Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Introvert Dating

Alas, I find myself single again–my divorce became official a couple of weeks ago.

I also live in the middle of nowhere.
The town I live in has a post office, one gas station, and a super creepy diner in a building that could give the Leaning Tower of Pisa a run for “most unstable structure EVAR.”

I don’t actually want to date anyone right now, but I do need a posse. I need a group of people to go do meaningless stuff with.  I looked at Craig’s list meetups, and that was….well, horrifying, actually.

How is an introvert to meet people?

If you are a bookish computer nerd, how do you develop a social group in a new area?

Discuss.

bug_girl

Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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58 Comments

  1. My advice is to find groups to do specific activities with, which might eventually involve into doing “meaningless stuff” with the people you click with.

    I moved to a different state right out of college so I tried to get involved in a lot of different things. It was easy for me because I live in a crowded area, but you can probably find some things happening anywhere.

    Craigslist can be really useful, if you use it the right way. Don’t use it for dating, but just to find groups of people with similar interests. Join clubs for everything you’re interested in and if you can’t find one, consider hosting your own. You’ll probably have more luck at meetup.com as @Brian Lynchehaun: mentioned.

    I think the key is to join as many activities as you can, and statistically one or a few of them will work out. It can also be helpful to list your solo hobbies and consider joining a group to do them (like knitting or video games). And I’m sure you can find at least one book club in any town.

  2. See what local geek activities might be around, like a comic store, or hobby shop of some kind. There might be RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons groups that need players (don’t knock it, I’ve been playing all my life and I’m not a stereotypical nerd)

    If you’re into knitting, there might be a sewing circle or the like that can for a short time at least get you out of the house. Maybe an a capella singing group, barbershop group, chorus, that kind of thing. These two groups are going to be less exclusively nerdy though, they seem to have a broader appeal.

    There are historic dance groups around too, and they tend to be a pretty geeky group overall (plus they wear period costumes, and those alone can be an interesting hobby – imagine yourself in 1900’s formalwear dancing to the same songs that were danced on the Titanic). Actually, the historic dance groups tend to be made of people who belong to any and all of the above activities, so that might be a good jumping off point. Plus you are guaranteed to meet new people if you have to dance with them. Not much skill is involved either, you don’t have to be especially graceful.

  3. First: @scribe999: COTW for “…robots can never hate you, no matter how much they try to kill you.”

    Second: How about starting a Skeptics in the Pub group or similar? I know of a blog that will help promote it. [cough]

    [EDIT]: Okay Zapski, how much does your dance class cost?

  4. I’ve moved to new cities a couple of times, and had to build new social circles from basically nothing. It takes a while, but if you can stick it out and keep trying you’ll get there :)

    I suspect you’ve already heard or thought of most of the advice others can give you, but here’s what I’ve got.

    It helps if you can find things you enjoy doing that are out among people. It helps more if they happen to be things that draw the same people at the same times, so you end up recognizing faces and becoming more comfortable around each other. Meetup groups, drinking skeptically events, rock climbing, a local NaNoWriMo group (This happens in November. Writing a crappy novel in one month is fun!), a coffee shop or pub you feel comfortable in… Just get out there among people. Be happy and live your life, and you’ll naturally attract others with similar interests… trite, but true :)

    Odd as it may seem, I’ve made several of my best friends using okcupid.com. I used the site for several years just to meet interesting new people. I ended up just letting it sit there – I’d meet someone interesting every month or so, and a few of them turned into lasting friendships.

    And if you find yourself by yourself at home on Friday night with nothing to do and with no particular interest in going out, take the time to call someone you care about and reconnect with them.

  5. @Skept-artist: Usually a small donation is sufficient. The local group only asks for $5 per class, so really, really affordable. Different groups may vary that somewhat, but on the whole it seems pretty reasonable. Sometimes they do demonstrations at museums, local events, historical villages, that sort of thing, and will offer a free class as part of the demo. That’s how they hook you.

  6. Congrats on the divorce. There’s no alas about it. Took me far too long to do mine.

    OK, so Amsterdam isn’t a one-horse town but the expats group on meetup.com was brilliant for me when I was there. Went back last weekend and got messy with them again.

