Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Time to Give It a Rest, Part II

There are a few things that are trendy these days that I don't understand.

Novelty Hoodies

Take a look at this:

Your first reaction might be to think, “Ha! That's clever. You can look like Bowser.” But really think about it. Once the novelty wears off, would you really want to wear this thing around? Seriously, you'll make people smile at first, but then you're walking around with a cartoon character for a jacket. It's one thing to have a t-shirt that looks kind of like a cartoon character's outfit. But this is a big, oddly-shaped jacket. Even if the spiky shell in the back is detachable, you've still got that tail, hair, and horns getting in the way. It would make it uncomfortable to sit down on the bus, especially with all of the beatings and wedgies you're sure to be getting at the same time. Here are some more:

Let's be real. You aren't really going to wear any of these just around. So what's the point? Are you going to wear any of them for a Halloween costume? Of course not, they're not elaborate enough to be costumes. These hoodies are in that weird, useless middle ground between everyday apparel and halfway decent costumes, making them pointless and worthless. And yet the Ninja Turtles hoodie is priced at $52. The Optimus Prime one is $60. The guy that made the Bowser hoodie wants $400 for it. I say anyone dumb enough to pay four hundred big ones for something so pointless is too stupid to be trusted with their money anyway.

Being an Introvert Doesn't Make You Better Than Other People

I'm also getting tired of the recent surge of Pro-Introvert Propaganda I've seen online in the last six months or so. It seems that there are people out there who have decided that introverts are the best that humanity has to offer, and we all need to go out of our way to accommodate them.

Look, I get that introverts are misunderstood a lot, and it can be frustrating for them. Believe me, I know. I don't know where exactly I'd be classified scientifically, I feel like I'm a little extrovert and a little introvert. But I am definitely part introvert. There are times- a lot of times- when I would much rather be alone and do stuff on my own than go out and put forth all the energy of being around people. Last year I went camping by myself in Zion National Park, and I loved it.

But what angers me is how a lot of these “introvert activists” seem to be asserting that anyone who isn't an introvert is shallow and worthless. Look at that image up there. The title of this masterpiece is “Introvert Rage.” He hates being around people because they are crazy anti-government nuts, shallow, gossipy airheads and sweetbros, stoners, etc. So he decides he'd much rather stay home and spend an evening on the internet. But wait... all of those people he hates in the real world are not only in the online community as well... they are the online community. Stupid, shallow, crazy people abound everywhere you go. Stupidity is not specific to any personality type. By the same token, there are tons of people out in the more social hemisphere of society that are intelligent, thoughtful, humble, and pleasant.

The caption that went with this image was, “Am I the only one?”

No, you jerk, you aren't the only one who hates clubs. You aren't this great intellectual who is leagues above the mindless troglodytes who enjoy clubbing. There are tons and tons of people who don't like going to clubs. But hey, look at all those dumb sluts taking endless selfies and wasting their lives on such a stupid activity. Every single person who likes to go to clubs sure is an idiot.

You know what? If you don't like clubs, then don't go to them. But just because you don't like something doesn't mean the people who do are idiots. It means that their way of having a good time is different from yours. And that's ok. It's just as ok that you prefer to sit home and read or have a quiet conversation with a close friend over lunch. Plenty of smart people like to dance on the weekends.

This introvert activism has all kinds of helpful guides on how to rearrange your whole personality in order to make them more comfortable. Don't make them go out if they don't want to. Don't demand that they be more outgoing. Don't pressure them into participation in large group activities. They say that just because they aren't loud and crazy doesn't mean they aren't having a good time. Just because they don't want to have shallow, pointless small talk doesn't mean they're a jerk. Just because they prefer not to go to big parties doesn't mean they don't want to spend time with you or be your friend.

