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A Not Very Social Guy In A Manically Social World

The thing is, I'm just not a very social guy.   Decades ago, I used to describe myself as antisocial.  Then, the psychologist that I went to during the months when I was trying to decide whether or not to end my first marriage told me that I wasn't really antisocial, I just didn't have a high need for other people.  Whatever.  It does sound nicer that way.

The fact remains that throughout my life I've been quite satisfied to have a very small circle of intimate friends, along with a somewhat wider circle of people that I'm happy to hang out with.  But I have a high need for solitude.  It was a singular moment when, early in my relationship with Lynn, I said, enthusiastically, "Being with you is almost as good as being by myself!"  One might have thought that such an odd statement would have been the end of the relationship, and I cringed when I heard the words come out of my mouth, but it turned out that she felt the same way.  Thus the basis for an extremely satisfying marriage.

So now I live in the world of social networking and ubiquitous connectivity.  I carry a cell phone with me all the time but probably don't use it more than two or three times a week.  It would never occur to me to call someone up just to chat.

I'm thinking about this these days because there has been a dramatic flurry of Facebook activity among medical librarians.  I signed on to Facebook a couple of years ago and for the longest time it was pretty dormant.  Things started picking up a bit last fall, but in recent weeks I've been getting almost daily friend requests.  Fortunately, most of them actually are friends, or at the very least, professional acquaintances.   If I know the person, I'll accept the request, but then I don't quite know what to do with it.  I've signed on to a couple of groups, but I rarely check them.  I haven't played with any of the toys.

Same thing with Linkedin -- I set up a profile quite awhile ago but it has only been in the last couple of months that I've been getting more than weekly requests to be added to somebody's network.  As with Facebook, if I actually know the person, I'll add them.  But then what?

When Lynn and I tell people that we don't watch any television other the The Daily Show, the assumption is always that we are tv snobs and someone will often tell us about some wonderful show that we just have to see.  We have to explain that no, we understand completely, but there is so much on tv that we're sure we'd like that if we started watching, it'd suck up all of our time and we don't have enough time as it is!  It may be that I'm afraid of Facebook in the same way.

But now I'm starting to feel guilty.   I think I ought to do more, that I owe it to the people who've bothered to try to connect with me.  For the typical convivial person who is energized by their relationships with other people, this wouldn't even be an issue.  But for a loner like me, it's a bit of a struggle.   If I start spending time hanging out with my friends in the social networks, what will I not be doing?  What's the tradeoff?  It's not as if I'm sitting around the house in the evening wondering what to do with my time.

I'll try to do more.  The irony is, I really believe in the importance and the utility of these networks.  I'm adamant that librarians, in particular, need to be at the forefront of understanding how all of the communication tools work and how they are affecting the ways that we learn and communicate and manage information.  I know that for many people they provide wonderful opportunities for personal and professional growth and pleasure that they may never have found in the pre-digital world.

I'm just not sure what they mean for me.



I couldn't agree more. Like you, though I enjoy the company of people, I am a very private individual. As more and more connectivity technology is invented to enthusiastic applause, I keep asking myself and others; “why would I want to be more connected?” Why do I need a cell phone that would allow people to call me at will? Why would I sign up to Facebook thus making my life an open book? The benefits of constant connectivity escape me. Why would anyone want a technology that allows them to be connected to hundreds even thousands of “friends?” The technology does offer some amazing benefits, but there is a price. Our lives are less private, we have less time for contemplation and reflection. There is less time to just stop and think.

T Scott

"Why would anyone want a technology that allows them to be connected to hundreds even thousands of “friends?" -- I think it's just a matter of temperament -- my Mom, for example (hi Mum!), gets very energized by her friends and gets blue when she doesn't have a chance to hang out with somebody for a day or two. Things like Facebook would be great for her. (Unfortunately, she's miles and miles ahead of most of her contemporaries when it comes to the internet so there's not much point in her trying it out.) For people who have that kind of social nature I can see where the opportunity to have easy contact with friends unhindered by geographic barriers could be quite wonderful. It's just not the case for everybody.

By the way, regarding the cell phone, I treat it exactly the way I do the home phone -- if I don't know who it is that's calling me, I don't answer. And if I can tell whose calling me, but it's not a good time for me, I don't answer. I've never quite understood why, when we all now have answering machines, people feel that they have to answer that ring whether it is convenient for them or not.

At any rate, I'm going to try to be a little more sociable on Facebook. It's an anthropological expedition.


What a coincidence! A week ago I told 120 first year students they could contact me via my StudiVZ account (the German pendant to Facebook). Soon after, a student send a friend request. I refused because I don't know her personally and I was not sure about the consequences. But later on I recognized that I messed up friendship with a business relation. At StudiVZ a friend request is merely a kind of a bookmark to make it easier to find or write you in case. Today a German study was published, which (beside all that dating stuff :-) ) explicitely supports that.

T Scott

I confess to being uneasy with the use of the word "friend" for these connections... But then, given how notoriously picky I am about language, I guess that isn't any surprise...


Have you ever read the piece from The Atlantic, "Caring for Your Introvert?" -

By the way, all the cool medlibs are on Twitter now. ;)

T Scott

I'm avoiding Twitter out of sheer cantankerousness.

Thanks for reminding me about the Atlantic piece -- I was a subscriber at the time, so I remember it fondly. As I recall, I sent an email about it to my Mom (the extreme extrovert) saying, "See! See! This is how I am!!!" What most people don't realize is that shyness and introversion are separate. Lynn is as much of an introvert as I am, but she is not shy -- so she can easily be outgoing and engaging. I'm an extreme introvert AND shy, so unless I'm on a podium or have a guitar in my hand, I'm always uncomfortable in groups.


Thanks for reminding us of that Atlantic article Rachel--it's one of my favorites!

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