    Or as suggested: start something.

    Can you teach anything? Run a grass-roots class?

  7. I’m in a similar boat – small town, people don’t seem to have the same interests. I always get the same advice “find groups that do X”. Ok, but *how* do I find those groups? :) Often small towns aren’t about websites and I can’t go by word of mouth if I don’t know anyone. The local paper is also usually a bust. I’m at a loss. I am also way too shy to start a group – I have visions of either people not coming or it being super awkward.

  8. Your description of your town makes it sound kind of ghastly which makes an obvious solution kind of present itself in my mind: Move to a different town?

    In the event you actually like it there, however, I’ve no idea, sadly. The smallest town I’ve lived in was Bakersfield, CA. And that isn’t really all that small. (But still kind of ghastly, honestly. Apologies to any local-patriotic Bakersfielders reading this but it is.)

    Maybe see if there’s a local group on Flickr? That way you’ll know they at least share one interest with you.

  9. @Beren: a local NaNoWriMo group (This happens in November. Writing a crappy novel in one month is fun!)

    I second this. NaNoWriMo is the biggest collection of introverts I’ve seen outside of a scifi convention and it’s fun.

  10. I’m in the same boat as you (mostly). Meetup.com isn’t terrible for finding skeptic groups or book clubs or any other kind of group to hang out with – the problem is getting an introvert to go by herself to a group thing!

  11. @Zapski: Ha! My comment to you should have been read as more of a “Oh, look at all of this info on historical dance class. I’ll bet you run a dance class and are trying to get us all to join”.
    I phrased it badly.
    But regardless, I thank you for the information. It sounds very interesting :)

  12. @Kimbo Jones: Some years ago when I was working at a local crisis centre, one of my duties when not counselling people was compiling/updating a community resources directory. We included recreational resources, and had over 100 local clubs etc liste, with contacts updated annually. To find out about new clubs/recreational groups, I contacted (among other research tools) the city government’s leisure department who kept a directory of all such groups who rented space from them for whatever reason (sometimes just a room for an AGM.) Our directory had more than theirs, but theirs was still pretty good.

  13. As an introvert, my answer was never going to be the “go do some social things; get out there and meet people,” everyone was telling me. Instead, I went a did things for myself. I took up disc golf (a formalized version of Frisbee golf); stayed home & read or played video games until unreasonable hours; worked too much; tried to hang with my family more (which has it’s pros & cons…); and channeled my woes into horror writing and live action role-playing (which I was doing before being single and while social, was not a pool of people likely to provide a match).

    These worked for me to provide a “social” outlet under my control and when I felt like it, but without a artificial pressure to “meet & greet” or join the dating scene.

    After a few years, I tried some of the on-line dating services (gay.com & the like, in my case) but always being the one to wait for others to contact me rather than the other way around. After a few tentative dates, and somewhat depressing ones at that, I switched sites and randomly came across someone who appeared to be taking the same dating approach as me. We met, and have now been together for over eight years (married for two+). So, my counsel is to be patient, do what feels right, but not forced, for you and focus on being happy with yourself.

    Being on my own, while also a natural condition of an introvert, let me assure (or reassure) myself that I was healthy and whole; that my previous relationship in no way undermined who I was now; and helped reinforced my confidence in who I wanted to be. While seeming dismal at the time, I wouldn’t be as mentally/emotionally balanced now without that time to myself. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of learning to act just for your own needs — I’m not saying go become a selfish prick or anything — but be OK with saying “this isn’t about anyone else but me…” when you consider doing something.

    How’s that for lunchtime psycho-babble rambling?
    BGC

  14. Well, first of all, Dibs! (Rather surprised someone didn’t call this already. One cannot resist a bookish computer nerd who’s an expert in her field, after all.)

    On divorce: I’ve been married twice and each time the more I let go of everything the more peaceful I was about it. By everything, I mean the stuff involved. Ideally, being able to walk away from everything, money, house, car, books, whatever, and realize that you’ll be ok, well, that’s when you know you’re healthy. You’ll be fine, later. Took me a while, too. I’m even open to the idea that I might, one day, try it again. This also took a while.

