SSC Discord Server at https://discordapp.com/invite/gpaTCxh ; Schelling point for discussion is Wed 10 PM EST

Friendship Is (Still) Countersignaling

Related: Friendship Is Countersignaling

When I was in high school, I was terrified of people asking me to do things with them. Usually they were things I didn’t like, and I’d want to say no, but I’d be worried I was offending them, or that I was looking like this total loser who was never willing to do anything fun.

The situation got much worse if it went on to personal questions, because I might have to reveal I wasn’t as cool as everyone else. Like if I kept refusing invications to do stuff, and someone asked what I did like to do in my spare time, I would have to admit it was a combination of playing Civilization 2, modding Civilization 2, and posting on Civilization 2-related forums. Or if someone asked me who my friends were, I might have to admit I didn’t have very many. I came up with so many clever excuses for avoiding these sorts of conversations, and so many mumbled half-answers that managed to accurately communicate “go away go away go away I can’t think of a non-scary answer right now”.

Meanwhile, now I encounter the same sorts of issues at work and I usually handle it like this:

CO-WORKER: Hey, we’re going to go golfing after work? You want to join us?

ME: Oh, thanks, but I don’t like doing things.

CO-WORKER: Really? Nothing? What do you do in your free time?

ME: Really. Nothing. I sit alone in my room all day quietly.

CO-WORKER: You’ve got to have friends!

ME: Oh, no. I don’t have friends. That sounds waaaay too complicated.

CO-WORKER: But there must be some stuff you like!

ME: Nope! Sorry, I hate everything!

The weird thing is that this has actually made me kind of popular, a combination of people respecting my honesty and assuming that I’m covering up for some kind of super fascinating life I’m not telling them about.

Part of me wishes I could tell 16 year old me about this and save him years of terrified mumbling and phobia of social interactions.

Another part is pretty sure it wouldn’t help. The only reason I’m psychologically able to make this work is that I feel okay about myself socially. I have a lot of people I know and like, I feel like I have developed some decent social skills, and the people at my work know I’m not a total loser because I do good patient care a lot of the time. I feel like if all the evidence (both internal as in my own thoughts, and external as in my friends’ observations) pointed to me actually being a loser, then me giving loser-ish answers to questions would be taken a very different way and would not be socially possible for me.

In other words, I am able to countersignal social skills and being an okay person, but only because I have, through noncountersignally methods, brought myself to a place where me countersignaling was more likely than taking things totally straight.

This reminded me of the oft-maligned dating advice to “just be yourself”.

A lot of people have analyzed this in a lot of different ways, usually not very kindly.

My thought is that being yourself is a form of countersignaling. If you are able to conspicuously not make any effort to impress your date, but still seem like an okay human being – like someone who knows they can afford to not impress their date, rather than someone who’s too unimpressive to impress them even when they’re trying – then being yourself is a pretty good strategy.

On the other hand, using this as actual dating advice for people who are bad at dating is a terrible idea. It would be like me telling 16-year-old-me to use the “I sit in a room all day and do nothing” set of conversational responses. I would be eaten alive.

Depending on how many layers of signaling/countersignaling there are on a given topic, the appropriate advanced-level advice might be suicide for beginners, and vice versa.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

169 Responses to Friendship Is (Still) Countersignaling

  1. Multiheaded says:

    I’ve been thinking how good two-word dating advice that also points to good, successful attitudes in the real world might be, “Express yourself”.
    A lot of highly sensitive people, including me, are instinctively repulsed by anything suggesting deliberate inauthenticity and “concealing” one’s natural feelings, but maybe it’s just confusion: what we need to be told is that you still have to produce and work on a *true* personality for others to interact with – and more narrowly, creativity helps too.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      That reminded me of this:

      …pure authenticity leads to what women (and people) don’t like – nattering on about your hobbies ad infinitum, saying whatever disgusting things are on your mind, making women uncomfortable because hey, this is a very authentic squeeze on the shoulder. Now, some of you got great instincts down at the Instinct Factory and you know what’s okay to say and what shouldn’t be said… but a lot of guys (and girls) are poor old Dave, working from very authentic and sincere intentions, and sharing all the wrong things.

      What most people define as “authenticity” isn’t actually “sincere, heartfelt emotions” but rather “a core suite of sincere, heartfelt emotions run through a rigorous gamut to a) determine whether the audience is receptive to your message, then b) tailored to be of interest to that particular audience, and finally c) delivered, with a considerable blend of skill and instinct, in a way that maximizes your audience’s liking of you.”

      In other words, you should be yourself, but also select which parts of yourself you show.

      • Herpaderp says:

        GUYS! It’s filtering for social competence, as in the ability to predict what other people will think. If “being yourself” in context means “saying something the other person doesn’t like and isn’t interested in” and this isn’t an outcome you find desirable, then you have failed to act upon your values in an authentic way. Which is really a better definition of being yourself, and explains why “being yourself” involves a concept of “self” that requires active development.

        If you’re known to have a lot of high-status stuff going on, then your failure to optimize your procedure for interpersonal interactions using observed data probably won’t adversely impact you. Mark Zuckerberg might be able to get away with it. If you’re not so known, however, you end up with the problem of good countersignalling becoming the simple bad signalling of failing to anticipate your audience.

        • Viliam Búr says:

          act upon your values in an authentic way

          This feels like using the word “authentic” to mean anything that helps me achieve my goals, including the very opposite of the usual definition of “authentic” behavior.

        • Herpaderp says:

          Then rephrase as “successfully act upon your values.” The point is that there’s something up if you’re coming to an outcome your find undesirable by your actions, and there’s definitely something weird going on if you are repeatedly acting in a way that leads you to an outcome you don’t like and it’s not clear why you haven’t yet noticed this.

        • Drake. says:

          gonna have to side with viliam here. i don’t understand how you can route around the problem “following advice leads you to lie about yourself to gain better social standing” with “it’s only lying if you fail!”. agreed, there’s something strange if you’re acting in a way that predictably leads people to dislike you, but the thing that’s strange may be that you value authenticity more than their approval (and you do not know how to gain standing and be authentic simultaneously). that is not an inherently contradictory position.

      • Yeah, this is a great point and an excellent article, and one that I wish I had known when I was about 16. I find it very ironic that I became much better at dating after I got married, and all of my pre-marriage dating success was basically accidental.

    • nydwracu says:

      The key word there is “produce”.

      (An interesting question: what do you do when the cost of overwriting yourself outweighs the benefits? — for example, when thede dynamics of powerful, nigh-universal-within-the-relevant-scope sortation mechanisms demand that the process of overwriting include total renunciation of certain deeply-held identities and ties?)

  2. Ialdabaoth says:

    I’ve noticed a very similar phenomenon, from having been at both extremes in the dating and socialization games. I’ll use the dating game as my primary example, since that’s Kind Of My Schtick Now.

    There was a period of 6 years when I lived with a harem of attractive, submissive women who called me their ‘Master’ and pretty much voluntarily structured their lives around making me happy. There was another period of 10 years when attempting to get a date at a social event dedicated to dating would result in me getting maced. I did not appreciably change my behavior during this time.

    What changed was, one very smart and talented and cute girl decided to take a chance on me. Once she and I ‘settled in’ to a relationship, she discovered how incredibly competent and skilled and attentive I was – and she repeatedly and publicly showed how appreciative she was of that. This attracted *other* very smart and talented and cute girls, who suddenly interpreted my quirky earnestness as “fascinating eccentricities” rather than “creepy weirdness”. The more girls fell in love with me, the more OTHER girls decided that I was a ‘hot item’ and dedicated themselves to being noticed by me.

    Of course, once I had a profound moral crisis at work and quit my job, it took about two months for it to all come crashing down around me – that sort of system isn’t sustainable for someone like me if I can’t maintain upper middle class spending habits. And instantly, upon finding myself jobless and alone and horribly depressed, I discovered that every single bit of my support network was dependent on every other bit of my support network, such that losing my girlfriends meant losing my perceived worthiness to be helped when I most needed it.

    This was a painful but valuable lesson.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your life story continues to terrify me.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Heh. I’ve spent most of my life operating well outside of my competence. It’s resulted in some truly epic stories and a lot of extra skill points, but also a lot of horrifying failure.

        Also, I spent SIX YEARS as some kind of nerd Hugh Hefner. You win some and you lose some. (I just tend to win big and lose bigger, probably due to the way I play.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Admission upon sleep and reflection: that last post was about 60% bravado.

        • Matthew O says:

          I halfway believe your story. Perhaps a bit of exaggeration, but I feel like the same thing has happened to me.

          In the span of several years, I have gone from being a socially reclusive nerd with barely a part-time job without a girlfriend who always seemed to creep out women when I hit on them (by doing stuff like writing poems to them), to being a socially reclusive nerd with a nice job as a college instructor who is married to a wonderful wife who loves it when I do little things like write poems for her. And I can tell that I get different looks from other women now, though such things interest me not in the slightest now.

          And I haven’t changed a damn thing. All that changed was, I met one woman who was right for me and interpreted all of the things I did in the right light rather than the wrong light, and then all of the sudden…once I was engaged, hey, suddenly several job interviews were much more successful.

          I think being engaged or married signals to other women and even *employers* that you are responsible enough to have a significant other trust you and believe in you enough to marry you. Also, to employers, that you aren’t going to do something crazy and quit on a lark, and that you will try to do your very best because, hey, you got a wife (and maybe soon some kids) to feed.

    • a person says:

      Wait, what the hell? You went from living with a harem of women to being lonely and regularly maced when hitting on girls? How does something like that happen?

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I just described how something like that happens – a random fluke (one girl deciding to take a chance) changes the context that other people see you in from ‘Eww!’ to ‘Ooh!’, and this causes a positive feedback loop. Then another random fluke (socioeconomic collapse leads to resource scarcity) causes you to lose that context, and suddenly behaviors that were previously judged as extremely positive start being judged as extremely negative again.

        • a person says:

          Idk man, this explanation doesn’t feel realistic at all to me… I find it really hard to imagine that the same person could go from a level of sexual abundance usually reserved only for the extremely rich, famous, powerful, or charismatic, to being widely seen as repulsive simply due to shifting outside circumstances. Like, you realize that 99% of the time when a man gets a girlfriend, it doesn’t start a feedback loop where he ends up with his own harem, right? I feel like there’s something more to this story. (Of course you’re keeping something private for personal reasons, then by all means it’s fine with me if you continue to do so.)

          suddenly behaviors that were previously judged as extremely positive start being judged as extremely negative again.

          What were those behaviors?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          What were those behaviors?

          Enthusiasm, openness, willingness to actively engage with ideas, unwillingness to pander to gossip, constant exploration of my environment… providing more details over the internet is difficult; it’s one of those things that I’m betting you just have to see in person.

          But for example, leave me in a room with nothing to do and a desk drawer full of paperclips, and in an hour you’ll come back to a desk with a wire sculpture of a ballerina on it.

          Tell me that we’re all meeting for lunch in 20 minutes at the taco place a mile away, and I’ll walk there rather than driving – you’ll see me on the road as you pass, and probably honk at me and laugh or something – and I’ll *STILL* get there at about the same time you guys do. And then once I get there, I’ll have a butterfly in my hands that I caught and I’ll be pointing out anatomical features to people.

          Put me in a room where a bunch of people are snarking on an awkward, low-status person who’s obviously having a bad day, and I’ll make a point of sitting with them, finding out one of their interests, and striking up a deep conversation about it – and then I’ll snub everyone who was snarking at them, or throw their own comments back at them.

          Bring me to a business meeting in a company where the tech staff is having trouble, and (if I’m not absolutely critical to the presentation) within 15 minutes or so I’ll have found a way to excuse myself and will be back in the server room with them asking how I can help.

          You can see how these are all traits that, when someone high-status performs them, signal “servant leadership” and “high sensitivity” and “deep introspection” and “boundless creativity”, but when someone low-status performs them, signal “sycophanty” and “neuroticism” and “introversion” and “eccentric weirdness”.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t get a “sycophancy” vibe from any of those, but I see the other characterizations on both sides. I also have trouble reconciling the server room one with letting your skills be overwritten by monkey politics, except in that advanced math and workplace tech have a bit of a gap between them. But yeah, you seem pretty cool from my Jargon-File-like vantage point, and yet/thus I see how neurotypicals would give you trouble.

        • Anatoly says:

          > And then once I get there, I’ll have a butterfly in my hands that I caught and I’ll be pointing out anatomical features to people.

          > and then I’ll snub everyone who was snarking at them, or throw their own comments back at them.

