How do you approach the problem of social discovery?

by InquilineKea1 min read21st Apr 201444 comments


Personal Blog

As in, how do you find ways to meet the right people you talk to? Presumably, they would have personality fit with you, and be high on both intelligence and openness. Furthermore, they would be in the point of their life where they are willing to spend time with you (although sometimes you can learn a lot from people simply by friending them on Facebook and just observing their feeds from time to time).

Historically, I've made myself extremely stalkable on the Internet. In retrospect, I believe that this "decision" is on the order of one of the very best decisions I've ever made in my life, and has made me better at social discovery than most people I know, despite my dual social anxiety and Asperger's. In fact, if a more extroverted non-Aspie could do the same thing, I think they could do WONDERS with developing an online profile.

I've also realized more that social discovery is often more rewarding when done with teenagers. You can do so much to impact teenagers, and they often tend to be a lot more open to your ideas/musings (just as long as you're responsible).

But I've wondered - how else have you done it? Especially in real life? What are some other questions you ask with respect to social discovery? I tend to avoid real life for social discovery simply because it's extremely hit-and-miss, but I've discovered (from Richard Florida's books) that the Internet often strengthens real-life interaction because it makes it so much easier to discover other people in real life (and then it's in real life when you can really get to know people).

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You go where the smart people go. Local LW meetups are for example full of cool people. Hackerspaces and QS meetups are also full of people with intelligence and openness.

Historically, I've made myself extremely stalkable on the Internet.

I don't think that's true. You have an image of a bird as your Quora avatar instead of a image of your face. Most people have a better memory for faces than for names.

I have long made an explicit practice of trying to be a social supernode. It pays off, it really does. (Today's example: free Skype speech therapy sessions for my daughter from a friend I haven't seen in a decade, who I met because another online friend had mentioned to her that I was in the same city.)

Can you explain more about how you do this?

Join social networks of various sorts, offline and on. Get to know as many people as you can and interact with them. Have fun interacting with these lovely people. Consider it a task, as you would if you'd just moved to a new city and had to find friends afresh.

But mostly it's something I just do 'cos I'm like that.

Consider it a task, as you would if you'd just moved to a new city and had to find friends afresh.

You might think that it's obvious what one would do when one moved to a new city and had to find friends afresh. There's a good chance that you do things that are not obvious to a lot of people reading your post.

When you say that it pays off, is the main benefit just the pleasure you get from having lots of friends and social interactions, or are there actually substantial tangible benefits? Do you think you could reproduce all the tangible benefits with an extra $10K/year of income, or is it worth a lot more than that? I am curious because I have often felt like people who are good with people and know a lot of people should have a substantial advantage over someone like me, who is terrible with people. But then in practice I don't really see it.

[-][anonymous]8y 8

What is this "social discovery" term? Do you mean just, like, meeting people, networking, and making friends?

I think InquilineKea is using this turn of phrase to draw a parallel to music discovery, or at least that's the association that my mind had

I think that is all that is meant. I think discovery is meant as in the way a laptop finds a network printer on its local network, that is called discovery.

Moving to a big city should also help. Currently I am living in a relatively thinly populated region of a bit less than a million people. Is there material on this, that is choosing the right city for onself? It gets ridiculous how fast choices shrink the more constraints one sets.

Oh yes - definitely! I think the San Francisco Bay Area is best (public transport is amazing, the culture is amazing, there are lots of smart students from Stanford/Berkeley, and people are very tech-oriented).

The Boston area is probably second best, probably followed by NYC. Beyond that, it's harder to find people for social discovery.

Which would need me to relocate from Germany to the United States. Also I hear rent is ridiculous and public transportation atrocious.

SFBA transit is amazing by US standards. Which is still pathetic by yours :/

Bah. The Bay Area is grossly broken compared to Boston, Portland, or a number of other U.S. cities.

It may well be fine in San Francisco, where Muni buses run everywhere — but across the Bay Area?

Decades ago, Santa Clara County opted out of the BART system, thereby dooming Silicon Valley to a lack of proper connectivity. The VTA Light Rail is a pokey joke that takes literally three times as long as driving to get from the end of the line (in Mountain View) to downtown San Jose. And there's a different bus system for almost every county — Muni, SamTrans, VTA, ACTransit.

BART will be extending from Fremont to Milpitas and San Jose in the current plan, but IIRC there's no plan to encircle the Bay by bringing it up from San Jose through the Valley to complete the circuit at Millbrae.

