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Addicted to people
July 2, 2012 12:40 PM   Subscribe

For many years I have asked myself, Why do you spend time with other people? but I never really attempted to come up with an answer. I always believed I was asking myself a rhetorical question, but recently I’ve wanted to find an answer, because a question you ask yourself a thousand times eventually deserves to be answered.
Why go out? -- a Trampoline Hall lecture by Sheila Heti.
posted by Bukvoed (45 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mefi's own, you mean.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:42 PM on July 2, 2012


How can you go through that entire intellectual exercise and then come to the precise wrong, unsupported conclusion?
posted by darksasami at 12:52 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was ready to bitch and moan about the general conceit of this, what with the beanplating and how she's extrapolating a bunch of kind-of-shitty personal experiences into something bigger than that. This, for instance:
Does anyone actually enjoy more than one party in six? Does sex lead to satisfaction or merely make us want more sex, better sex, different sex, even as we’re having it? The same goes for conversation, companionship, everything.
...and then I got the one of the last lines:
Maybe the only cure for self-confidence and courage is humility. Maybe we go out in order to fall short . . . because we want to learn how to be good at being people . . . and moreover, because we want to be people.
And I couldn't agree more. And looking back on the article after finishing it, I think it's much, much more of an utterly personal thing than the Big Philosophy form of it, and I like it all the more for that.
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


(...and as she's MeFi's Own, hopefully, she will show up here to tell me how wrong I am!)
posted by griphus at 12:53 PM on July 2, 2012


a small man nearly forty years old, wearing an ostentatious suit and hat, walking about the room like he had a cock the size of Kansas. He must be the conceptual poet, I said to myself, and I was right.

That second sentence is gonna be running through my head and making me laugh for the rest of the day.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:54 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


knockin' over barstools, scaring dogs, breaking decorative glass cases
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on July 2, 2012


I spend most of my time wishing Sheila Heti was my girlfriend.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:01 PM on July 2, 2012


Does sex lead to satisfaction

Yes.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:01 PM on July 2, 2012


But. Kansas is big and square are very flat, and aren't parts of it on fire right now?
posted by elizardbits at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


How can you go through that entire intellectual exercise and then come to the precise wrong, unsupported conclusion?

... because life is not always an entirely intellectual exercise

I wish I had attended this Trampoline Hall. I've been to a few and the Q&A period always proves to be the most interesting!
posted by netherus at 1:07 PM on July 2, 2012


And truly, who has ever been satisfied by people?
Me! Over here! ::raises hand.::

Does anyone actually enjoy more than one party in six?

Yes! This guy!

Does sex lead to satisfaction or merely make us want more sex, better sex, different sex, even as we’re having it?

Well, for me it leads to satisfaction. Maybe you're doing it wrong...?

The same goes for conversation, companionship, everything.

No, other people don’t satisfy us, but rather, like cigarettes, give us the temporary illusion of satisfaction, while prolonging our dependence. And if we weren’t dependent on other people?

Isn't it amazing how profound and intellectual somebody can sound when they take their own viewpoints and extrapolate those opinions onto other people? Even if, like this article, it isn't actual profundity, but rather the temporary illusion of profundity, which prolongs our admiration and keeps us coming back for more "insight." And if we didn't?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:07 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


But you can sort of quit people and she re-engaged in Montreal whereas it would have been very easy not to. I am going through a hermit phase now...once you start, you can really become successful at it. Allen Carr-style.
posted by bquarters at 1:08 PM on July 2, 2012


What I have learned from this piece is, it's a good thing I didn't get that Allen Carr book that everyone always recommends on AskMe when I was quitting smoking, because it sounds like it would have annoyed me so much that I'd still be smoking out of sheer spite. Smokers do not "brainwash" themselves into believing that nicotine helps them to focus or to calm down; these are measurable, well-documented effects, and in my opinion smokers will find it very difficult to quit until they can acknowledge and accept that they are never going to feel quite as sharp as they did when they smoked.
posted by enn at 1:08 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh god, this essay is so horribly like life. Only guilt prevents me from being by myself all the time as much as work allows.
posted by Frowner at 1:09 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I am filled with yearning for aloneness.

The thing is, I like parties just fine. I would say that I have enjoyed almost every party I have gone to. And yet this never makes me want to go to parties.
posted by Frowner at 1:10 PM on July 2, 2012


No, other people don’t satisfy us, but rather, like cigarettes, give us the temporary illusion of satisfaction, while prolonging our dependence.

I don't think she/he does enough to explain why people/sex/relationships are different than anything else in life.

You could say the same thing about food.