          These descriptions all read like a teenager’s idea of a great person suffering through life because of shallowness of others. Having a harem and then becoming a social outcast for 10 years due to quitting your job because of a moral crisis isn’t how life works. It’s how a teenager thinks life works. The reason people are doubting the veracity of your account here is that it looks suspiciously like a list of teenage cliches to a grownup. They’re just too polite or gullible to say so outright.

          I’m pretty sure none of this is true, with a small caveat that maybe a very small part of it is true which you exaggerate wildly due to being seriously socially delusional. That latter possibility is quite fucked-up, so for your sake I hope it’s all just straight made-up fantasy; fortunately, the odds massively are that it is.

          You should focus your creative energies on something more worthwhile.

        • The story is totally believable to me. I’m sort of a similar weird guy, though I’ve never taken it as far to either of the extremes.

        • peterdjones says:

          It sound psycho.logically adolescent, but it is not uncommon for nerds to have an extended adolescence.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Having a harem and then becoming a social outcast for 10 years due to quitting your job because of a moral crisis isn’t how life works.

          Ahh, reading comprehension. pours out a libation

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Anatoly

          Wow.

          @Ialdabaoth:

          I believe you completely. I’ve seen incredibly nerdy guys chased by conventionally attractive women. I’ve seen conventionally attractive women going out with nerdy guys. And I’ve seen idiots disbelieve any account that falls outside of a very rigid narrative on dating and relationships.

        • Viliam Búr says:

          To me the story feels exotic but believable.

          It is also my experience that success usually brings more success (and nice girls), and failure usually brings more failure (and makes girls uninterested). Yeah, not all people are like this: when I am failing, some people stay and support me; that’s what I call good friends. But with shallow people, it’s exactly like this: they want to be with someone who provides fun, and want to avoid people who are sad and boring. (It’s like switching to a different TV channel when the interesting movie is over. Nothing personal. They don’t owe you anything, do they?) And if your happiness depends on their friendship, this creates strong positive feedback loops.

          I don’t know Ialdabaoth, but I imagine that he is so unusually eccentric that if you meet him, you have two options how to classsify him. Either “this is a complete loser” or “this is an incredibly awesome man, completely unlike the average mortals”. And it’s like a Necker cube, that if you perceive him one way, you stick to that opinion. And most people default to the “loser” option. But once there is a person who sees him as “awesome” and describes him so to their social circle, then many people are primed to interpret all his eccentricity as a further evidence of awesomeness (either they find some deep meaning they wouldn’t consider for the “loser” hypothesis, or just think “wow, most people couldn’t afford such countersignalling, he must be really good”).

          If my model is true, then Ialdabaoth would benefit from either learning to behave like an average person (to avoid being classified as a “loser”), or establishing a socially accepted proof of greatness… something like publishing a famous book of poems, or having a popular YouTube channel (to make “awesome” more frequent choice).

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Multiheaded: Anatoly’s reaction is actually EXTREMELY common; for awhile I actually doubted my own narrative, even with photographs and letters and clothing and jewelry and other various physical evidence to prove it.

          It’s actually part of the same process I’m describing: someone who’s high-status is allowed to be weird, even admired for it; someone who is low-status is punished with violence when caught behaving this way, and with derision and disbelief when they describe behaving this way. Thus people can maintain their view of how the world works.

          Anatoly: I have no means of demonstrating the veracity of my life story, nor am I particularly interested in doing so to you. But to quote HPMOR for the benefit of anyone else reading, “you’re looking at the result of a lot of hard work and elbow grease”.

          I don’t talk to the bullied omega or ditch an executive meeting to help out in the server room to fulfill some teenage fantasy of who I’m supposed to be; I do it because I so intensely empathize with that person that I can’t bare to watch it, and I committed to myself thirty five years ago that if I saw pain that no one else was mitigating I would do something to stop it.

          I don’t chase butterflies or craft sculpture out of found items to show the world what a beautiful and tortured soul I am; I do it because it’s amazingly fun and uplifting and focusing.

          Life is meant to be lived, goddamnit, and if I have to sacrifice the things that make life worth living just to trudge through and act “normal”, well, I can’t. Maybe that’s immaturity. Maybe it’s some kind of mental deficiency or disorder. Or maybe instead of focussing on what makes me so weird, we could focus on what makes you so adamant that my life story be a fantasy.

          Because I’ve had a LOT of people disbelieve things that have happened to me, even after witnessing them firsthand. Even with physical evidence. And one commonality I’ve noticed is that it’s always about status – when I have high enough status that people perceive me to “deserve” to accomplish good things, they start believing me when I demonstrate that I’m accomplishing good things. When I don’t, they start gaslighting. Apparently reality, too, is countersignalling.

        • Anatoly says:

          peterdjones, the person telling the story may not be physically adolescent anymore (makes it sadder), but the point is, the story itself is still a teenage fantasy. It’s not real. There are so many telltale signs, the extremities of wow vs woe, the power fantasies (“Master”, “structured their lives to please me”), the “moral crisis”, the incessant humblebragging.

          All the people who’re chiming in to defend the kid, are you really not seeing this? It’s a matter of verbal social competence, picking up cues from the text/narrative, and also of things sticking together (or not). The point isn’t that it’s impossible for someone eccentric to live with six girls who call him “Master” and only want to please him. No, stranger things happen every day. But only in a teenage fantasy does this happen *solely due to him doing his geeky thing*, one girl “taking a chance” and the others latching on. The ultimate geek boy fantasy is that girls will just notice how incredibly cool and great I am, and a harem will assemble while I will not have to do anything different from what I’m already doing – certainly not any romancing or wooing or seducing or breaking up or breaking my heart or struggling with LTR or angry ex-boyfriends. In real life, maintaining several girlfriends at the same time (nevermind a harem of six all focused on pleasing you) doesn’t “just happen” due to having one and herd instinct, it takes tons of attention and wilful acts of romancing/seducing and time-management and tons of deception (or else powerful ideological shake-ups as people adjust/don’t adjust to polygamy).

          And most importantly, someone who does achieve this will never in a million years describe the experience in such puerile, adolescent language of a teenage power fantasy. Do you not see that someone who has “committed to myself thirty five years ago that if I saw pain that no one else was mitigating I would do something to stop it” will not describe themselves to others *using these words*?

          If you honestly don’t see FAKE plastered all over this life story, then forget arguing about “high-status” and “low-status”, because bandying those terms about is occluding your basic social understanding skills! You’re buying into something only a notch above a ridiculous 4chan copypasta.

          P.S. Anyone else in this thread besides me feels I’m pretty much pointing out the obvious?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          *solely due to him doing his geeky thing*

          First I’m going to object to your use of the word ‘solely’, and then I’m going to branch off from there into a whole Rant.

          There is a difference between Narrative, and Life-As-Lived. Life-As-Lived took me 18+ adult years to slog through, and even if I COULD remember and relate it all accurately, it would take me 18+ years to recount. So we don’t get Life-As-Lived.

          We get Narrative.

          And here’s part of the issue, right here: my Narrative is still a high-status one, even though I show all the signals of being low-status. So, you attack it in typical reddit/4chan fashion with “cool story bro”, rather than choosing to empathize and understand that it’s a Narrative and therefore necessarily condensed and peppered with evocative salience.

          Also remember that, even now, I’m still coming from a place of a lot of mental damage – depression, anxiety, social isolation – that can distort both my recollection and my self image. I think I’ve sufficiently copped to that, here and in other threads.

          But rather than choosing to account for that, and engage with the essential points of the Narrative, one person to another, you go on the attack.

          Because the attack is easy, isn’t it? And the idea that even some of these things could happen in the sequence described really scares you. Although you’d never admit it; you’re just going to fall back on your 4chan bravado. But I find that behavior interesting.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Do you not see that someone who has “committed to myself thirty five years ago that if I saw pain that no one else was mitigating I would do something to stop it” will not describe themselves to others *using these words*?

          Speaking of Narrative vs. Life-As-Lived and humblebragging, I’ll totally cop to this one. I was raised by an abusive, narcissistic adoptive mother; my first example of love and social interaction was I-and-it rather than I-and-thou. (Note: I am not saying this as an excuse, I am saying this as an explanation and to verify your observation.)

          I expend a great deal of effort NOT falling back on this model, but I have to spend a lot of effort to not make interactions all about me, because that’s the first and most salient model for interaction that I have. And when I’m busy constructing a narrative AND defending my self-image AND navigating social cues AND soothing my own anxieties, I sometimes forget to also treat other people as PC’s.

          But I am trying.

        • Peraspera says:

          > P.S. Anyone else in this thread besides me feels I’m pretty much pointing out the obvious?

          No, I’m with you here.

          I think other commenters tend to trust Ialdabaoth because the story he’s telling isn’t far-fetched at its core. “When you have a girlfriend, suddenly every other girl starts noticing you” is a common observations, and has been a cliché among the general population (not just among nerds!) for at least two generations.

          But there is a vast gulf between a sudden 400% increase in unprompted flirting, and “I lived with a harem of attractive, submissive women who called me their ‘Master’ and pretty much voluntarily structured their lives around making me happy”. There is an ocean between Multiheaded’s not uncommon sight of a hot girl dating a nerd, and “I spent SIX YEARS as some kind of nerd Hugh Hefner.”

          Now, he could just have been a poor narrator and omitted some critical steps (like, “I was hanging out with a LOT of not-so-stable BDSM folks”). But… well, to quote the man himself:

          I’m still coming from a place of a lot of mental damage – depression, anxiety, social isolation – that can distort both my recollection and my self image

          That pushes my prior roughly a trillion miles towards “delusional”.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Now, he could just have been a poor narrator…

          I’m still coming from a place of a lot of mental damage – depression, anxiety, social isolation – that can distort both my recollection and my self image

          That pushes my prior roughly a trillion miles towards “delusional”.

          Youch. I said that to signal vulnerability, not invite an attack. I need to know my audience better.

        • Elissa says:

          I can’t prove Ialdabaoth’s story, but I can tell you that I believe with high confidence that he’s describing actual events more or less accurately (with maybe a bit more narrativium thrown in than the average person would use or indeed be able to muster, but not a whole ton more). I’ve talked to him a lot and I’m smart and not easily taken in. Also, the parts of his story that I’m in a position to corroborate check out.

          By the way, this?

          “I’m still coming from a place of a lot of mental damage – depression, anxiety, social isolation – that can distort both my recollection and my self image”

          That pushes my prior roughly a trillion miles towards “delusional”.

          This is stupid. Insight is a good sign.

        • Peraspera says:

          This is stupid. Insight is a good sign.

          Is it? I mean, for the person’s own well-being, obviously it’s better to have it, I agree.

          But when somebody says “Oh and by the way, I have lots of assorted mental problems”, does that make you more likely or less likely to trust that their version and interpretation of past events is accurate?

          Youch. I said that to signal vulnerability, not invite an attack. I need to know my audience better.

          For what it’s worth, I didn’t mean my post as an attack, nor do I believe you posted your story with the slightest malicious intent.

          If my scepticism comes across as hostile, I am sorry for that.

        • Elissa says:

          But when somebody says “Oh and by the way, I have lots of assorted mental problems”, does that make you more likely or less likely to trust that their version and interpretation of past events is accurate?

          If you are sufficiently new in town or socially oblivious that Ialdabaoth saying “guys I got a lot of issues” represents new information to you about his mental health, then I guess you might conceivably be justified in updating in that direction. Otherwise, nope, you’re just punishing people for being vulnerable and honest, and completely failing to update favorably on evidence of insight. Not into that.

          I notice that you appear to have backpedaled from “Ialdabaoth obv never had the relationships he claims to have had” to “Ialdabaoth is probably misinterpreting past events.” Misreading on my part? Triumph for the cause of accuracy?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          An observation on “delusional” vs “misinterpreting” –

          heh. Actually, an aside first: We’re STILL talking about signalling vs. countersignalling. This is amazing.

          So, anyway. Everyone here should be sufficiently aware of modern neuroscience to understand that everyone misinterprets their past, right? That no one’s memories are accurate, that we in fact re-code (and alter) memories whenever we recall them, and that eyewitness testimony is actually the most unreliable form of evidence?

          Good.

          So, the question then becomes, how much so-called “misinterpretation” will we tolerate from someone, given that “none” is off the table due to running on corrupted hardware? And the answer, unsurprisingly, is “depends on how much we like / admire / respect them”. We will tend to steelman the narratives of people we want to believe good things about, and strawman the narratives of people we want to believe bad things about. And that’s interesting.