Portland and Boston have the right idea for mass transit in a mixed city/suburb environment: all the mass transit for the whole metropolitan area under a single agency — buses, subways, trolleys, commuter rail, what-have-you. The schedules work and people know how to get around. TriMet and MBTA make a hell of a lot more sense than the hodge-podge that is the Bay Area's transit system.

But then, the Bay Area isn't one metropolitan area. It's three or four, with several different loci of political and economic power. Which makes these things harder to arrange ....

And worse yet, every one of them is full of the sort of people who live in the Bay Area voluntarily. Eep.

(In fairness, the climate is ridiculously nice, and the bulk of the global tech industry living there provides all kinds of benefits. But the politics are just broken beyond repair.)

Yeah, I spaced and forgot about the South Bay. The East Bay is decent, though. Well, the parts I have been to. Which I suppose are only the parts I found it convenient to reach by public transit, so there's a whole lot of sampling bias going on.

When I lived in Boston, I found that there were almost zero situations where it made sense to take transit rather than biking (especially anywhere in the vicinity of the green line!) unless there was a lot of snow, but in SF/Oakland/Berkeley I end up using transit several times a month even ignoring cross-bay trips. This is the source of my gut feeling that (my part of) the SFBA's transit is superior to Boston's.

I'm mostly not very good at this sort of thing. I think it's because outings and coordinating with other people to do things together make me tired, so I set my threshold for trying to make plans with someone pretty high. This is probably a bad thing. Potential solutions would be figuring out how to meet more people who I like enough to want to make the extra effort to spend time with them, or doing things with people even when it doesn't feel worth it to account for social benefits that I tend to forget about.

In what contexts do you (directed at everyone, not just OP) usually meet people? The last time I was in a new city without being in school, I attended the LW meetup group and met some friends of one of my friends through his board game club, and that was about it. I couldn't think of any others that seemed worth it. (I was both living and working an hour from the city center, which probably didn't help with people-discovery.)

[-][anonymous]6y 2

I think you're picking the wrong problem. This doesn't have to be dealt with on the object level. If you're not socially anxious you're social discovery autopilot works fine. One thing that helps me with social anxiety is to visualise myself in the 'close embrace' of Argentine Tango with other people.

I think at some level, social anxiety, particular when it manifests in relation to the opposite sex has to do with misunderstandings about what makes for positive sexual experiences. It's about instinctive interest, awareness and communications of authentic desire to fulfill our drive for autonomy, feelings of competence about what we're doing sexually, and feelings of intimacy, desiredness, loved and respected to fulfill our need to relate to others. When I keep that in mind in non-sexual social settings, I feel myself come in my zone!

I'm part of the swing and blues dance scene in the Baltimore/DC area. There are a lot of nerdy/intellectual types in this scene so there's really no shortage of finding intelligent people to talk to. And the people I know who fit that type isn't limited to Baltimore/DC; I travel around a lot for dancing (Las Vegas, Montreal, London, etc.) and a lot of the same type of people are in the scene internationally.

I've been doing this for about 10 years so I'm also somewhat well connected. There's almost always some dance party to go to on the weekend in some city that I can drive to.

Lot of DC area people in this thread, it seems. Are you near enough that a plug for the DC LessWrong meetup would make sense? If so: consider attending your local DC LessWrong meetup, because we are cool and you are probably cool.

Also, which swing dances do you tend to go to? I have gotten part of our group together to go to the one on U St. a few times.

I've noted this before, but I'll repeat it here: If the DC meetup could even occasionally occur on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Sunday afternoon, then I would probably attend. But you've coordinated on a time that never works for me. It's probably advantageous to always meet at the same time from the standpoint of consistency of attendance by the same people, but if you want to expand the number of people attending at least irregularly, variability in time would likely work better.

Thanks for the feedback! I'll keep this in mind. We sometimes have discussions about changing the structure of meetups, and doing regularly-scheduled day changes might be something to talk about.

I also might be setting up a hiking meetup on a Saturday sometime in the near future; is that something you'd be interested in?

Possibly, but since that would presumably be a longer undertaking, I would need some advance notice to arrange childcare. (Also, if you're referring to the very near future -- I will be away Memorial Day weekend.)

