How To Build A Community Full Of Lonely People

by maia1 min read17th May 201715 comments

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Seems to me that we have to distinguish between... uhm... relative and absolute unpopularity.

Relative unpopularity is when no one talks to John, because everyone is busy trying to talk to Elvis instead. In theory, people would prefer talking to John to being alone, but in practice they are overestimating their chances with Elvis, so John remains alone.

This can be improved by giving John a moment in spotlight, e.g. by inviting him to give a short public talk about his hobbies. And by splitting the group into smaller groups, so John no longer has to compete with Elvis directly at every moment.

Absolute unpopularity is when people prefer staying alone to talking to John. This can only be fixed by changing John.

I have massively decreased my social time following my noticing the productive people I am trying to emulate instead get a specific high value density social instead of buckets of exploration social.

I am not sure if fixing lonely is something I want to encourage people to work on instead of the hard problems.

Distinctly social strikes me as reading a newspaper. You can do it every day until you die. Compared to publishing a proof and leaving a legacy in the body of knowledge that we call humanity.

I am not saying ignore social, I am saying remember it's place in the total irrelevance of life's features

If being social means having small talk than it doesn't help with your hard problems but various forms of social interaction do help.

In many fields networking is essential to success. Many people in this community might be more successful if they had better social skills and that requires practice.

Distinctly social strikes me as reading a newspaper.

In many fields networking is essential to success.

These statements do not disagree with each other. If it is necessary to be social, be social. If I worked in a job where knowing what paper-reader attitude is, then I would read the paper. But I wouldn't read the weekend paper for fun.

I would not be encouraging social more than it is necessary. Unless you have a strategy surrounding trying to be in the right place at the right time for serendipitous opportunity.

Even computer programmers who spent the majority of their working output working alone can benefit a lot from having good connections when it comes to finding good jobs.

Finding jobs isn't the only thing were social connection helps. If you have an health issue than it can help a lot if you have a friend who knows a good doctor. If the friend has a personal relationship to the doctor it might mean that you get an immediate appointment instead of having to wait weeks.

I personally don't do social events like board game nights that are basically superficial fun but prefer events with provide additional value, but I think it's a mistake to see social events generally as low value.

Even computer programmers who spent the majority of their working output working alone can benefit a lot from having good connections when it comes to finding good jobs.

People skills have great value for programmers, and finding jobs is a very small part of it. I write this from personal experience.

Programmers are still people. The amount of great software any one person can write in their lifetime is very limited. Teaching or convincing others (from coworkers to the rest of the world) to agree with you on what makes software great, to write great software themselves, and to use it, are the greatest force multipliers any programmer can have, just like in most other fields.

Sometimes there are exceptions; one may invent a new algorithm or write some new software that everyone agrees is great. But most of the time you have to convince people - not just less-technical managers making purchasing decisions, but other programmers who don't think that global mutable state is a problem, really, it worked fine in my grandfather's time and it's good enough for me.

People skills have great value for programmers

Yes, but we didn't disagree on the value of people skills but on the other value social interaction outside of work. You are mostly convincing your coworkers while you are at work and not a social hangouts.

Convincing the rest of the world to adopt programming technique X is more likely done via the internet then through social hangouts.

I think you're mostly right about that, but not entirely. The two realms are not so clearly separated. There are social hangouts on the Internet. There are social hangouts, of both kinds, where people talk shop. There are programming blogs and forums where social communities emerge. And social capital and professional reputation feed into one another.

Spending time on programming blogs and forums isn't what most people label as traditionally as social interaction and I don't think what Eliot meant.

Is there anybody here who thinks they are good at connecting people with shared interests? If so, how did you learn to be good at it? How would you advise others to build that skill?

I'm okay at it. Step 1 is to actually know things about the interests of people. To do that, you have to be reasonably good at one-on-one conversation: asking people open-ended questions, showing genuine interest in them, etc. That's how you find out what they're interested in in the first place.

Once you've done that, Step 2 is just to mention it to each of them when they are both present, especially when you're introducing them. "This is X, they are a professional Y and also like to do Z in their spare time" works well if you already know the other person is interested in Y or Z.

I am +1 on Step 1 being most important and most difficult here.

I would also say I am just okay at it, because connecting with other introverted people is difficult for me and I won't necessarily get far enough into conversation to find out about a lot of people's interests unless they have may in common with me or there's someone outgoing to carry the conversation. (There are many people more naturally inclined to be outgoing who could become amazing at connecting people if they realized that they have tons of this sort of knowledge that other people who are not like them don't obtain.)

But deliberately putting yourself in positions where you're going to learn a lot of things about people helps. Organizing groups, speaking about interesting topics, following everyone and their dog on social media, etc. And then being genuinely interested in them, enough that you remember things about them and they enjoy sharing things with you.

Post a Facebook status saying "hey guys, tell me your interests and I'll connect you if you share some."

I like the idea of spreading popularity around when justified, ie. high status people pointing out when someone has a particular set of knowledge that people may not know that they could benefit from or giving them credit for interesting ideas. These seem important for a strong community and additionally provide benefits to the rest of the community by allowing them to take advantage of each other's skills.

[-][anonymous]4y 2

I've been collecting "cues" that help me do a little better in social situations. Here's a couple nice ones.

1) It seems like part of social anxiety is about feeling that you have a relaxed inner core somewhere, surrounded by a tense shell, and sudden attention from other people is threatening to the core. My "cue" is to feel the part that you're protecting, and make it tense as well. You can even find it by looking in the mirror, if some aspect of your posture or face is saying "don't look at me, I'm slack and not quite here", just make it tense! Bring all of yourself right here! Then the metaphorical knife of other people's attention won't feel threatening anymore, because your inside is just as tough as the outside. It even gets fun to "bump" into people's attention and see how they react.

2) When you feel like other people aren't listening to what you say, the problem is often with your voice. Many people advise working on things like breath support, but I've found it more helpful to focus on the shape of the vowels. A nice exercise is to try making an "ah" sound with different mouth shapes, learning to feel the shape of the vowel that comes out. It's both aural and tactile, you can also make shapes silently and imagine how they sound. Then you can experiment with making the vowel shapes emphasize your words, pretty much ignoring volume and pitch. Somehow it helps me say things that are just spontaneously funny, and even helps me sing more precisely in tune, not sure why.

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