          It also means that when you pick sides on the “is Ialdabaoth delusional?” debate, you’re signalling coalition politics far more than you’re signalling concern for the mental state of some guy on the internet.

        • Leo says:

          Anatoly, the things you find completely unbelievable about Ialdabaoth’s story are staples of my everyday life. I think the moral here is: poly people are weird.

        • Anatoly says:

          This is silly, Ialdabaoth. Depression and social anxiety do not make a person misremember whether they did or did not have a harem of submissive girls calling them Master. Talking about inaccurate memory hardware is just embarrassing in this context. A delusional disorder might cause that (I’m guessing), but you probably don’t have it.

          > It also means that when you pick sides on the “is Ialdabaoth delusional?” debate,

          Nobody should have to pick sides on this “debate”, because by far the most likely explanation is that you’re making it up. And, might I say, you’re doing a poor job of it. There isn’t an iota of lived experience speaking through your words. It’s all cliche, all the time.

          > for awhile I actually doubted my own narrative, even with photographs and letters and clothing and jewelry and other various physical evidence to prove it.

          Like this. People don’t “doubt” that they didn’t have anyone for 10 years and then had a harem for six. They just remember it. People may be hazy about durations or names or faces or a particular event long in the past, but they have a firm grasp on the basic structure of their lives. The “I actually doubted this happened to me” device is a CLICHE, it happens in bad novels and TV series, which is where you picked it up from. It’s a bit of cached stupidity. And when you add “physical evidence” and duly list the jewelry and the clothing, you only add to the stupidity and make it embarrassing.

        • Drake. says:

          some quasi-anecdotes

          @Ialdabaoth, mainly the story: i have noticed in myself that i often selectively misremember details of my past in ways that make it seem more dramatic and polarized than it really is; others, too, (mainly people who keep objective records of their past selves in the form of diaries and such) have commented that they have experienced the same thing. i don’t mean to discount your entire story, and of course i can’t know how much narrative-ization is due to the fact that it’s actually a story (as opposed to the unfiltered memory), but it’s quite possible that you’re unintentionally reporting things as more exciting than they were in reality. for example, it’s likely that you have changed since 7.5-years-ago you, and it wasn’t a single catastrophic event.

          i’d also like to second anon above on the terrifying-ness of your life story.

          @disbelievers: i have noticed (and, as before, others have corrobrated) that there’s a certain type of person that does things normally reserved for film. this is usually communicated in the form “there’s this one guy i know [of] that does the most ludicrous shit” or something like it — as with Everything Ever, of course, it comes in degrees. i’d be tempted to say that it’s a lack of inhibitions, but that doesn’t really fit; it’s more like an excess of passion for everyday stuff. i can’t vouch for ialda’s sincerity because i don’t know him, but i can tell you with certainty that there are people out there who act like he alleges he does (and who have similar things happen to them).

        • Peraspera says:

          If you are sufficiently new in town or socially oblivious that Ialdabaoth saying “guys I got a lot of issues” represents new information

          It does. I seldom read SSC comment threads, and I did not know anything about Ialdabaoth before.

          But your comment makes me wish even more for an answer to my question: if Ialdabaoth apparently has an established reputation for mental instability, why wouldn’t you be exceptionally sceptical towards anything unusual he might claim?

          I notice that you appear to hve backpedaled from “Ialdabaoth obv never had the relationships he claims to have had” to “Ialdabaoth is probably misinterpreting past events.”

          Not really, you will notice that those claims aren’t contradictory. I was and still am estimating a, oh, let’s say 90% chance that no attractive girls ever spent six years as Ialdabaoth’s harem of devoted pleasure slaves.

          What I’m not sure about is to what degree he actually believes they did, and to what degree the story was at least inspired by real events (the “girls suddenly start acting flirty” phenomenon) as opposed to pure fantasy.

        • ozymandias says:

          I’ve totally met people with harems of women who called them Master before. It’s not that far outside the realm of reasonableness. Probably the most implausible part is being able to maintain six relationships; when I dated six people I found it tremendously draining on my emotional energy and I couldn’t treat them all the way they deserved. And if you’re poly and have a partner who’s way into you it’s not uncommon for them to find people for you to date; my prediction would be that he got girls because of the assiduous efforts of his girlfriend, and not because of his own charm. (That said, I’d probably trend towards not believing it if Ialdabaoth said they didn’t date people besides him.)

          Peraspera: Because I’m mentally unstable and have had some fairly implausible things happen to me and wish people to believe me when I say them?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          ozy: Six years, not six girls. The harem consisted of two stable live-ins plus between one and two other girls, who were usually dating one of the two stable live-ins as well as myself. (One of the two stable live-ins chose to maintain an exclusive relationship with me; the other had a few boys on the side.)

        • Peraspera says:

          So, the question then becomes, how much so-called “misinterpretation” will we tolerate from someone, given that “none” is off the table due to running on corrupted hardware? And the answer, unsurprisingly, is “depends on how much we like / admire / respect them”. We will tend to steelman the narratives of people we want to believe good things about, and strawman the narratives of people we want to believe bad things about. And that’s interesting.

          Obviously true, but not very relevant to the case at hand. Before I started reading this thread, I had as few biases about you as any human can reasonably hope to have towards another (that is, I was unaware of your existence); and I’m positive that there are, right now, people in this world with the kind of harems you describe, in other words it isn’t the claim per se that I find impossible.

          Rather, the factors that pushed my guess towards scepticism come entirely from your own writing in this thread: the odd way you recounted those events, the self-aggrandising, the claims of mental trouble. That isn’t prejudice or bias, any more than it is to judge a woman’s claim to have dated Prince William of England as unlikely, on the basis of her hobo clothes and low-class accent.

        • ozymandias says:

          Ialdabaoth: …Okay, yes, that is totally reasonable and something that people do all the fucking time, is this person’s objection literally just “I find polyamory implausible”

        • Peraspera says:

          Peraspera: Because I’m mentally unstable and have had some fairly implausible things happen to me and wish people to believe me when I say them?

          That… I’m not sure I follow your argument, perhaps I’m tired. Do you mean that you wish others would do you the favour of trusting you regardless of priors, and so you extend the same favour towards anyone else?

          If the above isn’t a massive misunderstanding of what you said… well, it’s a valid ethical rule, but I don’t think it’s remotely wise to subordinate cognition to ethics. And regardless, I do not subscribe to that rule: I expect and wish people to evaluate the truthfulness of anything I claim to the best of their abilities. (Incidentally, I think this is in my own interest too: when I’m being oblivious or confused, I want people to spot the contradictions or implausibilities in my beliefs.)

        • Peraspera says:

          …Okay, yes, that is totally reasonable and something that people do all the fucking time, is this person’s objection literally just “I find polyamory implausible”

          Yeah, if he had presented that story from the start I would have been way less sceptical.

          Re-read his earlier posts if you wish to see why “this person” was a wee bit less likely to take the story at face value when it was “when I lived with a harem of attractive, submissive women who called me their ‘Master’ and pretty much voluntarily structured their lives around making me happy” and “some kind of nerd Hugh Hefner”.

        • Anatoly says:

          @Drake,

          >there’s a certain type of person that does things normally reserved for film.

          Sure, that happens, but those people do not recount their lives using the language of a teenage fantasy. They don’t need that language because they have the lived experience which they have reflected on many times.

          Ialdabaoth wrote: “Put me in a room where a bunch of people are snarking on an awkward, low-status person who’s obviously having a bad day, and I’ll make a point of sitting with them, finding out one of their interests, and striking up a deep conversation about it – and then I’ll snub everyone who was snarking at them, or throw their own comments back at them.”

          This is FANTASY. It’s how a teenager daydreams. The wrongness of this description should SCREAM at the social-skills part of your brain. People who have actual grownup experience – multiple experiences – of standing up for other people in bad social situations (and it’s great when people do, needless to say) should understand how ridiculous this sounds, and would never put it in those words. It’s all so much more complicated in the real world. Not always you CAN sit down with someone, not always they WANT to tell you their “interest”, a “deep conversation” may be entirely inappropriate or even ludicrous – it’s just about never that the experience is anything like this peppy fantasy.

          Yes, there are people around us with unusual or amazing social experiences, including even swinging highs and lows. But after many years of such a life, they do not describe it in a juvenile language of a teenage fantasy. It’s worse than impossible, it’s improbable, to mention the distinction G.K.Chesterton brilliantly introduced in one of the Father Brown stories:

          ‘…It’s not the supernatural part I doubt. It’s the natural part. I’m exactly in the position of the man who said, ‘I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable.’’

          ‘That’s what you call a paradox, isn’t it?’ asked the other.

          ‘It’s what I call common sense, properly understood,’ replied Father Brown. ’It really is more natural to believe a preternatural story, that deals with things we don’t understand, than a natural story that contradicts things we do understand. Tell me that the great Mr Gladstone, in his last hours, was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, and I will be agnostic about it. But tell me that Mr Gladstone, when first presented to Queen Victoria, wore his hat in her drawing-room and slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, and I am not agnostic at all. That is not impossible; it’s only incredible. But I’m much more certain it didn’t happen than that Parnell’s ghost didn’t appear; because it violates the laws of the world I do understand.

        • Matthew says:

          Wow. Two things.

          1. Please stop gaslighting Iadabaoth again.

          2. {{Under 18 — please stop reading here}} For you oddly sheltered fellows disputing the basic existence of harems who literally refer to their “master” or “mistress”, may I suggest you stroll around Alt.com a bit until you are disabused of this notion.

        • a person says:

          Anatoly: I agree that Ialdaboath’s story doesn’t make sense and that his description of his behaviors read more like patting himself on the back than an actual explanation, but it makes even less sense for him to be literally making it all up. Before this thread he was going on in another thread about how he gets regularly maced or beaten up for flirting with women, without any mention of the harem until now. I really can’t think of any possible motivation to fabricate this series of stories, especially for someone with feminist views. I think it’s far more likely that he has a very unusual life and is revealing information about it extremely selectively.

          Ialdaboath (and those defending his story): It’s not that I don’t believe that a weak version of this story is possible – a loser nerd gets a girlfriend, his confidence improves and he gets validation and he starts becoming not such a loser anymore – sure, that happens all the time. And I realize that people are weird and polyamory is a thing and etc. But I just refuse to believe that someone could be regularly assaulted for flirting with women without being either extremely unattractive or socially inept. And I also refuse to believe that someone could be in the harem situation described without possessing at the very least a moderate amount of attractiveness and social skills. Barring extremely exceptional circumstances, of course.

          The only way I can wrap my head around this is reminding myself of something I read about Captain Beefheart, an eccentric, reclusive musician who isolated his band in a house and physically and emotionally abused them in order to play the music the way he wanted. One of the members of the band said about him that “the only social skill he had was manipulation” (paraphrase). So maybe Ialdaboath is a similar figure and in this particular circumstance he managed to manipulate these girls and run sort of a miniature cult, but otherwise has poor social skills. However this seems like an extremely uncharitable characterization so I’m just going to assume that it isn’t the case.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @a person:

          Before this thread he was going on in another thread about how he gets regularly maced or beaten up for flirting with women, without any mention of the harem until now.

          He did previously mention that he used to have d/s relationships.

          But I just refuse to believe that someone could be regularly assaulted for flirting with women without being either extremely unattractive or socially inept.

          Working hypothesis: while in this depressed and miserable state, Ialdabaoth both subconsciously selects for awful, cruel and narcissistic women – which feels just oh so very plausible – as well as gives off signals that he makes for a good codependent/victim.

          And I also refuse to believe that someone could be in the harem situation described without possessing at the very least a moderate amount of attractiveness and social skills.

          As more or less implied by the conversation, there might be a very positive effort/experience ratio for him: perhaps his partners need not devote a large proportion of their time and emotional labour to create this subjective experience for him (if they still dated other people!), and thus they don’t find it very costly, and thus it’s easier for them to commit to such an arrangement than you would assume upon hearing it’s a “harem”?

          @Anatoly:

          It’s all so much more complicated in the real world. Not always you CAN sit down with someone, not always they WANT to tell you their “interest”, a “deep conversation” may be entirely inappropriate or even ludicrous – it’s just about never that the experience is anything like this peppy fantasy.

          Given how massively rustled you appear to be… might this have struck a nerve? Maybe you are venting your frustration with your own inability to be this proactive, and projecting some bad feelings towards yourself onto Ialdabaoth?

          Also, why did you latch on to this “not always”? If Ialdabaoth can avoid or barrel through critical failures and keep trying, what does it matter to this narrative if people occasionally brush him off, consider him annoying, etc? The successes are what matters, not how frequently it really works.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          So maybe Ialdaboath is a similar figure and in this particular circumstance he managed to manipulate these girls and run sort of a miniature cult, but otherwise has poor social skills.