I get that. They're valid points. If a person is introverted, you really shouldn't try to force them to be extroverts or assume that they're just mean or don't like you. But can I present a counterpoint on behalf of the extroverts out there? Nobody knows you're an introvert unless you tell them, and even if you do, not everybody knows what exactly that means. Being quiet and thoughtful at a party often looks exactly the same as not having a good time and hating being there. How is anyone supposed to know the difference if they don't know you?

If I'm an extrovert, that means that I am outwardly expressive of my emotions. If I'm happy, I look happy. If I'm having fun, I'm energetic and talkative. And it's hard for me to really, consciously understand that other people might not express their emotions that way. So when I see my roommate avoid large social gatherings or leave them early and spend a lot of time alone in his room, based on my understanding, I'm going to assume that he's shy or hates the people I hang out with, or that he's depressed. If I encourage him to get to know my friends or go out with me to more activities, it isn't because I'm an idiot and I want him to do idiot things. It isn't because I want to make him uncomfortable. It's because I don't know he's an introvert, and if I do, I don't get what that means or how I should interact with him.

A lot of frustration and resentment could be avoided if he would just take me aside and say, “Hey, I just want you to understand that I'm the kind of guy that prefers to be alone or in small groups. I like people, and I can be a great friend, but big parties and things like that aren't really my thing. So if I seem shy or anti-social, it doesn't mean I'm not having fun or that I hate you or anyone else. I appreciate your efforts to include me. Please don't take offense if I'd rather stay in than go out.”

Is that so hard?

Stop Complaining, Old People

The other day, I was at work, and during a brief moment of free time, I checked football scores on my phone. I have a coworker who is an ancient Spanish woman named Julia. She is a lovely lady, and generally very nice and pleasant. She came over and told me that she predicted that twenty years from now, the human race will have forgotten how to speak out loud because they will have entirely abandoned talking to one another in favor of texting.

You hear these kinds of things all the time. Kids these days don't make connections with other people. They always have their faces buried in their phones. They text instead of call. Nobody interacts with one another anymore. You ride the bus and every single person is playing with their phone instead of enjoying the world around them.

Look, I won't deny that we could all stand to look up from our phones a little more. Enjoy the party without constantly tweeting about how much fun you're having. But it's not nearly as bad as people are whining about it.

Imagine a picture of people on the bus. I would have drawn one, but I didn't feel like it. This is a bus in 1956. Some riders are reading the newspaper. One is reading a book. Another is doing a crossword puzzle. One is doing some work he brought with him from the office.

Now picture a bus in 2013. There are the same number of people, all of them looking straight down at their phones. How awful! But you know what? They're doing the exact same things the people were doing in the first picture. They can read the news, books, do work, play simple games, and way more than that. A person can use their phone to text their mother how much they love her. They can pay bills. They can listen to music, take pictures, watch movies, learn about the world around them, meet new people, learn a new language, participate in the political discourse in their community, even tune their guitar- all with their phones. Just because sometimes we aren't talking to someone face to face doesn't mean we're wasting time.

But why can't they put their phones away and interact with each other? Because it isn't like they would have if they didn't have phones with them. The other day I was at Chik-fil-a, waiting for my food. To pass the time, I played a game on my phone. Sure, I could have kept my phone in my pocket. But what was I missing by playing a game? I'm not interested in striking up a conversation with a complete stranger who will only be near me for five minutes. That's pointless, and carries much more opportunity for awkwardness and unpleasantness than I'm willing to risk. If it had been 1956 and I didn't have anything to distract myself with, I would have stood there quietly, looking around for something interesting to occupy my mind. Such a shame that having a phone with me kept me from that experience.

"What do you say we all put down our phones and play 'Red Rover?'"

Look, if you're out on a camping trip or at a party, or anywhere else that offers something or someone to actually experience, then yes, put away your phone and be alive. But if you're on the bus, and you have to decide between playing Scrabble on your phone and small talk with the creepy guy across the aisle, then please take out your phone and go for that triple word score. (Although I do make decent conversation if you'll just give me a chance.)

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