I would like to go to a meetup, but I'm usually out of town on the weekends. One of these days, I'll make it out :)

I usually go to the dances in Baltimore on either Monday or Friday night, and head to DC to dance blues on Wednesday or Thursday. Every now and then I've gone to the swing dance in DC on Tuesday nights (I think that's the one on U. St. called Jam Cellar). There's actually a really big swing dance event this weekend in DC so I'll be around for that.

If so: consider attending your local DC LessWrong meetup, because we are cool and you are probably cool.

That's an amazing plug for a meetup.

Will you be at London Lindy Exchange this year?

Probably not. I used up a lot of my vacation time due to all of the snow earlier this year and I'm going to Brazil next week. I'm attempting to save up some vacation days in time for an exchange in Germany in the fall.

I live in DC and am an instigator of things (mostly theatre outings, debate, etc). That makes it easy to pull someone into my social circle, since there's usually a movie night, play outing, Shakespeare reading I'm hosting withing the next three weeks to invite them too. (And wanting to be invited to that sort of thing is an excellent filter from my end to see that I will like them).

Obligatory plug: If you want to be even more of a social supernode, why not increase your circle by attending your local DC LessWrong meetup? :-):-)

Because it frequently conflicts with previous commitments and often, when I am free, it is playing board games, which I don't enjoy. No knock on those who do (including most of my friends) but I find them unbearably tedious.

Hmm, okay. What types of meetups would you enjoy?

(I'm asking this as a co-organizer. We try to ask people what they want and accomodate to the degree possible.)

What kind of board games do get played at those meetups?

Every 3rd meetup is board games: there's generally dominion, Zendo fairly common, and often one "long" game going on sort of on the side.

I think I'm probably missing some common games that I don't pick as much...

I sort of understand Zendo but what's the point of playing dominion at a LW meetup?

Pretty much just for socializing / fun.

If you are on the extrovert side of the spectrum it may make sense to become an even more connected super-node. And there may be economics of scale when doing everything online.

But if you are an introvert the cost of becomming a super-node may be too high for you personally. I take it that it doesn't suffice to just publish everything online (and 'everything' here appears to include everyday chatter). You have to reply to emails and friend requests and such.

I'm an introvert and I'm trying to become better networked here in LW but that is demanding already. I can't even imagine becoming or being a social center.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

Great question. I am interested in improving the sophistication of my own social discovery engine and aim to make more notes here as I get more proficient.

When I first met this one friend ('L.G') people told me he was unreliable. I didn't see evidence for that and disregarded the vindication of most everyone who had known him, including some of my trusted confidants. Now I have been burned by my naivity and have learned to trust the intuitions of my trusted peers and not to risk my own for those who go out of their way to impress me.

Um. Your links lead to the following sentences:

"That's how I found the right peers (all over the Internet), despite losing all my real-life friends."


"What were Alex K Chen's best decisions of his life? Persuading my parents to finally get me Age of Empires II"


Are you trying to be some kind of internet bully? 'Cause that what it sounds like, and I'm really hoping you meant to communicate something else.

Are you trying to be some kind of internet bully?

LOL. Yes, and I also kick kittens into the traffic as a hobby :-P

But I'll unroll this for you. The OP made some assertions about "made me better" and "one of the very best decisions I've ever made in my life", and provided a couple of links, probably to substantiate these assertions. Unfortunately it seems to me that the content behind these links not only doesn't substantiate these claims, but actually puts into question the judgment of the OP. The quotes in the parent post are precisely what made me doubt the claims about "made me better" as well as the criteria by which the OP picks the best decisions he has made in his life.

It seems to me that since Alex is an expert on his own life, we should give his opinion that good internet peers are more valuable to him than lousy real-life peers very substantial weight. But perhaps someone with a different sort of personality would derive less value from internet peers.

Alex is an expert on his own life

The OP is an expert on the facts of his own life. One of the standard LW lessons is that people tend to suck at evaluating themselves, though.

Hm - thanks for the feedback. I've decided to edit my answers to think them out more (so that they're hopefully more convincing - though they might not be convincing yet). Of course - this is not the goal of rationality. I've just realized that some of my past rationalizations suck.

I am very well aware that people generally suck at evaluating themselves (especially given sunk costs and post hoc rationalizations). But I emphatically assign an extremely high probability to getting AoK as being one of the best decisions of my life ever (some of the other things I've bulleted though - I actually assign lower probabilities to).

we should give his opinion that good internet peers are more valuable to him than lousy real-life peers very substantial weight

Especially if OP has ASD. People are more tolerant of "weirdness" on the internet.