          That theory actually has been proposed before (by one of the girls who lived with me, no less – as she was finalizing the breakup), and I myself put a good amount of stock in it.

          Well, when I’m not entirely depressive and self-loathing, I wouldn’t say that manipulation isn’t my ONLY skill – just that manipulation is my only *natural* skill, and the one that I’ve honed the most. (Remember, narcissistic upbringing; probably a lot of unpleasantly narcissistic tendencies in myself as well.)

          I sometimes think that most of my social skills are a mixture of narcissistic manipulation that I can occasionally bend into something like charm and histrionic neuroticism that I can occasionally bend into something like sensitivity, and they only work when there’s enough social context for people to give me a free pass and not notice that that’s what I’m doing.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Ialdabaoth:

          I’m googling more stuff on narcissism and codependency, to try and improve my understanding of what those could map to… and it feels like you have a ton of codependent traits, which very much fits in with your background. This is not a good or a bad thing; you know I’m not judgmental. Uh, not judgmental towards you, that is. I’m just saying.

        • nydwracu says:

          I just refuse to believe that someone could be regularly assaulted for flirting with women without being either extremely unattractive or socially inept. And I also refuse to believe that someone could be in the harem situation described without possessing at the very least a moderate amount of attractiveness and social skills.

          If the PUAs are right about women judging attractiveness in terms of status, this isn’t a problem at all.

        • Anatoly says:

          @Multiheaded, easy on the drama, please. There’s no “gaslighting” going on and I’m not “rustled”.

          @a person:

          >I really can’t think of any possible motivation to fabricate this series of stories, especially for someone with feminist views.

          Why would someone do that? You really think someone would do that?

          Why would someone make up a story that involves a fantastic past which includes both extreme social victimhood and extreme sexual prowess; brilliant competence and skillfulness; and a strong, almost saintly sense of social responsibility and caring for others? Why would someone do that?

          Read up on Kaycee Nicole.

          Now that admittedly is an extreme case (I remember when it blew up in 2001 – wow, Big Internet Scandal by standards of the time), but even such extreme persona-building isn’t uncommon, while simpler story-making happens just all the time. It’s usually harmless, unless and until strong emotional/romantic bonds start appearing.

        • yli says:

          Interesting debate. I hope that neither Anatoly nor Ialdabaoth & co give it up just yet. (Also hope that my gawking at people’s real problems like this isn’t too obnoxious.)

          There’s at least one thing that sets Ialdabaoth apart from your average guy making up stories on the internet. Most people making up stuff like this will get very angry if you question them or ask for evidence, and will counterattack you personally until you drop the issue. If you manage to extract any ‘evidence’ or clarification about their stories from them, it’s after a long struggle and they’ll frame it as a personal sacrifice and tragedy that they had to bend to the will of the malicious trolls. By comparison, ialdabaoth isn’t freaking out too much about people not believing him and is willing to expand on things when asked.

          Here’s a question for those on the doubting side. What if it turned out that the story of the “harem” was denotatively true, proven beyond reasonable doubt? So he really lived in a “poly” arrangement with 2+ women at the same time for ~5 years. Would you feel that you were in the wrong somewhere? Or would you feel that while his statements turned out to be technically accurate, he still basically deserves to get dismissed because of his obnoxious self-aggrandizing style and acting like a teenager, and you basically remain in the right? If the latter, does this cast the pro-ialdabaoth theory that “he’s getting attacked because status” in a more favorable light?

          I can empathize with how Anatoly’s bullshit detector is going off. I’ve got that detector in my head too. But I think there’s also an “acceptable target detector” that shares a lot of the same (figurative) circuitry and it’s hard to tell which detector’s effects are predominating in a situation.

        • Anatoly says:

          @yli, I think the thread more or less played itself out. To answer your question, if it turned out the story of Ialdabaoth’s life is broadly correct, of course I’d feel I’d been in the wrong. I would in this case apologize to him and feel a little bit like an asshole.

          (Why a little bit? Because this is a rationalist blog, it’d be silly to expect immunity from being questioned or challenged here. Comes with the territory. Doesn’t mean any challenging is automatically OK – as I said, I’d have been wrong and sort of an asshole)

          I think that the issue of status is completely a red herring here (as it often is, by the way; if very low social status made one a legitimate target for an attack, parents would teach their kids to mock bums in the street). Before Ialdabaoth’s butterfly-deep-conversations comment had my bullshitometer run off the scale and explode, I didn’t perceive him as especially high-status or low-status and saw his supposed life story as a little picturesque but plausible (I might have picked up more subtle verbal signals if I read everything very attentively looking for incongruities, but I had no reason to).

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Wait, what the hell? You went from living with a harem of women to being lonely and regularly maced when hitting on girls? How does something like that happen?

        Also, in the interest of clarity: the 10-year span of horror came first, then the Six Years Of Plenty, then 2.5 years of returning to horror, then three years of a sort of weird mixture where most people were repulsed by me but this one 18 year old girl REALLY wanted a relationship with me, then about two years of trying to make a relationship with her work despite my better instincts, and now back to horror.

        • Matthew says:

          You still really need to consider writing (and selling) your memoirs, even if you have to omit certain things to protect the maybe-innocent. A bestseller would provide the financial boost that might get other stuff in order.

        • I don’t get it why people find his story *that* unusual and interesting. Basically it’s just first having lots of girlfriends and then not having any because of loss of social status. This happens all the time to people.

        • AndekN says:

          @Aleksei Riikonen:
          I guess you have to witness something like this happening first-hand. Especially the part about first being a social outcast and then suddenly having a harem may sound a bit unbelievable, if you’ve never seen anything remotely like that happen.

          I, for my part, completely believe Ialdabaoth’s story, since I’ve seen something rather similar in action. When I as in high school, there was this total nerd in our school. Now, I’m totally a hard-core nerd myself, but this guy was, like, the poster-boy of turbonerds. He had the works: bad skin, unfashionable clothes, ugly glasses, whiny voice etc. He talked about Shadowrun or Doctor Who or whatever to anyone near him, regardless of whether they would show any interest in such things. And so on. I’m sure you know the type.

          But here’s the thing: I think he was bullied quite a bit, but that didn’t seem to faze him at all. He was always so damn cheerful and enthusiastic about his nerdy interests, no matter how much he was mocked. And as a result, in the second year some girls started to see him in a different light.

          And now were back to the counter-signals. I think those girls noticed how unashamed he was about his very low-status hobbies and took that as a counter-signal: “He must be secretly very cool to be able to act like such a geek”. And so they started to pay him attention, and that attracted the attention of other girls as well, and in our senior year he was pretty much the hero of our school.

          I got to admit, his success shook me to my core. When he started to rant about Elfquest in our first year, I immediately distanced myself as far away from him as possible. I had spent considerable amount of time and effort into looking like a cool guy, and that definitely included hiding all traces of my nerdy interests from others. And then I find out that instead of desperately trying to act cool I could’ve spent the entire high school talking about Batman and Iain M.Banks and still be popular. Oh well. “Live and learn”, I guess.

        • Matthew says:

          @Aleksei Riikonen

          No, at a minimum it’s both that and his childhood role in one of the earliest Satanic Panic episodes, and possibly other stuff.

        • Luke Somers says:

          I admit that I would have found this wildly improbable if I hadn’t seen something rather like it occur. It was VERY surprising.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        If my model is true, then Ialdabaoth would benefit from either learning to behave like an average person (to avoid being classified as a “loser”), or establishing a socially accepted proof of greatness… something like publishing a famous book of poems, or having a popular YouTube channel (to make “awesome” more frequent choice).

        Yes. And to comment on the depressingly-apt Necker cube analogy: I’ve noticed that people with high intelligence + high empathy tend to click “awesome” far more often than people with low intelligence (regardless of empathy) or people with low empathy (regardless of intelligence), which is one of the reasons why getting my ass to the Bay Area has become something of a goal recently.

        There’s also definitely a feedback loop where, if I’m incredibly depressed, the more ‘loserish’ side of my weirdness comes out more often than the more ‘awesome’ side, which will set up a bad first impression even for those people who might otherwise see me as awesome. But the other attractor is only metastable – when I’m NOT depressed, if I’m behaving ‘awesomely’ weird and someone decides to interpret it as ‘loser’-weird anyways, and I don’t have the energy to defend myself and no one cares to defend me, then I fall into deep depression and cycle back to the ‘loser’ attractor.

    • Questions to Ialdabaoth says:

      Would you please answer these questions Ialdabaoth:
      do you believe that your loss of girlfriends and subsequent dry spell has been primarily because of depression, of primarily because you no longer had money to spend? Did you get over your depression? If so, do you find that you still aren’t able to attract women like you once did in spite of no longer being depressed?
      Thank you!

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Both, but primarily the depression.

        I am still terribly depressed, although the cognitive distortions that feed it have been slowly lifting over the past year.

        Part of the problem with answering this question is that they seem to go hand-in-hand – part of the reason why I’m getting over those cognitive distortions, and having fewer Very Bad Days, is because I have an IT job again. And while that IT job only pays about $40K/year, I’m in the middle of Idaho, where I only have to spend about $15K/year on necessities.

        In general, my depression is linked directly to powerlessness and dependence – the more I have to rely on other people to maintain stability in my life, the more neurotic and depressed I become. (Girls who have formally Given Themselves To Me in a structured D/s fashion do not count as ‘other people’ in this calculus; this is one of the primary reasons I consider D/s a necessary and healthy component of my life.)

        That said, in the past two months I’ve been noticing girls noticing me again; of course, this is Idaho, so these aren’t people I’m particularly attracted to – but it’s interesting to notice.

        EDIT: Holy CRAP, it took about two minutes to stew after I posted this, but I just had a really intense realization.

        I completely get and agree with Neoreaction, my only objection is about scale. In the world I want to live in, I am a Sovereign King of my own household, where the only options are Obedience and Exit. The problem is, I want that household to exist and be respected within a larger society, where everyone – men and women, black and white, short and tall, unique individuals and groups separated into dichotomies for the purpose of parallelist cliche alike – are taught that they can choose to be who they wish, that various households and organizations will accept fealty from them if that is what calls to them, but that it is ultimately *their choice* where to go and who to belong to, and the harsh cold default is always ‘themselves’.

        I want to run a small neoreactionary enclave within a global progressive, Universalist context, where my diplomats and courtesans run the business of liaison between myself and the broader Progressive culture, and where I can admire all the diversity and vibrancy of everyone else’s little Thing.

        Guys, sell neoreaction to me like THAT and you’ll have a customer.

        • Piano says:

          Talk to Anissimov about Idaho plans.

        • Questions to Ialdabaoth says:

          You sound closer to anarcho-capitalism than neo-reaction.

          I think that any kind of order morphs into anarcho-capitalism if you make the states many and individually small. The chief difference between a monarch and an anarcho-capitalist landlord, or between a republic and an anarcho-capitalist corporation, is size. Other differences are a consequence of the size difference.

          In the world you want to live in, who would ensure that you, the lord of the household, abstain from chaining up your submissives preventing them from freely leaving? I think that you need a greater government to prevent this sort of things (and in general this is my objection to anarcho-capitalism; no model of anarcho-capitalist justice I know of can prevent involuntary slavery).

        • Questions to Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m wondering whether your relationship model requires a big surplus of money on the part of the dominant male (I mean money the man spends for the women). Also, don’t you worry that for every stable female partner you have beside the first one, some man somewhere remains without a woman?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I do. (Also, your name is weirding me out a little.)

          But I’ve also accepted males into my household before; while I am not bisexual, I do find attractive and competent beta males to be useful and fun to have around. (And as long as I have a large and stable enough harem – which I admit I have not yet achieved – I won’t mind if some of them choose to pair off with some of my girls. Becoming a Patriarch would be a rather pleasing end-of-life narrative for me, actually.)

        • ozymandias says:

          I promise that for every girl Ialdabaoth takes into his harem I will take one guy into my harem. Problem solved.

        • Viliam Búr says:

          I completely get and agree with Neoreaction, my only objection is about scale.

          Great that you noticed the similarity! Here is how I understand it:

          Both you and the neoreactionaries seem to have similar mental issues. (I apologize for the offense to NRs, but this is honestly what I have believed for a long time, and at this moment it became relevant to the debate.) The difference is that you realize that those are your issues, your emotional needs, your coping mechanisms. You understand that this is about you; and you just want to have a “safe place” somewhere arranged according to your needs. On the other hand, NRs believe they are having an epiphany about humans and society in general, and they dream about reorganizing the whole world according to this belief.

