I am a terrible person
Update: Over 50 people showed up at the Colorado Skepticamp meeting today, including Phil Plait, from Bad Astronomy. One of the attendees is writing up a recap that I’ll be posting here soon, along with some photos. Sounds like it was a great event.
Goddamn, I don’t know how I can compete with Elyse’s illustrious post this morning, so instead I’ll throw out a remnant of guilt from my Jewish-Catholic upbringing. Yes, I got hammered with the guilt gene from both sides. Fortunately I managed to escape it for the most part, but every once in a while I do something that still brings attacks of the guilt monsters to the active part of my brain.
I ditched the Skepticamp meeting in Colorado today. I didn’t set my alarm, I slept in, and I decided not to make the 90 minute drive to Castle Rock. It’s even worse than it sounds, because I decided this in advance — I wrote this yesterday.
This is the second time I planned to go and read some excerpts from my book-in-progress, and changed my mind at the last minute. It’s because of the damned “tentative” schedule thing. If the schedule was fixed, I knew people were expecting me, or if I was the only speaker in a specific time slot, I would show up. But the flexibility just lets me off the hook. Plus, well, there’s the whole being anti-social thing.
I know a lot of skeptics are friendly, outgoing people who love to get together to eat, drink, and talk skepticism. But I am not one of them. I like to stay home or go out to a cafe by myself and read. Once or twice a month I like to have coffee or see a movie with friends. And that’s about all the social interaction I require. I know I’ll have fun if I get out in public and actually show up at one of these events, but I also know that I usually back out of social obligations at the last minute because I decide I’d rather stay home with Mr. WriterDD and watch DVDs or, well, just do nothing. I’m tempted to ditch my writers’ critique group every single month, and I even think about calling in sick when I’m scheduled to teach knitting classes, but I don’t do that because they’re expecting me and people have paid to attend. Maybe this is also why I really stopped going to church in the early 1990s — I just got tired of going out and smiling and talking to people.
At any rate, I’m sure everyone is having a wonderful time and I probably would have had a better time if I’d gone, because now I’ll just sit here all day feeling like a heel. At least I’ve confessed.
So, Oh Skepchical Priestesses, what’s my penance?
I’m sure you’re not a terrible person.
I’m almost exactly the same way. I was a pastor’s kid, and slowly left the orbit of the church. I wonder if anyone’s studied social difficulties among the formerly religious, because it seems so common. It’s hard to explain to people who didn’t have that experience just how it makes you feel. It’s like being under surveillance; even if no one sees you sin, you’re going to be grilled about how “you’re doing spiritually.”
Don’t worry about it. Your writing’s great, and you’ll do fine next time.
I’ve been an atheist my whole life, and I’m just like that. I procrastinate all the time, on all levels. I won’t do a thing unless I’m under a strict deadline; I won’t show up for an event or a meeting unless other people depend on me (like meeting one friend for a coffee, or teaching a class).
Whatever it is, it’s not religion.
It’s cool. I forgive you… Of course, I’m in Texas, so I didn’t miss anything by you not going, but stil, it’s the thought that counts, right?
You’re not a terrible person! You are recharging yourself, which in the long run makes you a better writer, so you’re actually doing them a favor. (Nice rationalization, no?) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a day off if you don’t feel like being in company, and I would do it far more often if I had the option.
I would be very interested in this too. I am also a former pastor’s kid (I’m still his kid, he’s just not a pastor any more), and my sister and I had an interesting conversation about this. We have always both been very good in social situations, and I always viewed her as a very typical extrovert — lots of energy, lots of friends, does great with lots of people around her. I am more introverted, but up until a few years ago I always was very good at being gracious and kind around a lot of people.
The other day I said something to her about being an extrovert and she said, “Actually, I’m not.” We compared notes and realized that we had both always been introverts naturally, but as preachers’ kids in a small church where we were expected to behave in a certain way, we never had the option of being introverts. When it turned out that my infant was autistic and he needed a VERY structured world for a while, I dropped out of almost every social commitment I had and lost most of those skills. My sister’s experience with cancer rubbed off most of her veneer of PK niceness, and she made some similar discoveries about her natural inclination toward solitude.
