'll feel more inclined to be social... but I'm not sure.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:48 PM on September 9, 2010


also:

I think it will be very, very important for you to discover which social interactions provoke anxiety (if it is anxiety) and which do not.

I would say anxiety-wise, I don't care for being around a lot of females. They make me nervous. I feel more comfortable around men because they seem more laid back and seem less judgmental. I have two or three female friends - and they're all pretty much like me - monotone, sarcastic and they're funny.
I don't like being in someone's house. I get bored and don't know what to do with myself. I don't care for formal get-togethers like dinner parties unless it's with really good friends.
I used to be afraid to leave the house - but like I said, most of that severe anxiety has gone away.
I have always been super social online and usually at work (once I figure everyone out).
I just don't like intimate quiet settings with people I hardly know.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:56 PM on September 9, 2010


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