          It’s like a difference between “I am having another attack of paranoia, I guess I should avoid some situations which trigger me” versus “they are watching me again, but I am getting my army ready and they will soon be exterminated”. The same emotion for both speakers, but a different level of self-awareness; different paradigms leading to different solutions. In your case it would be “seems like I am unable to have typical relationships, so I guess I need a small group of voluntary slaves to keep me happy” versus “slavery is the only rational way for the humanity, everything else is just a delusion, we need strong enlightened dictators to transform the world”.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Talk to Anissimov about Idaho plans.

          Yes, because we all know how well Anissimov reacts when deviants try to join the reaction.

          I promise that for every girl Ialdabaoth takes into his harem I will take one guy into my harem. Problem solved.

          Your solution assumes that men and women have the same sexual and romantic dispositions, including their amenability to share their partner with the rest of a harem. I disagree.

  3. rsaarelm says:

    Maybe instead of “just be yourself”, go with “become who you are”.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      My outlook on life became much more positive when one day I decided to adopt the maxim ‘Be the kind of person that you want to be.’. (Although Google has a lot of hits for that now, I don’t *think* that I’d got it from somewhere else.) That’s obviously pretty vague, but at the time it rescued me from a downward spiral of moral nihilism, being both optimistic (which was what I really needed at the time) and relativist (which was necessary for me to accept it).

      • Darcey Riley says:

        This has also been my solution to moral nihilism. I can’t rely on morality to tell me how to behave, because everything is relative. But I can try to be the kind of person I would admire, and that has become my main heuristic for deciding how to behave.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Yes! A guiding principle for me, when I have sufficient power to pursue it, is: “Imagine the kind of character you want to exist in the real world, and then strive with all your might to authentically be that character.”

          Of course, when I’m feeling particularly powerless, this can be just as much a source of despair and pain as it can be a source of hope and motivation when I’m effective.

        • I am amused that y’all independently discovered virtue ethics. This intersects with a thought I had the other day when Scott mentioned MacIntyre, that while virtue ethics is not a great system for deciding which values to adopt, it is an excellent system for motivating you to actually put those ethics into practice by creating a concrete, lived example.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          Yes, I like the word ‘admire’ here. Anymore, I take the meta-ethical position that morality is only a matter of aesthetics (I forget now what that position is called), and they say that there’s no accounting for tastes. But I know what I like.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          @Mai La Drepta:

          Whenever I read about virtue ethics, it’s in the context of considering arguments that it is correct, often put up against consequentialism (and maybe deontology). And put that way, it’s seems obvious that consequentialism is correct, and the others are nonsense. Certainly when I consider ethical conundrums, I think about them consequentialistically (I’m not sure about that word).

          But however much I may THINK as a consequentialist, I probably still ACT as a virtue ethicist. My consequentialist thoughts can have an effect on my actions, but the effect goes via my feelings. That fits in pretty well with what you just said.

        • I have a half-baked idea that consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics are not really contradictory ethical systems, but rather different aspects of any complete ethical system which is embedded in a culture. That is, we accept consequentialism as the criterion by which we create our ethics, but those ethics must be communicated as virtues, and day-to-day decisions made on the basis of deontology. This is pretty half-baked, though.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        @Toby Bartels

        I might be mistaken from reading your posts, but I am getting the impression that “the kind of person you want to be” is (at least partly) someone who who thinks through the consequences of their actions and chooses the consequences that are best for themselves and others. This seems like a hybrid of virtue ethics and consequentialism, where your end goal is to be a virtuous person, but your definition of virtuous person includes “frequently does whatever consequentialism says to do.”

        My problem (and probably your problem) with traditional virtue ethics, is that it seems like some sort of Cargo Cult Ethics where certain attributes are enshrined as virtuous in themselves, rather than as virtuous because of their consequences. In other words, in TVE you don’t lie to people because you know people usually wish to know the truth and you respect their wishes, you don’t lie because Lying is Unvirtuous. This seems profoundly narcissistic to me.

        Now, it seems obvious to me that we consider certain things virtuous because they have good consequences, and declaring them virtuous in and of themselves is like putting the cart before the horse. The Cargo Cultists engaged in stereotyped repetition of certain behaviors that industrial civilizations and thought that would bring prosperity. In the same way Tradition Virtue Ethics engages in stereotyped repetitions of actions that good people do and assume it will bring morality. In both cases it will not because the actions are totally divorced from context and consequences.

        However, I think a system of virtue ethics where considering the consequences for yourself and others is regarded as virtuous behaviors resolves this problem. In this system “being a consequentialist” is one of the virtues, so the two theories are in harmony.

        @Mai Lea Drapta

        Your idea sounds something like John Stuart Mill’s Rule Utilitarianism. He basically argued that consequentialism was technically the correct moral system, but that humans are generally not quick-thinking, informed, wise, or intelligent enough to act like consequentialists in or day-to-day lives. So he instead argued that we should obey rules and cultivates virtues that are known to produce positive consequences with high frequency.

    • Nick says:

      The the question turns to — How One Becomes What One Is? ;]

      I’ve also heard “Be your *BEST* self”.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        One thing I’ve found helps is, rather than choosing between something I SHOULD do but don’t like, and something I SHOULDN’T do but do like, I try to find and make choices between things I should do and sort-of like, and things I shouldn’t do and really like. That way, I get some enjoyment-reward out of doing the thing I should do, and still get some pride and sense of control out of doing a thing I should do, and out of denying myself a thing I really like that I shouldn’t do.

        Once I’ve committed and am in the process of doing a thing I sort-of like and should do, I spend more time enjoying that process and ‘being aware within it’, explicitly looking for ways to increase my enjoyment of it.

        Then, when my options really are between a thing I REALLY don’t like but should do, and a thing I really like but shouldn’t do, training kicks in – I do the thing I don’t like but should do, become aware within that process, and begin looking for ways to enjoy it.

        (Warning: this utterly fails when I am sufficiently depressed / anhedonic that EVERYTHING is terrible.)

  4. Toby Bartels says:

    Sometimes ‘Just be yourself.’ means that all you have to do is to be yourself, and of course that may not be accurate. But sometimes people use it as a warning against trying something else (what Multiheaded referred to above as ‘deliberate inauthenticity’). Even so, there are two subtly different interpretations:

    * Don’t try to pretend to be somebody you’re not, because you won’t be able to pull it off, and it will all be a disaster.
    * Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, because you won’t be able to pull it off, and it will all be a disaster.

    The first is definitely good advice. The second, not necessarily.

    • Kiboh says:

      I can think of at least one more:

      * Don’t try to pretend to be somebody you’re not, because if you can pull it off, it’ll still all be a disaster, since all relationships constructed during this pretence will be built on lies.

      Actually, now I think about it, there are a LOT of ways ‘be yourself’ could conceivably be interpreted . . .

      * Don’t try to pretend to be somebody you’re not. Just don’t. It’ll probably work fine and make everybody involved happier, but my non-consequentialist ethical system says you still have a duty to not do it.

      * Before pretending to be somebody you’re not, make sure the persona you’re adopting isn’t already in use by someone in your social circle. Be whoever you want, but be YOURself, not someone else’s.

      * Continue to exist, please. Thanks! You’re doing a good job!

  5. Miles Thomas says:

    This is a really interesting idea. I’m going to keep an eye out for situations in which this approach is worth testing.

    I’m not sure that ‘I don’t like doing things’ or ‘I do nothing’ is a pure response, though. It would be much harder to pull of the (possibly more truthful) ‘I Never Leave My Room and prefer to invest hours of my time into introvertedly reading and writing things on the internet.’ or something like that that pattern-matches to loserish activities. ‘I do nothing’ *is* countersignalling (saying something literally implying you’re maximally boring to countersignal you’re not), but it’s not countersignalling on being a loser; it’s countersignalling on being boring/not having other things to do.

    • Multiheaded says:

      What I used to do back at uni when I was having a good day:

      “Oh, haha, don’t even ask! laughing I’m such a loser nerd, I just do weird things on the internet all day! I’m hopeless!” (grin bashfully)

      While depressed:

      (the blandest face imaginable) “Eh, I do… stuff…” (go away I’m sick of people, I don’t care about you or myself)

    • AndekN says:

      ‘I do nothing’ *is* countersignalling

      I agree. I sometimes decline invitations social events by saying: “No thanks, I hate people and people hate me”. That usually gets a laugh, since I’m actually pretty well-liked at my workplace. But if I’d respond with the more honest “No thanks, I find most people boring” I would come off as arrogant and rude.

      • AndekN says:

        I’ve thought about this some more, and realised there are signals within counter-signals.

        Re: “I do nothing”. There is the counter-signal: “I so obviously do interesting things that I can say something like this”. But there is also a second signal: “I do things that are more interesting than spending an evening with you people”.

        It would be quite a status bid to state this second signal out loud. You’d better be Elon Musk or someone to be confident to pull that one off.

        But if you’ve hid your signal within a counter-signal, it is acceptable, since counter-signalling is also a bid of trust and coalition-building. As Scott wrote in Friendship is Countersignalling: “To give someone this kind of potential ammunition against you shows a lot of trust that they’re your real friend and will never use it.”

        Basically “I do nothing” is a way of saying “Youre my ally, and I’ve proven it by saying things that you could potentially use against me. Now, with that in mind, I don’t want to spend this evening with you, since I’ve got more interesting things to do. Usually a reluctance to spend time with you would suggest that I’m not a part of your coalition, but since I made sure to prove I’m your ally, you know it does not apply in this case.”

  6. Vanzetti says:

    >>>I sit in a room all day and do nothing”

    You, know, I just don’t believe this. I, too, sit in a room all day, but I certainly do something most of the time. Even if it’s just thinking.

  7. Anon says:

    “Be yourself” is a truism. You can’t ever NOT be yourself. Everything you do is “being you”, by definition.

    As for why your tactic wouldn’t work for the high school you: how can you possibly know that? You can’t travel back in time and try it out and see if it works, so you just made an unverifiable statement. You even gave an outcome, “I would be eaten alive”, without any supporting evidence as to why this particular outcome would happen.

    In short, this is just a load of “what ifs” with absolutely zero supporting evidence. Why don’t you make actual testable predictions based on real world data? It would be more useful to everyone.

    • ozymandias says:

      “Be yourself” is a truism. You can’t ever NOT be yourself. Everything you do is “being you”, by definition.

      I think you are interpreting the statement too literally. When I am left to my own devices, I tend to go on long monologues about whatever subject I happen to find interesting. Consciously not doing this is behaving less in the way that I would typically behave, and one of the ways that this is described is “not being yourself.”

      You can also apply this to self-development. For instance, I want to be a kinder and more compassionate person, so trying to be kinder than I am is sort of being myself. On the other hand, I like getting really excited by small things, even though some people think that is weird, and so trying not to be excited by small things would not be like being myself– it isn’t a change I would want to make except that some people have negative opinions about it. Sometimes people say “be the best version of yourself.”

      • von Kalifornen says:

        One issue is that people sometimes try to fit their identity into a specific mold, and this fails and is really garish. (Consider, say, pick-up artists and people who try to purchase coolness.)

    • Andrew says:

      If you pretend to be Christian when you don’t believe it, just because you think that’s what other people want, then you’re not being yourself.

      That’s just an example. Mostly people put on different pretenses than that.

      “Be yourself” means “don’t be pretentious.” It’s not good advice for people who have no delusions about themselves, because if you don’t have those delusions, then being a normal person requires maintaining certain pretenses on a more conscious basis. Society requires it.

      The Christianity example from earlier is unexpectedly relevant.

      Although I had in mind more mundane things, like, if you know yourself well enough to realize that the only reason you’re talking to a girl is the way that her body looks, and you’re kind of _hoping_ that she turns out to have something upstairs but you don’t really _care_ since it doesn’t matter until you’ve banged a couple times at least, then you’re definitely going to want to hide that self-knowledge by pretending to be someone else… someone mythical… who only deluded people believe they actually are.

      And, by the way, much worse if you don’t even care about how she looks because you’re just desperate for anyone… no, you absolutely cannot be yourself in that situation. I guess that’s why “be yourself” is such a horrible violence. It’s the desperate people who end up hearing advice on such matters, and they already know they can’t do that, and that you are just dismissing them, denying the reality of their situation because you feel better about yourself if you pretend it doesn’t exist. Just the kind of self-delusion that allows one to just be their self 😉

  8. I’d always assumed that “Just be yourself” meant something like “there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you, but you’ve got habits of shame/panic that are getting in your way”.