    On finding a social group: If your town honestly has a gas station and a diner and that’s it then you’re screwed. Move. Commute to work until you find other work.

    However, I suspect there’s more to the town than those two places. Tell me what you’re into and I’ll tell you how to find that group. You don’t even have to tell what the town is.

    Case in point…
    I’m leaving my hometown wherein I have a plethora of contacts to go to a fairly small town where I know nobody and have never visited. This will happen in the next few months.

    I already know there’s a university in this new town. Also, a performing arts center and several comic book shops. There are bars and restaurants near the Univ and PAC. I hang out there and at the comic book shops and I’ll find all the artist/writer/nerds I want.

    I’d guess something similar will apply to your situation.

  15. @Kimbo Jones:

    “I am also way too shy to start a group – I have visions of either people not coming or it being super awkward.”

    That’s usually how it works out, but if you start enough groups eventually one of them will be a hit. And it’s always super awkward the first time, just like any first interactions among people. Yeah, it sucks like the first day of school, a first date, or the first day of a new job, but you got through all those things and it’s often worth the super awkwardness in the long run. (And also remember that it’s super awkward for everyone else there too.)

    The only thing I can think of that would have a slightly less awkward start is to take a class of some sort, because you just have to listen to the teacher rather than come up with awkward small-talk. If your town is really small it might be hard to find classes, but if you have a car you can probably find something within driving distance. And there are usually classes available for anything you can think of, from learning a new language, to sports, to building a fun room for your pet cat.

  16. Got a community college nearby? Take an acting class there. Anything really where you have to interact with the other students will do it. Drawing, writing, stuff where you have to give and take critiques. Gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you focus on the people around you.

  17. @justinmckean: Well, first of all, Dibs!
    Damn you… shakes fist

    @scribe999: Or, build your own social group…robots can never hate you, no matter how much they try to kill you.
    In Bug Girl’s case I imagine her more as some sort of Zerg queen with an army of geneticly engineered horrors doing her every wish. But you never know.

    @Kimbo Jones: I’m in a similar boat
    Well if either of you or Bug Girl make it to my town I volunteer to take you out for a coffee. (disclaimer: my town is in New Zealand :) )

  18. You and Elyse are my two favorite skepchicks (no offense to the rest, I DO love you all) and so it saddens me that you are suffering such angst. For a short term fix, you should come visit New Orleans. Lots of alcohol AND big, frightening bugs! Oh, also? According to a recent survey, we have the biggest penises here. http://condomania.com/rankings Though my wife may have something to say about the results.

  19. @Skept-artist: :) Actually, my friends do the dance thing, I just get dragged into it from time to time. Still, everyone I’ve met has been pretty cool, and it does seem to be a lot of fun.

    I’ve got my gaming groups to fill my evenings. Been gaming with the same people for up to 30 years for the oldsters, 10 years for the noobs. In fact, the Thursday night group is the longest consistent gaming session I’ve ever done. We’re in over 400 sessions without any significant break. Great fun.

  20. @qyiet: I have always wanted to go to New Zealand. I hear your ….insects….are huge!

    And yes, my town is, indeed, ghastly.
    I’ve gone to the closest Skeptics in the Pub (30 miles from me), but it’s the usual suspects–including creepy guy who wants to argue about quantum shit.
    I’m still going, though–the group gets a little more interesting each time. There was actually ONE other girl besides me last time.

    Oh, and the line for bug girl booty calls forms on the left.

  21. It amuses me (now) how often extroverts keep suggesting to “just join a group”, when we introverts are actually asking how to meet people *without* doing exactly that…

    (The irony police can stay home. I already know.)
    BGC

  22. Seems like an odd question to me.. “How is an introvert to meet people?”

    Well, I’m an introvert, and my answer would be that I -don’t- meet new people. Because.. I’m an introvert :P It’s just not my thing.

    I really just roll on my own, and now with my husband. I don’t feel I really need anyone else, which is good because I have a lot of trouble on the social-scale. So a long time ago I decided I just wouldn’t bother. And I’ve been perfectly happy ever since.