I think it can be a good thing to be pushed out of your comfort zone and into a community, but I would be interested to see how many formerly religious people have a difficult time with that transition after leaving the church. I sure am.
(Sorry for the minor thread hijack, dd.)
No need to apologize. That’s a very interesting idea. I actually am writing a section in my book where I prayed and prayed to become an extrovert because my “shyness” was so painful to me, particularly so after I became more pious.
I don’t think you’re terrible, you’re just like many of the rest of us. I do the same thing all the time and I’m sure a bunch of people on this site would say the same. I can certainly see how the tentative schedule plays into ditching. If I wasn’t obligated to go to such a gathering I probably wouldn’t show. No matter how fun such things sound, especially if I’m going alone the hassle of meeting people and getting around always seems overwhelming.
At any rate, I think you’re penance should be to post another excerpt from your book here. You didn’t share it at Skepticamp so share it here. I’m really looking forward to the book, so how about another taste?
Other People? Ick! That’s why all MY friends live in the computer!
I never could understand why, in prison, solitary confinement is considered a “punishment.”
You missed a good time!!
Don’t feel like you need to apologize for being an introvert, writerdd. I would hazard a guess, based on my totally unscientific personal experience, that there is a strong overlap between skeptics and introverts. At least, I would bet that most skeptics are introverts, although the opposite may well not be true.
The willingness (or at least desire) to call people out on their bullshit would not seem to be a likely trait for an extrovert.
Don’t even get me started on the overlap between skeptics and Libertarians! Uff da!
writerdd != libertarian
I’m exactly the same way. It’s quite nice to know that I’m not the only one who would rather stay home doing nothing with their Mister. I think we make plans maybe 4 times a year to go out, and end up flaking on at least 2 of those 4 things.
This is way cool! We could all not get together and not do stuff socially as a community!
How many of us here are like this, after all?
Mind you, I really DID want to go to Rebecca’s talk in NYC last month. I just would’ve skipped out early when the carousing started.
Sorry– I’m just a little “socially avoidant.”
I don’t mean anything by it.
I wish we had some skeptical gatherings around here to avoid…
So funny… I almost don’t want to post this, because I’m not proud of the fact that I’m a social scaredy-cat who has to pep-talk myself into any and all social settings, but such are the facts. I make about 25% of the things I SHOULD go to. I was so proud of myself for making it to Skepticamp, and more than a little ashamed and regretful that I shot out the door the moment it was over for fear of having to make small-talk. Alas, I also lost a temp. bridge during the Rocky Mt. Paranormal presentation and really DID feel the need to hurry home and cry, call my dentist, and shovel mouthfuls of Motrin in my gullet until the pain subsided. I wish I’d had a chance to meet Phil Plait. I’m going to blame my dental work, not my timidity, if I’m ever asked. Y’all won’t tell, right?!
I enjoyed the event, and while I understnad your anti-social tendencies (because I normally share them), I did miss the chance to hear your talk. Maybe next year!
See, what would be really cool is if some really organized and computer-literate person like that Rebecca Watson chick could figure out some way to use the internet so we could all sit antisocially at home in our pajamas but still be able to talk to each other online about issues of common interest … ;)
Now why didn’t I think of that? We should really pressure her to come up with summat.
Here’s some proper sciency cool plushies http://www.particlezoo.net/index.html
Perhaps your punishment for being naughty and ditching your social appointments could be to knit a few gluons ;)
Thank you for this post, I love hearing confessions….
But I gotta ask “What’s your goal?” Do you want to change or not?
You’ve admitted that your shyness is a problem. Good.
But also seem to imply that you’re an introvert and cannot change. Is this a defensible position? What does the science(!) of psychology tell us?
*Behavior change often proceeds changes in attitudes and feelings.*
Therefore, if you want to be less shy……. simply act in a more extraverted way whenever possible. The more you do it the easier it will become …. and eventually the inner feelings will catch up.
It’s not easy. You may never be as out-going and social as Rebecca Watson. Not many people can be.
So, is this the response were you hoping to get from our comments?
No, I don’t want to change. No you can’t stop being an introvert.