    • blacktrance says:

      I interpret “be yourself” as “don’t pretend to be someone you’re not”. For example, if you think Personality Trait X is popular with your preferred gender, but you don’t have it, don’t pretend to have it.

    • buckwheatloaf says:

      oh yeah that’s how i thought about it too. i wanted to tell people that before and told them that before and that was why. that’s the good reason to have it told to you. that there’s nothing wrong with you and you’ve not any reason to worry about anything because you’ll be fine if you just don’t over think it. but also it could be a nicer way to tell someone who is like putting on airs to not do that. but i think there’s lots more that could just use some confidence in themselves than there are the ones that are acting like someone they’re not or “not being themselves” and could use the reminder for that reason. what you said is the main way it’s used i think. more for encouragement than as advice.

      • I’m not sure I see a sharp distinction between encouragement and advice.

        The problem with interpreting that as advice quit panicking is that not panicking is not a simple matter of will.

  9. Eli says:

    No, no, title statement is definitely wrong. Countersignaling and magic are nothing alike.

  10. Kaj Sotala says:

    I liked this thought on “be yourself”:

    If you are trying to get someone to like you, you should strive to maintain a friendly, positive interaction with that person in which he or she feels comfortable and happy on a moment-by-moment basis. You should not try to directly alter that person’s opinion of you, in the sense that if you are operating on a principle of “I will show this person that I am smart, and he will like me”, “I will show this person I am cool, and she will like me,” or even “I will show this person that I am nice, and he will like me”, you are pursuing a strategy that can be ineffective and possibly lead people to see you as self-centered. This might be what people say when they mean “be yourself” or “don’t worry about what other people think of you”.

  11. ozymandias says:

    I actually got “be yourself, but a more cheerful and outgoing version of yourself!” as camming advice (for MyFreeCams; other sites apparently prefer a Sexy Robot camgirl). And this has actually been pretty successful for me? I suspect it is a combination of things:

    1) You have to be pretty sexually successful for “I will make money by convincing Internet strangers they want to see me naked” to even occur to you, so “yourself” is probably fairly attractive to begin with.
    2) It establishes a niche: there are lots of people who are better at being Cute Girls than I am, but I am pretty much the only cute girl who will also tell you about ancient Greek sexuality.
    3) Sometimes no one is talking, and you still have to do something because there is nothing more unattractive than a sad silent lump, and it is a lot easier to monologue if you are relatively close to your actual personality.

  12. Hedonic Treader says:

    There is a cheat code for the problem: Make the needs go away.

    Bad at dating? Boy, I sure wish we had porn, prostitution, masturbation, and sperm banks.

    Bad at making friends? Boy, I sure wish we had hobbies where the coordination is so formal that you don’t need conversation skills, or which you can pursue on your own.

    Making money could be a problem though. But if you’re dysfunctional enough, the state will give it to you for free. 🙂

    • ozymandias says:

      Masturbation totally fulfills one’s need for orgasms, but orgasms are not the primary thing most people get out of romantic relationships. For that matter, for a lot of people, orgasms are not the primary thing they get out of sex.

      For many (perhaps most?) people, talking to humans in a non-superficial fashion is an important component of their happiness. This is pretty much something that can only be achieved by getting along with humans.

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        You’d be surprised how willing people are to talk to computers.

        Fake sociality is already a big part of the entertainment industry, and it will only get bigger. So is fake status, by the way.

        And yes, romance is nice – unless you’re the guy who doesn’t get the girl.

        And yes, there’s more to sex than orgasms, but porn and prostitution (and sperm banks) provide more than orgasms as well. There are extremely sophisticated erotic fantasies designed for specific fetishes, often available for free online. The haptics and feeling of being physically with a naked person is provided by prostitution as well. For reproduction, you don’t even need to touch a penis anymore if you are female. And you can expect all this to benefit greatly from technological innovations in the next 10-30 years.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, masturbation will provide orgasms.

          On the other hand, if I just want a hug – I can’t get one. I literally have no source of affectionate human touch (for various reasons which I’m not going to go into).

          I quite often see references to being “touch-starved” and it makes me laugh in a grim, bitter way because no, you won’t die and you’d be surprised how long you can go without, so the tone of “OMG, I had no boyfriend for three months and it was terrible!” makes me go “Try never and then come back to me”.

        • Hedonic Treader says:

          @Deiseach: I don’t know anything about your health condition (or whatever your problem is), so I can’t judge your situation, but for most people, getting hugs is easy.

          If nothing else, you can invest $50 and hire a hooker. You get the equivalent of hugs and more. They are usually not picky about looks either.

          Also, physical contact is overrated. Maybe if you’re a small child, you need physical affection, but for adults, it’s totally replaceable with other forms of enjoyment.

        • von Kalifornen says:

          No.

          no.

          That way leads the end of life and happiness. Perhaps you can damn all social prospects, and blaze glorious in other fields. But if you do this for everything — you will loose your humanity, and you will also hurt others. You will become a soldier of Moloch.

          Also, I think that the price for prostitution, of the sort that *actually* substitutes, is really, really high.

        • coffeespoons says:

          How about getting a cat or a dog for cuddles?

        • Matthew says:

          @Hedonic Treader

          You are engaging in egregious typical mind fallacy when you say things like

          Also, physical contact is overrated. Maybe if you’re a small child, you need physical affection, but for adults, it’s totally replaceable with other forms of enjoyment.

          …as well every comment you’ve made suggesting that prostitution is a replacement for actual intimacy.

        • nydwracu says:

          That way leads the end of life and happiness. Perhaps you can damn all social prospects, and blaze glorious in other fields. But if you do this for everything — you will loose your humanity, and you will also hurt others. You will become a soldier of Moloch.

          That you will. But sometimes there are no realistic alternatives.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I hear that suicide is painless, and brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please.

        • Matthew says:

          {wonders what proportion of commenters will get that reference without googling it}

        • ozymandias says:

          Hedonic Treader: …No, no it really isn’t. For me, touch starvation is a distinct and unpleasant feeling; I consistently get it after about two weeks of not touching people, and it doesn’t go away until I get significant amounts of physical affection, and it makes me very unhappy.

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          YES. After a few weeks of no cuddles I start going Dark more and more frequently (it seems to max out after about a year of no contact). For some of us, it really *is* detrimental.

        • Deiseach says:

          “you can invest $50 and hire a hooker”

          Well – first I have to go to my bank and change my euros to dollars. Then I have to fly to America to hire a hooker who takes dollars. So – slightly more complicated than you make it sound 🙂

          On the other hand – is there prostitution in my small Irish town or a city nearby? Yes, very likely. I’ve heard stories.

          Problem 1: It’s illegal and I personally consider it immoral
          Problem 2: I’m female and straight and the only prostitution I’ve heard about has been women sex workers
          Problem 3: If I were capable of that much social interaction as finding out where one may hire a prostitute and then going there and negotiating however one acquires the services,(other than a knee-trembler in the public toilets or a convenient alleyway), I wouldn’t need to hire the services of a prostitute in the first place since I would be able to have some kind of social interaction with other people that could develop into minor physical contact
          Problem 5: You say well when you say you have no idea of the extent of my extreme introversion and inability to do what are even the most basic tasks of ‘normal’ living. to give you an example: If I have to travel somewhere and spend all day away from home, I will quite likely go hungry all day until I get home and can cook something because I am not able to make myself so much as go into a fastfood joint and order a burger’n’chips to be eaten in public. (And no, packing a sandwich to take with me won’t work either, unless I can be guaranteed to find a toilet stall where I can lock the door and eat the sandwich, and who wants to eat their lunch in a public lavatory?)

          So you see how ‘find and pay a strange person to put their arms around you’ is not really within my abilities to encompass?

          Yes, adults can get by without physical touch and replace it with other forms of enjoyment. I’ve been doing that for decades. Some forms of enjoyment, however, tend to have long-term health consequences (e.g. overeating, binge drinking, recreational drug use).

          I would also ask you to do this simple experiment: if you consider that you don’t indulge in touch. just make a note of how or when you are touched over a couple of days (e.g. had to shake hands on being introduced to someone at work or not; doctor’s examination; touched or were touched on the arm or shoulder by another person in conversation and the like) and then see if you’re as ‘touch-free’ as you think you are.

          If you like, and you’re serious, I’ll do the same and we can compare and contrast. Give me a start and end date and it’s on!

        • ozymandias says:

          Deiseach: There are male prostitutes; most of them are gay, but I suspect most of them would be willing to cuddle a woman for money. There are websites where prostitutes advertise (Backpage, The Erotic Reviews) and you can conduct the entire business over email.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Deiseach, I want to address “Problem 1.” I know that this isn’t the whole problem, but you singled it out, implying that it is worth addressing.

          First, prostitution is legal in Ireland. The widespread ignorance of local laws and belief in American ones is a hobby of mine. It’s even more common in Canada than Europe, though.

          Second, even in America, buying hugs is legal. Do you judge immoral the purchase of hugs?

        • Have those who are “touch-starved” ever tried social dancing? In tango you dance in close embrace to your partner, and in most other dances there will be physical contact at least between your hand and the other person’s.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Do you judge immoral the purchase of hugs?

          People (incl. myself) probably see it as not virtuous, for a somewhat non-traditional but nonetheless familliar meaning of “virtue”.

        • ozymandias says:

          Pablo: In most cases when I’m touch-starved it’s because I’m too socially phobic to leave my house, so tango is not actually a helpful solution. 😛 I suspect similar limitations are true of a fair number of other touch-starved people– at least those who are female– given, in most social circles, the opportunities for women to touch each other.

        • Hedonic Treader says:

          @Deiseach:

          “I would also ask you to do this simple experiment: if you consider that you don’t indulge in touch. just make a note of how or when you are touched over a couple of days”

          No need. I shake hands only when I have to and I find it an annoying obligation. It happens only rarely. Also rarely, I touch people on public transport because there is no room. I find it annoying but the transportation is worth it. Very rarely, some well-meaning person touches, say, my shoulder to convey empathy etc. I know they mean well and recognize that, but I find it annoying.

          Very rarely, I have sex with actual women. I always pay them (it is cheap and legal here in Germany), of course it is not forced on them (they could just walk out of the place they work and over to a police station). That contact I don’t find annying at all. (Sex is awesome!) 😀

          I do have friends I meet in person every second month or so, but I don’t touch them on purpose unless it’s their birthday and I’m expected to shake hands.

          I’m sure I would love more intimate contact if I had a girlfriend or kid or something. But it doesn’t feel like a starvation. I find political and legal attacks on my autonomy far more detrimental to my emotional wellbeing than a lack of touch (e.g. my psychological inability to complete a suicide and the ban on euthanasia make me viscerally angry very often; same for any report of any ban or censorship that is not absolutely necessary).

          I admit I might be guilty of typical mind fallacy.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          @van Kalifornen

          >That way leads the end of life and happiness. Perhaps you can damn all social prospects, and blaze glorious in other fields. But if you do this for everything — you will loose your humanity, and you will also hurt others. You will become a soldier of Moloch.

          You took the words right out of my mouth.

          I don’t want to feel happiness from human contact. I want to actually have human contact. And if the two must be separated I’d rather experience real positive human contact with the happiness taken out, than feel happy for no reason.

    • Deiseach says:

      Re: money for free – as a low-level bureaucratic minion (and someone who has been ‘on the dole’ for long periods in between jobs), I can assure you, it’s not “for free”.

      For a start, there is a lot of investigation into your means. Have you any savings? Any sources of income? Any property or interest in property here or abroad? When you were forced into ‘voluntary’ bankruptcy because you couldn’t pay your mortgage and you sold your house, what exactly was the disposition of the monies received?

      Lots of paperwork. Lots of appointments and meetings where if you don’t turn up, your money is stopped. Lots of your time wasted in simply sitting in waiting rooms. Lots of having to trot your story out to different people time and again.

      Lots of “are you willing to do this pointless training course even though we both know there is no work at the end of it and the only purpose is to make the live register figures look good for the government?” with ‘if you don’t do it, we’ll stop your money’.

      Lots of “hmmm – we see you had terminal liver cancer last year. But we need you to confirm that you still have terminal liver cancer this year”. (Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s what red tape throws up).

      For people who genuinely are dysfunctional enough (either physically or mentally), it’s not all fun fun fun free money!