    I find people just complicate shit up to be honest. But supposedly not everyone (read: anyone) is like that. Hmm.

    Anyway, despite my introvert nature, I did manage to get married.. and I’ve had my fair share of boyfriends. So obviously I do know how to meet SOME people.. but the answer for me was just “online”. The details behind “where” (what sites, and how) is complex, because it never seems to happen in any one place. I just meet people online, we click, and we meet.

    I guess just keep your mind open as to where you might run into interesting people online. Online groups and blogging utilities, dating sites (which may turn into just good friendships, many people come away from those places with friends even if they don’t find anyone to date), meet-up thingies, online gaming, they’re all potential places to meet people.

    And I’m saying “Online” because -usually- introverts feel more comfortable online. It’s a great place to get to know how someone ticks, you can get a little comfortable with an individual, and it takes away some of the craziness if you choose to meet them in real life. That’s how it’s always worked for me, anyway. And I’ve met a lot of people off the ‘net over the years — it’s seriously been the only way I ever meet -anyone-, probably for a good decade now.

    I actually met my husband on Craigslist. Yeah, even I laugh at that. But it happened and it turned out awesome.

    Anyway, my point is, there’s really no concrete answer to your question. I guess just put yourself out there in whatever capacity you can, and see what comes your way.

  23. @bug_girl: Well I hope your SitP continues to get better or remain worth attending. I had to bail on ours because of some extreme hygiene challenges a couple of regular attendees would not or could not address. I would say most of my friends were met a result of being involved in something. I have many friends from when I attended church two decades ago and they are still good close personal and family friends, not that I’m suggesting going to church. Over the past year I’ve made a number of new friends I’ve met in a community choir I now sing in. Again, not necessarily critical thinkers but bright educated folk and many shared interests including music and singing blues and old rock songs (karaoke) after rehearsals at a bar with good beer on tap. So I’d advocate getting involved in something that is interesting enough to overcome your introverted tendencies where there is a likelihood of other interesting folk being around. I’ve also considred finding out more about CFI to see if I’d want to help get a chapter started in the small college city I live in. And there’s also the outdoors connections that walking, hiking and biking groups provide along with the added exercise!

  24. @bug_girl: I really can’t see any other reasonable option than finding some type of group setting. The trick would be finding one where being an introvert was not a significant hindrance to what the group engages in. Many service groups or volunteer groups would not place an introvert on the spot at all and would welcome the help.

  25. I try to force myself to go to GLBT groups, but if I have a plausible excuse, then I will use it. Mostly, distance. All the stuff is either near my job after work, or near my place during work. It takes me 1.5 hrs to get home, so 8:30 is the minimum I could handle. No one wants to do stuff on the weekend. I know this one guy, not only is he gay, but he’s a WORLD WAR 2 VERTERN. I figure if he put up with the crap that was going on during WWII (granted he was a paper shuffler, but those papers don’t shuffle themselves, plus even state-side, things weren’t sugar and rainbows), then I can take 2 hrs out of my Saturday to pick him up, then we will watch some gay-themed movie, and I’ll take him home. He can’t drive 30 mins before sunset. I guess that’s my civil service.

    But as far as meeting new people….I can’t even get a date. Everyone is either in a relationship, or not looking for one. And when there is someone who is free, and possible interested in me, I don’t know how to flirt without coming off as some kind of creepy stalker guy.

    Sometimes I wonder how some people do it. How can they not only find someone willing to date them, but also swindle them in to marrying. I mean, I’ve got a coworkers who, until I gave her the silent treatment once, would bite my head off all the time. She’s married. Granted she might be heading for a divorce, but she’s made it to home plate. I can’t get out of the dugouts.
    /rambling

  26. I’m in a fairly similar situation, bug_girl. I’ve been separated for three years, officially divorced for two, and dateless for pretty much the entire time. I’ve recently started on OK Cupid trying to meet people, but I’ve got the advantage of being in a city of 2 million.

