Social Science is Not a Science

As I have previously mentioned, I may have some social problems that I should deal with. You know those personality tests that ask you how you would react among a group of people that you either know or don’t know. I lie on those tests. When I look at a question like that, I wonder how I would have placed myself in such a situation and how quickly I might be able to find a way out. I feel abnormally uncomfortable in large groups of people and I honestly don’t know why.

The resulting anxiety that occurs when I am thrust into such a situation causes a feeling not unlike claustrophobia. I have that too by the way. I never knew until one day in Elementary School some friends and I decided to go down the enclosed twisting slide. I was the fourth out of about eight to go down, and the punk kid who went first decided it would be funny to securely lodge himself at the bottom of the slide, causing one stinky child after another to queue up in the polyurethane death-trap. It was all fun and games for the first minute or so. Then something happened. Perhaps it was the summer sun seeping through the red slide. Perhaps it was one of the several issuances of gas that were thought to make the ordeal even more humorous. Somewhere around the third minute, I began asking that the kids remove themselves—the fun was over. I received no response and so my request began to be more determined. Then, at about three minutes and 45 seconds, something snapped in my head. I began to scream and flail my arms and legs wildly. I kicked the kid below me several times in the head, but that did nothing to remove the two kids in front of him. I decided I would have better luck forcing the kids above me to move. I crawled over the first kid so that we essentially traded places on the death slide. At this point, the children were realizing the rampage that they were about to deal with. They scrambled away up the top of the slide like river salmon trying to escape a claustrophobic Grizzly bear. They made it out, but the smiling brat at the top of the slide refused to yield. I warned him, or at least I thought I did though I may very well have been screaming incoherently. I immediately lowered my fist into the freckled kid’s groin. His entire body tightened up and his eyes rolled back into his head. He slowly slid away from the entrance to the slide down towards the dammed end while I climbed away to safety.

Not every anxiety-inducing social situation can be as easily resolved as with a swift punch to the junk. Believe me, I know. My wife, who is a Monarch of social butterflies, seems to have no problems at the social events we attend. I firmly believe that if I did not marry her, I would be sitting alone in a studio apartment playing World of Warcraft whilst wiping the grease from the pork rinds onto my ironically worn wife-beater undershirt. Every day. But, Miranda often forces me into natural sunlight and speaks to people at parties on my behalf. She will even call my family members to invite them to family events so that I don’t have to call them. Come to think of it, I might have married her so that I wouldn’t have to speak to any other girls again.

Before working as a writer, I worked at jobs where I was effectively by myself the entire workday. This was a perfect environment for someone with my given condition as I could avoid the general populous for extended periods of time. After I started my current line of work, I had to learn how to slowly adapt to being around people, like astronauts acclimating themselves to a change in gravitational pressure. For the most part, I have survived. Most of this survival I can attribute to a new facet of social life that had previously been unknown to me. I sit at a computer all day and, we are allowed and even encouraged to search the internet at times in order to inspire our budding creativity. I have used these creativity incubating sessions to watch videos of pandas sneezing on YouTube, to search articles on Wikipedia involving everyone who has the name Cameron Smith (go Melbourne Storm!) and learning about indie bands that are so indie that no one else knows about them but me.

Beyond these diversions, however, there is a new fascination that is sweeping the “inter-web” called Social Networking. Enough jokes have been written regarding these sites: namely Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, WheresMyMommy, TongueShare, and PeopleBruiser. Everyone seems to be in on these jokes as well. We all hate these sites and can’t believe that this is the new way people communicate with each other, but how many times have you checked your Facebook since you started reading this article? Really? That’s what I thought. Like heroin, social networking is highly addictive and can make you feel like you are the most popular person in the world, only to bring you to the point where you are waking up in a gutter begging for someone to take you home. Also, social networking is most effective when liquefied in a spoon.

I joined Facebook soon after I was hired as a writer. I have since collected numerous “friends”. Sometimes, these are people from high school that may or may not have beaten me up. Sometimes, they are people who I work with but have never spoken to once. Sometimes, they are people that grew up around the corner from me and now are listed under a different gender. There are missionary companions, ex-girlfriends, siblings, siblings’ siblings, and people who happen to have very high point levels on Mafia Wars. These, I am proud to call my friends.

What is fantastic about social networking is that it combines two words that I completely disdain and creates something entirely new that I hate myself for kind of liking. I have some sites bookmarked and I check them frequently. Who knew that that girl that I think was a grade older than me and maybe hung out with my best friend’s sister was suffering from post-partum depression after having her fifth child? I love reading Billy’s three recurring status updates: “is working.” “is almost done with work.” “is going to bed.” Fascinating stuff. I revel at the opportunity to know 25 things about your life I did not otherwise know or want to know. I desperately desire to be poked by a sheep.

I have been rather unsure about social networking as of late. This is in part because of the inordinate amount of time that I spend each day checking my profile, only to find that no one has commented on anything that I have done. A thinly veiled plea for help disguised as a status update has gone unnoticed. My posted video of that sneezing panda has not brought so much as a “cute =)” comment my way. These are my Facebook friends and some friends they are. They are too busy blogging or tweeting or skidooshing to see what I am doing on a minute by minute basis. Maybe this is why I am so comfortable with this new brand of socializing—I don’t have to socialize with anyone. Instead of a gigantic room filled with friends constantly trying to assert their social superiority over me, this is more of a small studio apartment strewn with empty bags of pork rinds that only receives an occasional phone call from my mother or somebody wanting to give me an oddly named plant for my little green patch. Actually, this room feels a little too small, almost like the red plastic walls are closing in. Get me out of here or someone is getting hit in the groin.