You can become less shy and more at ease in public situations — I teach knitting classes and I also teach workshops and give lectures at writer’s conferences and other events all the time. I always enjoy them and I am not afraid of public speaking.
I just get the “I’d rather stay home” blues right before an event. If I don’t have to go, I stay home. If I have to go, I go and I almost always have a wonderful time.
I do get drained in public, and I need solitary time to renew my energy. That’s really what makes me an introvert rather than an extrovert. Extroverts need socialization to rev their engines.
If you met me in pubic you would have no idea that I am an introvert.
I wasn’t looking for any response really. Just feeling guilty since I’d told some people I was planning to go to this event and I changed my mind at the last minute. :-)
writerdd, next time contact me. Maybe we can rideshare. That would have been nice.
chelseagirl19, I’m not some sort of radioactive carrier of smallpox. Just walk up to me. I’m easy to talk to. :-)
Aw, you’re not a bad person, writerdd! I do wish you had made it to represent, but I definitely understand. I often get that introverted feeling before going out, and it’s a real effort for me to push past it and get out there. I hope next time you take up the B.A.’s offer and carpool . . . then you’ll have to go and you’ll love it.
I generally don’t point out typos, but this one was just too good to pass up. ;)
Typo — Oy! :-)
It made me laugh … and after this morning’s church service, I needed a good laugh! :(
“I often get that introverted feeling before going out, and itâ€™s a real effort for me to push past it and get out there. ”
Rebecca, I know I’m not really a bad person. My original title was “I am a shit head” but after Elyse’s topic, I decided I shouldn’t call myself profane names. (But then I went and blew it by talking about being pubic.)
B.A., thx. I’ll email you next time Skepticamp comes around. Three strikes and all…
Quick, somebody find me a psychologist. What i need is an operational definition of what an “introvert” is. The word must not mean what i think it means when…
Rebecca can call herself an introvert (“I often get that introverted feeling before going out….”) Anxiety? maybe. Introverted? maybe not.
And writerdd can say “If you met me in public you would have no idea that I am an introvert.” If in public you act like an extravert, isn’t that a pretty good definition of being an extravert? Most introverts, i would guess, in public look and act introverted.
what am i missing?
I think it’s about how you feel: if you are energized by solitude, you are an introvert; if you are energized by people and social situations, you are an extrovert.
How you look on the outside to others can be an act, and has nothing to do with your actual state of being.
According to an online dictionary I checked:
Extrovert = Noun. or a person concerned more with practical realities than with inner thoughts and feelings
Introvert = Noun. a person who tends to shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts
Or, to put it another way, extroverts tend focus on things outside of the self, while introverts tend to focus on their internal states. At least, that’s how I understand and use the words. Introversion is not the same thing as shyness, although the two are often present in the same person.
What Donna said. Although I was going to put it differently. To me, an introvert is someone who feels drained by social situations, rather than being energised by solitude.
Apparently, I’m both an introvert and a pessimist. ;)
Kristine has a good post about what it’s like to be an introvert. So it’s awkward phraseology, perhaps, to say that one gets an “introverted feeling”, but the statement does make sense.
One of the spiffy and unappreciated ideas behind skepticamp is that it provides skeptics a range of opportunities to participate and grow. At its most basic, it caters to the guy in the back row who is new to skepticism and provides a path to get to the next level. If it works as we hope, it’ll be a crucible to mint seasoned experts on skeptical topics.
The next skepticamp that we organize in Colorado will be in Boulder, or as close to writerdd’s house as any restraining orders will permit.
Joshua, that’s an excellent post by Kristine. Thanks for the link!
writerdd, I’m fascinated by your post. My own introversion used to bother me a lot, until I read a book called “Introvert advantage” by Marti Laney. Her position is exactly that summarized by Joshua: that when introverts get fatiqued we have to go off and live in our own heads for a while.
I also learned that introversion is _not_ the same as shyness. Shyness is a failure of courage in social situations , which is easilly overcome through experience. This distinction nicely made in Kristine’s article.
Another point made by Kristine and addressed at length by Laney is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being introvert, and there is no point in forcing yourself to be jolly it up in other people’s company when you don’t feel like it. I think this was the most important lesson. I always used to feel guilty about sneaking away from parties early, but now I stay for as long as I enjoy it and then go home and don’t give a toss; and I’m certainly not a terrible person for it.