  27. @bgclo: It amuses me (now) how often extroverts keep suggesting to “just join a group”, when we introverts are actually asking how to meet people *without* doing exactly that…

    I think this is why @Beren’s NaNoWriMo suggestion is so brilliant. It’s not a group per se. It is a bunch of people who independently decide to crank out 50,000 words towards a book in a month. The write-ins (meetups) are in public places like cafe’s and are so casual you often don’t know who is and who is not participating until they introduce themselves. I can only assume some of the folks hanging out with us pounding furiously on their notebooks never worked up the courage. If there was ever a more low-key, non-threatening way to meet people I’ve never heard it.

  28. I can identify… But for the last couple of years I’ve been making a concerted effort to have more social contacts, and these are some of the things I’ve found.

    Is there a park, nature preserve, zoo, bird sanctuary or something else naturey near by? They might have a “Friends of …” type group. The reason I suggest this is there’s a good chance they would be more science/geeky/potentially skeptical than the average random community group and thus easier to talk to. And they would probably love to have their own personal entomologist!

    There’s a park very close to my home (actually it’s a reservoir) which organizes bird walks, invasive plant expeditions (either to identify them or pull them up), nature walks, etc. You don’t have to join, just show up. Eventually, you’ll just automatically get to know most of the regulars, at least by sight. I’ve been doing this sporadically for about a year, and since I go for walks there pretty often, when I see people I recognize from the various organized activities, we say “Hi” and sometimes get into conversations. Well, it’s a start.

    There’s also a terrific an pretty active skeptics group in the next town, that I’ve also been attending pretty often for the last year or so. Unlike your local SitP, there are lots of women attending, so I think you would be much less put off by this group. (I.E., there’s hope!) I’ve gradually got to know about 1/3 or so of the regulars, and virtually everyone that I’ve actually had a conversation with seems really nice, and smart. One the one hand, I wish they weren’t all so young, makes me feel ancient. On the other hand, it is hope for future generations!

    Yet another potential activity… @Danarra: mentions acting at a local community college. If you’re like me, you wouldn’t get on stage for anything, but such groups usually need tech support, set building, painting, costumes, makeup, lighting, props, etc. so there are other ways to join in.

    Good luck!

  29. I am an introvert as well, and you can’t meet people without, well, meeting people. Suck it up and just do what it takes.

    I moved across the country recently to a town where I knew no one. I have joined several social groups through meetup.com (including two that are for women who want to socialize without getting hit on). Not everyone at the group is someone I want to talk to (and sometimes, I don’t know why, they absolutely want to talk to me for hours…), but I choose to attend events where it’s something I wouldn’t hate doing by myself (but don’t actually want to do by myself) — like eating dinner at a restaurant I like, going to a movie I’ve been wanting to see, bowling (join a league?), hiking, etc.

    It’s not easy, but if you don’t put the effort in, you’ll never get to know anyone new.

  30. I am part of a specialized garden club (tree fruit). There are meetings, garden tours and some gatherings. Unlike your garden variety garden clubs, this one has a nice mix of ages and several men.

    Oh, and we are all a bit quirky. I just hung some home made traps for spotted wing drosophilia, using instructions from the club members (a new and serious pest on the west coast, it likes ripening fruit like cherries and raspberries). We like hearing talks about entomology and integrated pest management.

    Our local skeptics meetup group is also fairly diverse (though we did get the quantum physics guy once). But it helps to live in a moderately sized city.

  31. Find something that you selfishly want to do that will incidentally bring you into contact with other people who share that selfish interest for themselves. Then do it.

    For me, I’d find an evening course on a subject that *I* find interesting, then go to that every week. There might be people there with similar interests that I’ll click with. But even if there isn’t, I still went to an evening course that I found to be interesting. Win/win.

    I met my current (small) group of mates when I was at university, so I can vouch for the method.

    For all the other introverted peoples out there, here’s my little pearl of introverted wisdom on this topic.

    Ironically, I always find it easier to meet people I get on with when I don’t try and fight my nature as an introvert.

    My socialization-improvement mantra: Don’t try and use skills you don’t have. Stick to what you’re good at. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re clever, be clever. If you’re outgoing, be outgoing. If you’re shy, be shy. If you’re bookish, be bookish. Emphasize what you are, without shame or hesitation. But most importantly and whatever else you do, don’t try and be what you’re not. You’ll probably just fuck it up. Even if you don’t, it’s only because other people are getting along with who you’re only pretending to be.