      Had a client in last week who is (at a guess) paranoid schizophrenic; off her meds, convinced ‘someone’ had her door key and was coming into her house and tearing up her clothes. Wanted us to change the lock for her. Rang her local councillor and everyone she could think of. Has a teenage son who is (again, at a guess) highly stressed by his mother’s behaviour and little family support because they can’t handle her.

      Oh, yes: she’s “dysfunctional enough that the state will give it to (her) for free”, but her life is not one of “easy money from the suckers who pay taxes while I have a high old time”.

      Unless you’re one of the people gaming the system*, or you’re a petty criminal, it definitely is NOT ‘for free’.

      *And even if you are, there’s a good chance we’ll catch you out, because local knowledge. Have another client who is applying for housing on the basis that her family home is overcrowded. One of the women in the office said “Hey, she’s moving in next door to me!” For reasons of confidentiality, I can’t tell you any more of the story, but it’s just an example to show that Big Brother Knows Quite A Bit.

      • von Kalifornen says:

        Also, you end up living in impoverished squalor.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah – it’s like the regular rants you see in the papers wanting to whip up outrage about “Prisoners living life of luxury in jail!” with stories about televisions in cells and the like (the idea being these scumbags should be suffering and not living the life of Riley at the taxpayers’ expense).

          First of all, much of these stories are simply not true. Secondly, where there is some truth, it’s a combination of efforts to make prisons run a little more smoothly (if all the inmates are glued to the box watching the match or the reality tv shows, then they’re not rioting or stabbing each other or causing trouble) and the lack of recognition that they’re deprived of their liberty and are often locked up in their cells for eighteen out of twenty-four hours.

          Years back, I was on one of those pointless unemployment training courses I mentioned, and one of the guys on the course had worked on a supertanker. Now, these vessels are huge – he told us that genuinely, when you’re going from one deck up to another, you have to take your lunch with you because the distances are so great you will be most of the day going from A to D (never mind Z).

          But no matter how big the vessel, you’re still stuck on it. He also told us to imagine being stuck in the one room where we were for months.

          Prison is like that: imagine being stuck in your room where you are now. Sure, it’s your house (or other dwelling place). But you can’t step one foot outside the door. You don’t have any choice as to who else lives there. You don’t have any choice about meals, bedtime, recreation, anything. Other people are in charge and enforce all that (and yes, I know it sounds like being a young child all over again).

          Now take away your radio. Your TV set. You don’t have a computer or mobile phone. You don’t (if bans such as this do manage to succeed in future) get books sent to you from outside. You may not have access to books or writing paper inside. Education courses are cut or dropped. You’re in your room eighteen hours out of twenty-four.

          Your room may be very nice, but how would you react to that?

    • Multiheaded says:

      Making money could be a problem though. But if you’re dysfunctional enough, the state will give it to you for free.

      -> [Light Side] Your misguided and hurtful words do you a disfavour, friend. Still, I hope you never find yourself in poverty to realize just how wrong you are.
      -> [Neutral] Nearly all first-hand narratives of poverty and dysfunction go against the connotations of your statement. Moreover, I disapprove of your crude political signalling and view it as an implicit taunt towards people who share my moral sentiments.
      -> [Dark Side] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: gulags and guillotines!

      • J_Taylor says:

        This communication method is very nice. It seems like it would allow you to simultaneously explain your position (this is good) and advocate revolutionary terror (this is also good). You should do this more often, assuming communicating this way does not sap your energy reserves.

        • Drake. says:

          agreed with the “very nice”, although i think that if it were used any more frequently than “once or twice” it would become a little tired.

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        @Multiheaded:

        “Still, I hope you never find yourself in poverty to realize just how wrong you are.”

        Haha. I lived in a homeless shelter for three months this year. I had warm showers, a warm blanket, a room of my own and a place to sleep without being rained on. What else can you really expect if you don’t work?

        There were people who complained about it. I thought that was crazy. I complain a lot about government banning self-determination options for free citizens, but you will never hear me complain that I don’t get more money taken from working strangers.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          You got your own room? You don’t get that at homeless shelters in the United States! So it may be your solution to lack of money works in a socialist paradise like Germany, but it doesn’t work everywhere.

        • Hedonic Treader says:

          @Toby: You get it only temporarily and it’s more of a priviledge than a right. I got it longer than normal because my homelessness was caused by suicidal depression.

          In my defense, I did (and still do) offer to accept professional euthanasia instead of causing costs (and people can take my organs).

          And don’t the US have welfare too? It’s not like everybody goes directly into homelessness, do they?

          Either way, compare with the situation of the global poor who are working and most of us here are priviledged by birth.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @HT:


          Apologies are in order, friend. I am sorry and sympathetic. Please try not being suicidal. I know what it’s like, and I’m sorry again.

          (Still, you might be able to see how your fairly innocent use of irony was totally misread by the commenters.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          It’s not like everybody goes directly into homelessness, do they?

          Very many of them do, in fact, go directly into homelessness.

        • Hedonic Treader says:

          @Multiheaded: No need to apologize.

          @Ialdabaoth: Okay, I can see this could be harsh. The social security net is probably better here in Germany. As I said, priviledged by birth.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          >And don’t the US have welfare too? It’s not like everybody goes directly into homelessness, do they?

          Not everybody, of course, and I don't know any numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if more than 50% of people (in the U.S.) who become homeless for the first time do so from a state of taking no government welfare benefits the previous month. (This may be less true now that —starting just this year— health insurance assistance is more widely available, and taking advantage of it when available is more or less mandatory. Food assistance is the other welfare programme that's more widely available than most, but it's not mandatory, and it's woefully underutilized.)

          >Either way, compare with the situation of the global poor who are working and most of us here are privileged by birth.

          Very true.

  13. MugaSofer says:

    “Part of me wishes I could tell 16 year old me about this and save him years of terrified mumbling and phobia of social interactions.”

    Well, consider it stolen.

    Of course, I already pretty much do this … it’s more fun to avoid questions than answer them flatly until the questioner gets bored.

    I’ve never had problems, but I don’t know what that means for the countersignalling hypothesis.

  14. Anonymous says:

    One other reason why things are different now than when you were 16 could be that now you operate in a different environment. An average hospital employee is probably a smart, well-socialized, friendly person. An average high-schooler, closer to a dumb, mean bully…?

    • Elissa says:

      This gets my vote. One mistake that I sometimes notice socially anxious people make (wouldn’t speculate on whether it’s happening here) is seeing Others as kind of an indiscriminate mass of malevolent gibbering apes, and being less likely to notice that there interesting and important differences between social groups.

      • Clockwork Marx says:

        It may be that more analytically minded people use cruder models when dealing with others like the “cat” way of seeing the world proposed here:

        I want to point out one implication of these two observations: cats aren’t unsociable. They just use lazy mental models for the species-society they find themselves in: projecting themselves onto every other being they relate to, rather than obsessing over distinctions. They only devote as much brain power to social thinking as is necessary to get what they want. The rest of their attention is free to look, with characteristic curiosity, at the rest of the universe.
        http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/08/06/on-seeing-like-a-cat/

        It’s a kind of selective mental laziness used to free up cognitive space elsewhere. If the “NPC” model you use is an overly critical one, it can lead to you automatically taking excessively defensive stances against people and blinding you to data that doesn’t fit with your model (like signals of genuine acceptance).

        • nydwracu says:

          If the “NPC” model you use is an overly critical one

          Or if it’s an accurate model that’s been fed data that don’t generalize well, or if it’s been shaped by abnormal optimization constraints.

          I intuitively assume that anyone who hasn’t repeatedly and publicly signaled affiliation with a relevant ingroup is out to harm me — not because I consciously think they are, but because 1) this has been close to true for many of the environments I’ve been in, 2) past cost/benefit calculations have frequently come out to the effect that it’s better to risk the cost of losing the attention/interest/acquaintanceship/whatever of someone who doesn’t want to do me harm than the much greater harm of coming to the attention of someone who does want to do me harm.

          (Despite all this, most of my errors have been on the side of not following this model closely enough. So.)

        • Matthew says:

          @nydwracu

          At least consider the hypothesis that your model is a self-fulfilling prophecy because others can pick up subtle tells of your assumption of hostility and are reciprocating.

        • nydwracu says:

          At least consider the hypothesis that your model is a self-fulfilling prophecy because others can pick up subtle tells of your assumption of hostility and are reciprocating.

          In many cases, it’s just thede dynamics — people noticing that I’m an outgroup member and acting accordingly. It could be just reciprocating sometimes, but I’d need to travel a lot more outside the country in order to be able to feed data to that hypothesis.

          (Or root out and purge all signals that would be interpreted as outgroupish in most environments I’m likely to find myself in, but fuck that. I could lose the accent and all — I talk like my father, and he grew up here back when it was still rural — but I will *not* shit-talk my family, and that’s not an uncommon signaling demand at all.)

      • blithe spirit says:

        This. Although, some people really act like apes.

  15. a person says:

    “Be yourself” is a summary of the greatest piece of social skills advice there is, but you need to explain it beyond those two words.

    Certain people have the intuitive belief that the way to make people like you is to present an image of yourself as a certain person: a cool guy, a nice person, an average non-weirdo, etc. People might optimize their behavior in social interactions towards the goal of presenting this image of themselves to the world. In reality, this is a bad idea because 1) if people notice you doing this, they generally have an averse reaction, which sometimes can be pretty extreme, 2) it’s difficult to do properly, because it’s very hard to tell how other people actually perceive you, 3) it leads to anxiety and insecurity over one’s self-image, and 4) it’s a distraction from goals that you actually should be optimizing for. A much better idea is to optimize towards making the person(s) you’re interacting with feel happy and comfortable, because usually if you can do this then that person will like you, and you won’t have to worry as much about the image you project. So in other words, don’t try to “be” a certain thing, just “be yourself”. When I figured this out it was hugely beneficial to me.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yes, but “Be yourself” only works when you are ” a cool guy, a nice person, an average non-weirdo”

      If you’re not an average non-weirdo, if you’re weird in some way (be it large or small), “being yourself” doesn’t help. I think we can all think of that one person we knew or encountered, whether in school or in work or wherever, who was just that bit off. You might feel sorry for them, but you certainly didn’t want any greater social interaction with them than a general politeness when you had to acknowledge one another.

      If someone like that wanted to go on a dating site or whatever, “being yourself” wouldn’t be very successful.

      (Declaration of bias or interest: I am that weird person, but I manage to be just functional enough to cover it up at work, and I’m not interested in social interaction at a deeper level than “Hi, George/Bill/Susie/Kate, did you have a nice weekend?”)

      • a person says:

        I feel like a weird person who is somewhat “off” is going to do a lot better for themselves if all they worry about in social interactions is making the other person feel comfortable and happy than if they are obsessively focused on presenting an image of a normal person. Focusing on the former, over multiple instances of social interaction, is essentially the process of learning social skills and helping themself become non-weird. If they focus on the latter and put effort into seeming as normal as possible it will make them seem even more strange.

        • Andrew says:

          If you’re weird, you need a conscious mental model of what other people expect from you, specialized to compensate for how you would be/act without that mental model.

          You don’t (necessarily) “become non-weird” just because you act in accordance with this mental model. You play the role. For the rest of your life.

          Imagine a “closeted” homosexual. For whatever reason, they need to hide their homosexuality. They’re not going to “become heterosexual.” But they will certainly know what it takes to pretend to be heterosexual. They will have an idea of what a heterosexual behaves like — which will be quite different from the unconscious behavior of an actual heterosexual.

  16. Joe says:

    I would be careful about being so blunt with coworkers. I have been in situations were I thought I was pretty popular and well liked, but then it was pointed out to me that people were just being snarky. And their friendliness has kind of a gaslight.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      > their friendliness has kind of a gaslight.

      Then again, it reaches a certain point where it just doesn’t matter, as long as the environment isn’t permanent. For example, I believe Scott is wrapping up a residency there, on his way to the Bay Area – as long as the situation continues to appear honest for as long as Scott’s there, the deeper mechanics are likely to be irrelevant once he leaves.

    • coffeespoons says:

      Scott (AFAICT from reading his blog and LW) has lots of friends and has pretty high status within the rationality community. He also has at least one girlfriend right now. I would guess that he’s also good at his job, so it seems pretty plausible to me that he’s quite popular at work even if he doesn’t participate in e.g. playing golf.

  17. Clockwork Marx says:

    I still find personal questions terrifying, in large part due to the fact that I don’t have an easy narrative to deploy and deflect questions with anymore. It was easy enough in college to offload my identity to my major (anthropology, which is an opaque enough field to generate some interest to outsiders) or the fact that I lived in a notorious co-op for a while.