Up the introverts! (Just make sure you don’t have too many at your party, unless it’s a party of two).
Well, now there’s an interesting thought. Don’t call me out on all the logical leaps I’m about to make, because I’m just assuming that somebody else would do all the relevant scientific studies to fill in the gaps. ;)
But, what if … what if introverts are more likely to marry each other than they are to marry extroverts? And what if introverted couples are more likely to have small families or no children at all, just to keep the noise down? Would introverts, then, be our ecosystem’s way to help control the population boom?
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I am sleep-deprived, very slightly hungover, and going slightly bonkers from the prospect of nine days of spring break with two squabbling children, and the above hypothesis is errant nonsense.
“Introvert” like many scientific terms has evolved. There are many differing definitions out there. In my search for an “operational definition” i found this APA news release:
How a person ranks on “social reward sensitively” is a testable definition of the extraversion-introversion continuum.
According to this study (Lucas 2000), i learned that ” …..extraverted participants did not spend any more time in social situations than introverted participants….” Wow, i didn’t expect that.
This cross-cultural study of the extraverted personality ” indicates that extraverts find social situations more rewarding than introverts, not because they are more sociable, but because [extraverts] are more sensitive to the rewards inherent in most social situations.”
These social rewards include “warmth, affection and close emotional bonds.”
Science has made me wary of accepting definitions based solely on the feelings and intuitions of any particular individual. (Even a sincere skepchick… sorry.)
So a good definition, for me, has to be operational. That is, the concept under discussion has to be linked to an observable measurable event.
Thus, a good definition of “introversion” has to quantify something about that person that is accessible to observers. I’m open to criteria other than what the study proposed.
But without a clearer definition we really are just talking past one another.
i hope this explains why i question our collective understanding of what an introvert is.
I don’t see how this definition is any different than what was said above.
More to the point, it doesn’t really add any objective criteria. rick’s definition is still rooted in the perception of the person involved. By the very study cited, there isn’t any objectively observeable external difference between the two groups. So there’s still not an “operational” definition based on something “accessible to observers”.
Yes, it is okay to rely on the perceptions of the person involved if what we are asking people to measure is explicit enough. It would probably be better to ask an independent observer, but if our criteria is non-ambiguous enough then i’ll accept self-reporting. But if the criteria is vague, self-reporting is untrustworthy.
For the study i cited, it’s findings were replicated in 39 other countries. This is additional evidence that the “operation definition” it offers is promising. One problem psychology (as a young science) seems to have is that different definitions of “introversion” haven’t reliably classified people the same way.
Right now we have several possible definitions:
For instance we might say people with more social contacts are “extraverts,” those with less are “introverts.” Unfortunately, the data doesn’t support this.
-an introvert is “a person who tends to shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts.”
-“introverts tend to focus on their internal states”
-“introvert is someone who feels drained by social situations.”
-introverts are “energized by solitude.”
-introverts are “less sensitive to the warmth, affection and close emotional bonds inherent in most social situations.”
So if you wanted to be sure everyone’s meaning was as close as possible when they used the term… and i assume you do… what definition would you use?
(Or suggest your own.)
OK — I’m still sleep-deprived, slightly hungover, and I have spent the last 15 minutes arguing with an autistic 5-year-old over a pair of socks, so bear with me if I’m a bit scattered here. ;)
I hear what you’re saying, Joshua, as far as only putting credence in that which can be objectively observed, if I understand you correctly. However, I also see dd’s point about the definition she gave being basically the same as the one you gave, and that raised another question for me.
I am somewhat new to the whole concept of skepticism as an organized school of thought, but there are pockets of my thinking that have always been 24-carat skeptical, and personality analysis is one of them. It’s ALL subjective, because the data itself is so difficult to obtain in an objective manner. Much of it is obtained from people’s answers about themselves on personality tests (the Myers-Briggs test comes to mind). The rest of the data would by definition have to come from the observations of an outside observer (who may or may not be well enough acquainted with the subject to correctly analyze their behavior). Even tests which include the observations of a significant other are likely to be clouded by that person’s personality type, the couple’s relationship, the mood they’re in at the moment, all kinds of basically untrackable variables.
