We’ve all seen that stereotype — the basement dweller! That guy who lives in his house attached to a computer and never leaves. The fact is that all stereotypes have a grain of truth to them even if that sucks to admit. Geeks are geeks because they have an intense passion for their own hobbies and interests. In many ways this passion is incredibly admirable and actually a very desirable trait. Many people would kill to have something they love doing as much as geeks love their hobbies.
The problem arises when a hobby is fun and enjoyable enough that it seems easier to do your hobby than to deal with people. In many ways this isolationism is beneficial. Geeks have a lot of trouble expressing themselves and fitting in with society. When you isolate yourself, you give yourself the freedom to be your full, true eccentric self and love your passion without reserve. At times you need this. Sometimes you need to honestly get away from the world for a bit and take some time to reconnect with yourself and who you really are. The part you have to watch out for is that you don’t neglect your needs and dreams.
When isolationism gets too strong it becomes a problem because human beings are innately social creatures in a society that runs on human interaction. Even the most hardcore introverted, isolationist needs human interaction sometimes. We all want to be loved, touched, heard, and connected. If you allow yourself become too much a troglodyte you prevent yourself from really getting the fulfilling life you want and deserve.
You also thwart your own dreams. Most dreams and hopes in life involve other people. If you want to become that hotshot game developer, writer, teacher, scientist, etc. you will need to be able to put yourself out there and connect with people. Also, if you haven’t found good friendship or love, that also requires taking the time to talk with other people.
Steps to reducing your cave-dwelling:
Understand why you tend to isolate yourself.
There are a number of different reasons to isolate yourself from people. Some geeks have a bad history with people and are afraid of getting hurt again– others simply find interacting with people stressful– some get something emotionally valuable out of spending time alone.
I know in my case, I tend to isolate myself because I like being in a slow and relaxed. I like taking my time to smell the roses and when I am with other people often I find myself getting caught up in their pace. Isolation means I can take my time with things and appreciate them.
I also know I really dislike small talk at times. I’m a person who absolutely loves deep and meaningful conversations, but really hates sitting and talking about what you physically did for your day today. This often deters me from wanting to go out and meet people. I’m also half-way between and introvert and an extrovert (an entertaining combination by the way!) and my introverted side often gets overwhelmed in new or very prolonged social settings.
Recognize what you want socially
It’s also important to recognize what is motivating you to step out of your isolation. What makes you get up and want to go out in the world? For me, I’m very motivated to find community and more emotional support in my day to day life. I also want to create opportunities for myself to learn and grow from other people as well as expand my coaching business.
Work with those motivators
Ideally, you want to move yourself into a place emotionally where you have real motivation to go out in the world and meet new people. You can do this a number of ways.
First, find ways to work around the things that make socializing unpleasant. For example, since I hate awkward small talk, I tend to focus on befriending people who are open-books. I look for people, who don’t feel like there is anything to hide, so they are fine talking about deeper topics like the articles I write here. I also, seek out social situations that are very activity focused, so that I at least have something to do while somebody rambles about the weather.
My girlfriend has an issue of that she burns out if she socializes for more than about 3 hours at a time. Her solution to this is to befriend people who don’t mind her disappearing for an hour or so to sit and read a book or play on her iPad. This gives her the ability to veg out and recharge her social batteries so that she can resume interacting with others.
Another example might be that you hate trying to interject and add your two cents into a fast-paced conversation. A solution to this would be to find a social setting where people take turns speaking. Examples of this would be some book groups or classes in which people go in a circle sharing or raise hands to ask question or share thoughts.
Another step is to take what you get out of isolating yourself and find a way to also get it while socializing. In my case, I said I like to slow down and smell the flowers, so one thing that’s good for me to do is to find opportunities in which I can get this socially. This can be hard to do, but not impossible. One thing that has helped is finding the occasional rare individual who also really likes taking life slow. Also, doing activities that encourage slowness helps, like taking a very leisurely stroll with somebody in someplace pretty. As I am writing this, I am also thinking it may help me to take some time and learn if I also can appreciate moving faster in life and try to enjoy things at a quick pace.
So, for example, if maybe you like isolation because it allows you to enjoy a particular hobby a lot. Maybe you can go out and meet other people to do that hobby with together. Maybe you can find a similar hobby that is equally gratifying but also social. There is a lot of possibilities.
Lastly, align yourself with what you really want socially.
This can be a big help in getting out in the world. I know for me it is probably the biggest thing that gets me out of bed. I take the time to think about what I really want socially and really visualize what that will look like to me. For me, I imagine my coaching business absolutely thriving from all the connections with people I’ve made. I imagine getting to see close friends everyday who make me laugh and feel really supported in my day to day life. I imagine going out and doing exciting things and learning cool new skills.
Even as I am writing this, I can feel myself getting excited at the notion of meeting new people and being one step closer to those dreams.Visualizing what you want in the future is insanely powerful. Depending on the individual, dreaming big can be both big and scary. Many people get scared of getting their hopes up and then having them destroyed. If you think like this, try to get over it. Dreams have no shot of coming true if they aren’t actually dreamt. Dreams also can’t be destroyed, they can only be released to make space for better dreams.
Images of courtesy of Neil’s Photography and Jeroen Thoolen