    After graduating, I tried to deflect attention with vague future plans but I was still constantly threatened with the possibility that someone would ask what I’m doing now (living at home, working a mindless part-time job, dealing with depression and an eating disorder, brainstorming ideas for graphic novels I want to make, reading difficult-to-summarize books and articles). Saying “I have no friends” or “I (do what most people would likely perceive) to be nothing in my free time” are just too damn close to the truth for me to employ them as potential strategies for dealing with people.

    “Eccentric” responses that deflect attention are a workable strategy if you have some alternative form of signaling like observable successes in a job or the dating world because it allows these signals to speak on your behalf. It is actually advantageous to stay aloof in these cases because it guarantees that nothing you do or say will end up interfering with these signals. You just need to plant the seeds and let other people’s brains do the work of building up a legible social identity for you.

    This is also likely the reason that this strategy is unlikely to work well in high school. Outside of zero-sum signals of raw popularity (student counsel positions, prom king/queen, dating other high-status individuals) and athletic or academic success (both of which can actually have negative connotations in different circles), high school students have few other signals to fall back on, making face-to-face interactions carry that much more weight. The polar opposite would be the elderly, who have a lifetime of signaling to fall back on and can afford to make minimal investment in face-to-face interaction.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      My general strategy in these situations is to try to steer the conversation so that we end up talking about something I am doing in the abstract.

      For instance:

      Q: Hi, Ghatanathoah, what are you doing?
      A: Same old stuff mostly, I did see “Guardians of the Galaxy” recently, did you see that?
      Q: Oh yeah, I saw that too!
      A: Wasn’t it awesome when……

      If I’m lucky we can keep talking about the events in the movie for the rest of the conversation without it coming back to my personal life. If not I rinse and repeat.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Hm – when asked that kind of “And what do you do?” question, which thankfully does not come up very often, I tend to say nothing and just smile. I must have an unintentionally menacing smile, because that seems to discourage any further questions along that line.

    The only other time it comes up is in job interviews, and where previously I used to try and find some balance between actual interests (I really do stay inside and do nothing) and what sounds vaguely sociable but also something that I can plausibly blather about (e.g. “Participate in pub quizzes” – truth: participated in a grand total of ONE through pure fluke), now I’ve left off that “Hobbies and Interests” part of the CV and the only time recently I was asked about it, i.e. the interviewer said “Oh, I see the ‘Hobbies’ part is not on here – did we lose a page?”, I said “No, I left it off”.

    Since the only purpose of that section is to put in “I was captain of this, leader of that, won these medals and awards, got a scholarship for the other thing” and I’ve never done or won anything of the sort, I decided trying to present ‘acceptable proof of engagement in team activities that will translate to work’ was pointless.

    I’m a resolute non-joiner. My two proudest moments are between the ages of nine and twelve for (1) refusing to join the Girl Guides when my best friend who was joining asked me to do so and (2) refusing to join the Children of Mary when Sr. Alphonsus invited me to do so (she was one of the Mathematics teachers in the secondary school of my convent school, and absolutely terrifying – I am not joking, we used to genuinely shake with fear before going into one of her classes. Oddly enough, a few years later when I met her outside of the classroom situation, she was a way nicer person).

    I haven’t got any dating advice, since I’ve never been on a date. I was once almost asked out on a date when I was fifteen, but I turned it down (how do you get almost asked out? Guy asks “What would you say if I asked you out?” and you say “I’d say ‘no'”. He was a year or even two years younger than me! Besides being uninterested in dating in general, cradle-snatching is not my thing.)

    • AndekN says:

      Since the only purpose of that section is to put in “I was captain of this, leader of that, won these medals and awards, got a scholarship for the other thing”

      That’s the main purpose, but not the only purpose of mentioning your hobbies on your CV.

      There’s also the possibility that the person who’s hiring will have the same hobbies as you. It’s much easier for your application to get noticed if you and your hopefully-future-boss both are enthusiastic rock-climbers or something.

      Personal story time: I’m pretty sure I once got a job because I noticed my interviewer had a small “Metallica” memento in her room. I mentioned I had seen Metallica live back in the mid-90’s, and we proceeded to talk about heavy metal for 10-15 minutes. I guess the moral here is “Never underestimate the importance of standing out of the crowd.”

  19. Matthew O says:

    Hahaha, your mentioning of Civ2 reminded me of myself in high school and college, except with me it was Alpha Centauri and Civ4. The other night I was browsing the civfanatics forums and I saw this:
    http://forums.civfanatics.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=379316&stc=1&d=1405924585

    and I busted up laughing, and my wife could not understand what was so funny about it.

  20. Icicle says:

    Reading these responses has, oddly enough, been rather encouraging. I assumed that I was an extreme outlier in not having much of a social life and not doing interesting stuff, but it seems to be more common than I thought. Even if conditions suck, meeting someone else in the same sucky conditions is rather heartening.

    I wish I could give everyone here who wanted one a hug. n_n

    Anyways, since we seem to be sharing stories about the lack of dating, I guess I’ll add mine onto the pile. My lack of relationships pretty much comes down to me expending no effort to get into one. Other people talk about the feeling of being in love or having a crush as a wonderful thing, but for me, it is deeply unpleasant, because it typically gets caught in a loop of “Be sad that I am not with them, linger in their general vicinity in the hopes of talking to them or becoming friends, interact a little bit (typically under five sentences exchanged), nothing changes, repeat”. So a few years ago, I just stopped caring at all about getting in a relationship because if I continued to care about getting in a relationship, I would be sad. I did a similar thing with news. I stopped caring because it just made me sad and caring didn’t lead to it getting resolved. In the utility landscape of actions and decisions, getting a girlfriend would require me to head downhill for a while with no guarantee of coming across the hill I was going to climb.
    Anyways, the main problem is that there are things I would like to care about, but I don’t know how to make myself start to care about something. Does anyone else know how to do that?

    • Emile says:

      I did a similar thing with news. I stopped caring because it just made me sad and caring didn’t lead to it getting resolved.

      Seems perfectly sensible to me, what’s the point of paying attention to news? It’s a time sink, and you’re not usually getting much of value out of it, except maybe material for small talk. The average news story is usually unreliable and overhyped. I pay minimal attention to the news (I’ll occasionally check to see if my country is at war or something), and if I want a better understanding of a topic I just go for Wikipedia.

  21. Emile says:

    Hmm, I can’t relate *that much* to stories in this thread, despite being a shut-in nerd too.

    I can’t remember getting too much social pressure to have non-nerdy things to say about myself; that could be due to France being a bit more nerd-friendly than the US (the “nerd vs jocks” thing seems much less prevalent here; Paul Graham’s stuff on that doesn’t resonate for me), and also that I mostly lived in pretty weirdo geeky circles anyway (engineering school, video game company, robotics company…) so that “I spent Sunday writing a python script to extract chinese characters from a html page, filter and organize them and reformat them into a CSV table that can be imported into Anki” is perfectly normal.

    I wonder whether people from other countries also fail to relate to the nerds-vs-jocks thing – it doesn’t seem prevalent in China, and I’d expect it even less in Finland.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      Re: Finland. From growing up, I don’t really remember any people that I would have categorized as what Americans would call a jock. Or rather, some people come to mind, but it’s only after I learned of the concept from Americans – I’m not sure if I’d have developed it naturally. Then again, this might be more due to my tendency to see people as people rather than representatives of categories in general: e.g. I don’t seem to think in terms of people having a social gender either, even though a lot of others seem to.

      If you have poor social skills, as nerds tend to do, then that’ll obviously give you trouble, even in Finland. But it’s more because of having poor social skills rather than having eccentric hobbies.

      Of course e.g. role-players and athletes tend to form their own subcultures and associate preferentially with each other, but no more or less than people with any other shared interest or personality trait.

      That’s my experience, at least. That of others may vary.

      • Viliam Búr says:

        I would guess it’s just an American thing — schools having their sport teams, which get extremely high status at the school.

        In the rest of the world, schools are for learning, and sport (beyond the standard physical education) is an extracurricular activity. (Unless it is a school specializing at sport. Then you don’t find non-sporting people there.)

  22. Matthew says:

    It didn’t occur to me the last time I had a bit of an argument with Scott about online v. offline social groups, but it sort of sounds like he grew up somewhere he was the only nerd in his school, which is really unusual in my experience. Was there really no one else around in the whole sci-fi reading/tabletop gaming/math and chess club-participating cluster?

    I wasn’t a shut-in, not because I wasn’t a nerd, but because there were other nerds around asking me to do stuff.

    (I also had, FWIW, a really weird high-variance non-magnet public high school class, with an unusually large proportion of juvenile delinquents on the one hand, and a top 25 or so students on the other that were so smart, when I got to university-you-have-probably-heard-of, I was surprised because the average intelligence of my classmates was slightly lower than in my high school classes.)

    • ozymandias says:

      That doesn’t seem that unlikely to me; I was one of… four or five nerds that I was aware of in my high school, and only three of them were actually my friends. (I was not a shut-in, because I worked really hard to pass as normal, or at least as not so weird as to be offputting.) There were probably others– for one thing, it seems extremely unlikely that there would be only one male nerd in the entirety of the high school– but we were all too shy to find each other.

    • blacktrance says:

      I went to a small high school in the rural South. I am almost certain that I was the only person there that did nerdy things such as actively participate in online communities, spend hours looking through Civilization IV mods, etc. There were other people who were moderately nerdy, but even they couldn’t understand some of my interests. There was no tabletop gaming and barely any sci-fi reading, no chess club, and the math only went up to Calculus I and I was one of two people who was good at it, despite me being terrible at math in general.

      • Anonymous says:

        ” math only went up to Calculus ”

        That’s much better than most “small high school in the rural South” could do.

    • Iskra says:

      This entire comment thread has been full of typical mind fallacy pit-traps that I’ve found really difficult to avoid, but this picture of Scott’s high school is the worst. I graduated twelve years ago in a class of <150 from a religious high school in rural Wisconsin. We were actually warned, in class, about the perils of D&D. I also spent 6 months of lunches gossiping about the online Gundam Wing RP that the whole table was participating in. I can verbally accept that everyone here had the experience they say they had, but it's really hard to internalize the idea that people sometimes have trouble finding other people with common interests. For all that it's obviously true, I don't think I will ever understand how it's possible.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      I also had Scott’s experience of going to a school with no other nerds. I wasn’t completely socially starved, as there were some kids who had mild interest in nerdy subjects (for instance, they liked the LOTR movies or casually played StarCraft).

      Luckily for me I have 3 younger brothers who are all reasonably psychologically similar to me. I just realized that my life might have been a lot lonelier without them.

  23. Ghatanathoah says:

    I think a decent analogy exists between “being yourself” correctly and correctly translating a classic story to a new medium or updating it for a new audience. You need to keep what works about the original while making it accessible to new people, and you need to entertain the new demographic. without pandering it.

    In this extended metaphor, being “inauthentic” and “untrue to yourself” is analogous with adaptations that completely gut the core ideas and characters of the original story to pander to a new audience. You essentially become the “Dragonball Evolution” of the social world.

    If you want to be the “Batman Begins” of the social world you have to do things differently. You need to make yourself more interesting to other people than you were before, but not change who you essentially are. You need to present yourself better than before, but what you’re presenting still has to be you.

    At the risk of generalizing from one sample size, here are some things that have worked for me:
    -If you have an interest other people do not share, or are not as deeply into, find a way to make it interesting to them. I generally use my interests as a springboard for observational humor. I regale people with the funny things I’ve noticed about 30s horror movies or 80s comic books. It generally amuses them, as long as I don’t beat it into the ground.
    -Learn to recognize inferential differences and close them before they happen. I’ve become very proficient at summarizing facts, ideas, fictional plots, and other things I’m interested in very briefly and efficiently.
    -Search for interesting things in other people. If someone is boring you search for something they are saying that you find interesting and ask them questions about it that will focus them on that.
    -Recognize the difference between a Skills Problem and a Matching Problem. Sometimes a friendship or romance fails because you lack sufficient social skills to pursue it properly. Sometimes it fails because you have so little in common that pursuing it is a waste of your time. All that mushy stuff about romance being the art of finding the best possible match is actually true.

    That matching thing is actually incredibly helpful to your self-esteem. Worrying that you’re the wrong match for someone is painful, but it’s not as harmful to your long-term self-esteem as worrying that you’re not good enough for someone. There are some people for whom that kind of thinking is harmful of course, because they actually do have terrible social skills that need improvement before they can be friends or SOs with anyone. But hopefully you can tell the difference if you’re honest with yourself.