That said, I don’t hold with the viewpoint that personality analysis is an unmitigated crock. I think it has some useful things to say about people and how they interact, and while the generalities it produces may not be always accurate about everybody, it can still be a useful tool for both self-analysis and understanding how and why people interact with each other the way they do.
So, my question (and yes, there is a point to this) — just HOW objective does the analysis have to be before a skeptic considers it reliable? In a field like personality analysis (and much of psychology) where so much of the data is self-reported, can we handle a certain amount of subjectivity and still accept the conclusion, or does it all have to be as concretely quantifiable as a reproducible chemistry experiment?
This is not a rhetorical question, by the way — I don’t know my answer to it completely, and I am curious to see if anyone else has thoughts on this.
Well, if you want a good definition, I’d say, look to the roots. What the words were invented to mean is that the introvert is drawn inwards, which the extravert is drawn outwards. Where is your focus inclined to fall? Within yourself or externally?
Improbable Bee, I agree with your assessment about the personality tests and so forth. I’m thinking about writing a post on this topic, since it apparently is as interesting to a lot of readers as it is to me.
Regarding skepticism, I’m not really all the way onboard with that movement or ideology myself. I try to base my ideas and opinions on verifiable evidence, but I am not so tied down to logic that I can’t pay attention to my personal experience and emotions as well.
I think a lot of skeptics are so analytical that they forget that we’re humans, and humans are not entirely rational beings. That’s just something we have to live with. I, personally, would rather remain human than try to be a vulcan. I’ve written about this here several times in the past.
And the endless discussions about what words mean just make me yawn. It’s so annoying. I think all those definitions that rick listed say exactly the same thing. I don’t see what the big deal is.
Except I think introverts are more sensitive to all that stuff in social situations, which is why they get burned out by it . That’s what it feels like to me, anyway.
I concede that “objective” is a problematic concept. But before you say that “everything is subjective” (a skeptical no no.), i’d suggest you look into “intersubjective.”
I may be wrong but what you suggest sounds like “essentialism.” Another no no.
In my opinion, scientist hi-jack words like “theory” and define them in their own special way. They may even twist them so they are nothing like how the layman uses it. That’s okay. I don’t think most people use the term “introvert” as Jung used it. i certainly don’t. And i think that is a good thing. Definitions should be open to revision until the scientific community reaches consensus.
Thus, i’d advise us specifically not to “look to the roots” but find the most robust current operational definition.
i understand myself to be a “science-loving skeptic.” i readily concede that there are other types of skeptics. i’m glad of that. Hopefully, we can learn from each other. (And by the way, i’m just as human as the next skeptic. No vulcan blood here.)
No, I’m just saying that if we plan on using words from other languages to sound scholarly, we should bloody well use them correctly, otherwise, we look foolish. Proudly and incorrectly using Latin is a longstanding tradition among pseudointellectuals (particularly lawyers – sorry to any lawyers out there, but it’s true), but maybe we should rethink trying to redefine them, and go back to making up new words instead… Or at least deciding on what we’re talking about beforehand, then finding an existing word that fits rather than doing it all backwards. Just a suggestion.
Sorry if i’m explaining myself poorly.
Think of it this way. An operational definition is a recipe.
Say i want a Black & Tan (a beer blend.) A knowledgeable bartender will pour me half stout, half pale ale. Ideally, in layers with the pale ale on the bottom. Here, we both agree on the “definition” so we don’t need to examine it. Everybody’s happy.
Now imagine i ask a rookie bartender for a Black & Tan but he just gives me a blank stare. To get what i want, i’ll need good definition. But let’s imagine i’m really drunk and can only offer these vague directions:
-Mix two beers. One is a stout.
-Mix a dark colored beer and a lighter beer.
These are bad definitions. Why? Not because i won’t ever get a Black & Tan. i’m sure sometimes i will. They are bad because i could get something else instead. These instructions won’t reliably get me a Black & Tan from a novice bartender. By following these vague instructions i may get a Blacksmith (stout & smithwick,) Half & Half (stout & lager,) Black & Blue (stout & blue moon,) or something else.