  32. Are you on MetaFilter? It isn’t a social networking site, but members often have local meetups. I’ve been to a couple here, and I have really enjoyed the company of all the people I’ve met. MetaFilter tends to attract high quality (super nerdy) people. Also, there’s a $5 fee to join, which really helps weed out the trolls.

  33. Yeah, meeting new people is hard.

    Someone convinced me to join OKcupid, but I find that online dating has the same damn issue as meeting people in real-life, and that’s the fact it all falls on the guy to make the first move and find an interesting opening line. Which puts me right back where I get stuck when I’m at a bar seeing an interesting girl I’d like to be talking to.
    Further more the site keeps suggesting more or less the same dozen girls to me (i.e. there’s not a lot of matches in my area), one of whom I actually already knew in real life before I joined up. If I’m lucky, I may get some friends out of it, but definitely no dates.

    But even though you may not want to hear it, I guess there’s no way around it: the way to meet new people is to go out and meet new people :/
    You just need to tone down your own anxiety about it by making sure you’re doing something you like doing when meeting those new people, so you’ll be relaxed when a conversation starts up.

  34. As an introvert with poor social boundaries, I find I have no problem meeting new people. The trick is that you’ve gotta make sure they blink first; I find it works best to move my face closer and closer until they blink. Do NOT do this to little children as they often carry mace in my town now.

    If the “blink last” method doesn’t work, then I would recommend AGAINST joining a group like from meetup.com. They are filled with weirdos. Instead, go to a coffee shop and start reading a book. It is INEVITABLE that 60% of the people will comment on it. Especially if it is religious, like Calvin and Hobbes. Just lick those people who comment and noone else can take them (people are like pizza slices that way).

    Incidentally, the whole “licking equals mine” policy is NOT enforceable in New Zealand. This is because their insects are so big that they have tongues. You wouldn’t want to be dibsed just because a huge insect licked you a few times, would you?

    (Note for rule mongers: the licking thing only applies to the current layer of epithelium. As soon as you shed what you got, you’re available for re-licking/re-dibsing. Depending on where you are licked, this takes about a month.)

  35. I met my current bf on a dating site that is geared toward geeks called geek2geek. http://www.gk2gk.com. The only negative thing is that it is not free to contact people. I have had some success on the free dating site Plenty of Fish though. http://www.plentyoffish.com/.

    If you’re just looking for friends, I think it’d be useful to find groups you can join in your area such as a hiking or rock climbing group. I would also check out college clubs because sometimes you can join even if you aren’t a student there.

  36. One word: Contradance. Unlike other forms of historical dance it requires no special costume! Each cycle of the dance is only 30 seconds long and the cycle is repeated about 20 times. There is a fairly small set of basic moves (like in Western Square Dancing) so you don’t have to take classes. People usually have a different partner for every dance so you don’t have to bring a partner. The dances are done to jigs and reels played by a live band. There is a caller, like for a Square Dance. The caller will walk everyone through the dance before the music starts, then call for a few cycles of the music. Once everyone has learned the dance the caller can stop calling and the dance continues till the music ends. It’s a great aerobic workout disguised as fun and very social because not only do you get a new partner for each dance, you also dance with a new neighbor every 30 seconds… Like super speed-dating! Try searching for “contradance” and the name of the nearest city. I met my girlfriend at contradancing and know of several married couples who met the same way.

  37. Move to the city.

    After my divorce I moved to a big city and had to force myself to step outside of my comfortable introverted lifestyle in order to make new friends. BUT a city provides many many opportunities for meet-up groups for a ton of interests.

  38. @bug_girl: If your town is ghastly, surely moving to another town is step 1 (provided you’re not dead broke so you can’t afford it). A non-ghastly town is surely a better place for meeting introverts than a ghastly one.

    I suggest Copenhagen, Denmark. Ask Rebecca about it. It’s quite nice and there’s lots of nice people – intro-, extro-, homo-, hetero-, herbi-, carni- and omniverts. We’ve got you covered. I’ll even help you move in! :~D

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