This is the final part of my nerd trilogy. We have talked about nerd-guys and nerd-girls. This post asks what is to be done with them.
The traditional places for meeting people seem to favor more extraverted types. Bars, clubs, and larger parties are all good hunting grounds. A cynical introvert would say this is because those mean (and more numerous) extraverts set the rules to favor themselves. A gamester theorist might theorize that the rules are set by the most socially dominant; bars and clubs are popular because that is where the “cool” people go (and everyone else wants to be like them and be with them). While there is merit to both arguments, I think the answer is that these venues offer a desirable mix of, lack of ambiguity, plausible deniability, and some degree of anonymity.
Lack of Ambiguity
Everyone knows what everyone else is looking for. When a conversation starts between a man and woman, both parties are clear where it might end. The man will not approach if he is not attracted; the woman will not continue if she is not attracted.
In other situations, either party might consider the conversation just polite chit-chat. Such mix ups lead to embarrassment.
Nobody wants to explicitly admit to not having someone. So the girls head out to “dance and have fun.” The guys head out to “have a few beers and be with buddies.” This allows everyone maintain the fiction of disinterest. If you go home alone, you can always remind yourself of the stated reason for heading out (“dance” or “buddies”), and ease the pain of failure.
Some Degree of Anonymity
While not perfectly anonymous (your friends know you) any failure is less visible than other places. There is a lot of activity and most people are more concerned with themselves than you. Next time you go, there will be different people that will not have seen (and judged you on) your earlier failure.
Now compare the types of places introverts might meet (or be advised to try). They will less crowded, may feature an existing social set, and will probably center on something other than meeting people (e.g., lectures, book clubs).
The problem is these situations have high ambiguity: is he talking to me because he interested in my views on the lecture or because he is hitting on me? Is that an IOI or is it just interest in my opinion? It is not clear what are polite conversations and what are seductions.
While seduction is implicit in the bar and club scene, at some point it must be made explicit in the conversational scene. At some point one or other has to make their intentions clear. This where the potential for discomfort arises as there is no plausible deniability. Once seductive intentions are out in the open, the third disadvantage becomes obvious. Any failure is more public. Next week the same people will be here, an approach to someone else may now look like desperation.
So the question remains: Introverts, what will we do with them?
Speed dating probably comes close. Although far from ideal, it does offer lack of ambiguity and some degree of anonymity. It badly lacks plausible deniability. The structure does rely less on immediate glib charm and thus gives “deeper” types a better chance (normal rules of attraction still apply, of course). Perhaps there is a better alternative.