Where I don't care what others think

Social Diff

May 17th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

It would be coy of me to avoid some discussion on the events of the previous weekend.  I will include some observations, commentary, and probably a few intentionally vague statements for your consumptions.

This past weekend included more socially interactive experiences than just about every other weekend at RPI this year, possibly combined.  I wouldn’t rate this experience as an all-time/absolute most interactive experience in my time here at RPI, but it probably rivals many of my sophomore year adventures.  Without giving everything away I’d like to talk about, I’ve got two possible directions to head in with this post.  I can spend my time providing a blow-by-blow observational report or I can try and throw some darts at a few non-low hanging fruit… I’ll start with the dart tossing and see where that takes me.

One of the observations that stays with me the most is how things have changed since my last involvement in these sort of things.  I suspect just about everyone has forgotten that two years ago it was not uncommon for me to participate in social activities.  Having “taken” a hiatus of sorts, I haven’t experienced the gradual changes that everyone else has.  I discovered myself commonly labeled as a newcomer, when I should probably be labeled as one of the persons who was involved so early you don’t even remember me.

I think the size of the social group has grown significantly which has made everything much more complicated.  There are no longer 4-8 people considering a trip to the movies, there are more like 15-25.  A larger group doesn’t necessarily complicate everything, but with this particularly group things definitely don’t scale well.  I shan’t spend my time trying to identifying someone to blame for the dismal scaling behaviors, but instead would like to remind everyone to just “be friends,” which is a bit strange for me to say because I don’t consider many people “friends,” but I do encourage people of all walks to get along in a civil and socially acceptable way.  Everyone should also bath regularly and practice proper hygienic behaviors.  End public service announcement.

The growth in group membership has dramatically changed the leadership structure and social stakeholder composition of the group.  I’ve identified maybe 1.5 individuals who have remained (or maybe grown) in their previous roles of influence, the rest being pushed out by those more outspoken, obnoxious, or socially desirable.  In ye olden days, I think one of the reasons that activities were as successfully as they were was because everyone was interested in getting along first, and figuring out exactly what and who would do something second.  Today it seems the reverse is regularly entertained, whereas one person gets an idea and develops it hoping others will jump on board… but others participation is heavily contingent on a very strict set of terms and conditions.  It is no longer “lets go to eat at X,” its now “lets go to eat at X if and only if Y comes along and if Z hasn’t already eaten”.  Please note those variables have no correlation to real people; you’d waste your time assigning names to X,Y, and Z.  Mind you, all of this is coming from someone who doesn’t regularly engage in these sorts of practices.. and when I do I try my best to minimize any additional clauses and strings I bring to the table.  I usually cause no immediate problem if being left out or being unable to participate.  If everything I did had this many strings attached, I’m not sure I’d be able to untangle myself and get out of bed in the morning…. which may be why many people struggle to untangle themselves and rise before the afternoon hours.

One of the things I always try to do before I get involved in a group, socially or otherwise, is evaluate what impact I’m going to have on things.  For those of you who’ve worked on programming with version control systems its very a much like a diff; I try and evaluate what exactly I’m going to change by becoming involved, taking a public stance on a topic, or doing any number of things that people are likely to notice.  The challenge here is usually trying to get an accurate picture of all the different elements at play, so you can really figure out what sort of changes you might cause.  Its easy to identify that by taking step 1 you’ll move in a certain direction, but it’s less clear if that move is going to prevent someone else from moving to that location or create a far more complicated chain of events; this prediction stuff isn’t easy… which I why I usually don’t just do things on a whim.  I’ve spent a particularly large quantity of time evaluating the changes one or two people have made over the past few years, and I’m impressed by the sheer quantity of social adjustments they’ve managed to cause.  I suspect one of the persons may have some clue what they’ve done (which leads me to believe it might have been a well-calculated step) while the other seems to be far less clear on what’s happened.  I’m hesitant to toss blame because it was strategic, at the time, for that person to be kept in as much of the dark as possible because the parties involved didn’t want the individual to know that door existed, never mind be opened or reviewed.  Everyone once in a while I am like hrm, I should buy one of those pine-tree shaped air fresheners and try and clear the bad air here, but then I get reminded how that just is not feasible given my current position and acknowledgement level (or lack thereof).

On another note, it seems common for people to “dance” at events where music is being played.  I do not dance for a multitude of reasons, and when I am coerced into “moving with the music” I usually just vertically bob up and down. I’ve found this move sufficient in large crowds, but doesn’t seem to suffice in more intimate settings.  I don’t try to act like Lady Gaga often, so flailing my arms wildly in the air doesn’t appeal to me very often.  Without drinking, I can’t blame any strange behavior on an inebriated state and get away with all sorts of nonsense.  I also find no cause to “get low” like many songs suggest, and you won’t find me “jump”ing without due cause.  I have no interest in being a backup dancer for any music video so duplicating those moves is of no value to me.    To me, demonstrating an ability to dance is like a trump card, something I should only pull out when I really really really need to.  Until that point, I will continue to stand while you make a fool of yourself.  I will avoid laughing to your face because you probably need the exercise.

On a different topic; I recently uninstalled the Office 2010 beta and installed the final version… I’m pretty impressed with it.  It feels a lot more polished than Office 2007.  This is kind of like the Vista to Windows 7 update, except Office 2007 (aka vista) wasn’t as broken to begin with.  I am also trying to figure out what I should request as a token to celebrate my graduation.  My dad has told me to buy something, send it home, and he will wrap it so I can act surprised.

Good night moon.

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