To over-explain. i felt that we weren’t all using the term “introvert” in the same way. But the actual term was less interesting to me than “how do we agree on what a word means.” So i offered my thoughts on how skeptics, following the methodology of science, could address this challenge. Maybe i was at cross purposes trying to define “introvert” and explain why we need “operational” definitions.
Right, but it’s not a group of people arguing over what “Black & Tan” means, we already know what it means, you just need to explain it to the people who don’t know. Now imagine a bunch of psychologists standing around saying that the definition doesn’t fit their needs and trying to work out a new one. In the end, you might wind up with something completely unassociated ith what it was intended to mean.
This thread went to a bunch of useless shit real fuckin’ quick.
Yes, it is okay if a bunch of psychologist’s create a completely new definition of word. That’s how scientist’s use terms. First they see a need for a term like “extravert” but they may only have a general idea how to properly define it. Later researchers continue to re-define the term until consensus is reached.
Not all terms survive. Some terms like “n-rays” ultimately get rejected.
Most terms get redefined away from the layman’s usage. Like “theory.”
To continue with my example:
Let’s say that everybody agrees that “Black & Tan” should be on the menu. We have already printed the menus. But there is confusion. Not everybody agrees that “Black & Tan” should refer to a stout & pale ale. Let’s pretend that the majority of beer drinkers demand that a “Black & Tan” should be a stout & lager. Now, If a “scientific consensus” forms and wants now to define a “Black & Tan” as a stout & lager than the definition is updated. The original definition doesn’t matter.
Don’t believe me?
i’m sorry if skeptics debating how to apply the scientific method is “useless shit” to you. :(
Bad example. Let’s instead pretend the majority of beer drinkers are just fine with the definition of black and tan, but some chemist says that it doesn’t make a lick of sense to define it that way because it’s impossible to perfectly describe a stout from a chemical standpoint (or somesuch issue), and so decides to redefine it in a way that fits his personal ideas of the chemistry involved. he teaches a few students this new definition, and they all start putting together a paper on the subject. Testing shows the new definition is unworkable, but leads them off on a tangent from which arises yet a third definition, which seems to work. Ten years later, a flaw is found and a new team of chemists work out a new definition. This goes on for a while and eventually, chemistry defines “Black and Tan” as grape Kool-Aid, and chemists protest over and over that drinkers in a bar have got it all wrong.
The chemists are clearly and demonstrably wrong, though they will never admit it. “black and tan” started out with a perfectly workable definition within the confines of its intended use. If chemists find this inadequate to their purpose, the should make up a new word for what they need, not redefine it to mean grape Kool-Aid. That causes nothing but confusion, and gets the children of chemists into trouble at school for asking the teacher if they can have a Black and Tan with their snack today.
In common usage a “theory” is pretty much a guess or an opinion. It is often the opposite of a fact.
Not so in science. “In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation” (wikipedia)
Now we have both a layman’s usage and a scientific usage of the term. This causes nothing but confusion.
Complaining that it “shouldn’t” be way won’t help.
We agree that the average speaker of english started out with a perfectly workable definition of the word “theory” within the confines of its intended use.
By your example, you say “…If [scientist’s] find this inadequate to their purpose, they should make up a new word for what they need, not redefine it to mean [A coherent statement or set of statements that attempts to explain observed phenomena.]”
Maybe that’s how it “should” be, but that’s not the world we live in.
Maybe it would be easier if scientist’s used the term “theoryness” instead of “theory.” But they don’t.
btw: i stand by my “Black & Tan” arguments. I still think they are valid for describing how scientist’s define their terms.
When was “That’s just the way it is” a good reason to stand by watch something stupid happening? I could throw around a million extreme eaxamples to invoke an emotional response, but I’m not going to. I’m just going to say “The way it is” is NEVER a good enough reason to let something be. “The way it should be” is ALWAYS a good enough reason to try to change something. Odds of me ever changing it by myself: 0. Odds of it ever changing while most people stand around and say “that’s just how it is”: 0. Odds of it changing if people see the difference between “is” and “should be” and instead of defending “is” try to implement “should be,” even if only in their own personal life: Better than 0.
I rest my case.
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