But though it wasn’t recent, I have spent time alone in the past, and in my memories of these times—the happiest times of my life—I really did seem possessed of substantially more courage, confidence, self-respect, freedom, energy, and peace of mind than those times when I’ve surrounded myself with people.

That's what really threw me for a loop, because I am the exact opposite. My best, or what I consider to be me at my best, is when I'm with other people. I know it's subjective, but those periods of my life have been when I felt the best. Shrug. (And now thinking, perhaps another clue that this is parody?)

I'd also propose that there is a huge consumer element involved in "going out" (which is a fairly broad term than means not so much). The times I didn't "go out" often aligned with the times I was "broke." Going out and throwing a few quid at the barkeep is one way of affirming yourself as a regular chap. Sitting at home wishing you had busfare is not.

Also, obviously, personalities matter. If you're the sort for whom a fairly tame insult from a person you've never met before is going to bother you for a month, well, you do what you gotta do.

It's a strange approach for an essay. It's been proven that lack of human contact has seriously deleterious effects, so you sorta knew where it would end up regardless of the beanplating...

How can you go through that entire intellectual exercise and then come to the precise wrong, unsupported conclusion?

Re-reading, I kinda take the whole thing as a subtle joke, I guess. I think it works best that way. (If not intended as such, I hope that does not insult the author into "staying in" ;) I still love you! You are still a good writer!)

That is, "studied empirically, going out and making new friends just isn't worth it ... but we love to do it anyway." Dunno.

on preview

... because life is not always an entirely intellectual exercise

Yeah, that's what I sorta saw as the sly wink of the piece.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:11 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is important for me because I work from home, alone. I could go all Sandra Bullock from The Net as my mother always feared and just not interact with other people at all. But I make an effort to socialize with people at least once a day, because Homo sapiens is a social species and we have a biological need for socialization. Your hormonal milieu changes in response to social situations (sex perhaps is the most dramatic and well-understood instance of this, flooding your body with all kinds of hormones, changing your pulse, etc.). I notice I feel and perform better physically when I make sure to do this. Of course, the anxiety disorders that plague so many modern humans might override these benefits. Maybe some humans do not need socialization as much, maybe we are evolving towards that, but I do.

I also have a very strong need to be alone a lot, to "recharge" as I put it, which is why I live alone, but eventually I experience a physical, productivity, and emotional decline if I overdo it.
posted by melissam at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's a good thing I didn't get that Allen Carr book that everyone always recommends on AskMe when I was quitting smoking, because it sounds like it would have annoyed me so much that I'd still be smoking out of sheer spite.

LOL. I really have a strong dislike of cigarettes and smoking (mostly the butts on my sidewalk, people, please) and just the description of that book made me want to start smoking out of spite.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:13 PM on July 2, 2012


he sort of looked me over and said, “You’re a novelist? Really? What interest could you possibly have in my work?”

Also, the only acceptable response to this sort of thing is "You are correct, I have none. Good day, sir."
posted by elizardbits at 1:13 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


As someone who's out right now, I'll state the the obvious: cause it's fun.
posted by jonmc at 1:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's been quoted as saying that she finds the idea of coming up with a "fake person" to be "tiresome", that she just can't do it, and yet this speech very clearly is the sentiment of a fictional character. Frankly, I'm not sure I believe that this "Sheila Heti" person is real anymore.
posted by clockzero at 1:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


only acceptable response

I must amend this statement to include the cut direct.
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on July 2, 2012


Guys, I threw a really great party last week, and it was so hot that I ended up with more liquor than I started with because nobody drank any AND tons of people brought a bottle and left it here. So, in conclusion, throw more parties.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2012


he sort of looked me over and said, “You’re a novelist? Really? What interest could you possibly have in my work?”

Also, the only acceptable response to this sort of thing is "You are correct, I have none. Good day, sir."


At least that's better than running away.

See, honestly, I would have no problem giving a real response if I were, in fact, actually interested in his/her work. I missed "the insult" as well.

It depends on how it's said, i.e. the most offensive delivery would be a strong accent on "you" indicating "your" lack of critical ability, etc. (I suppose a sarcastic "Really" indicating "I don't believe you are a novelist" is insulting too, but who cares?)

But even still, wouldn't it be a much, more rewarding response to say, "Well, I like the way you ____ in _____, and I thought the ____ in _____ were an interesting way to ____" and then see what he/she says, i.e. give him/her the benefit of the doubt?

I guess I'm giving the insulter a bit of credit here. Perhaps any offense was unintended; perhaps somebody else just treated him/her poorly and he/she is taking it out on you, etc.

Perhaps a genuine response would engender a kinder counterresponse that forges the foundation of a life-long friendship and lucrative business partnership, etc etc.

The worst thing to do in that case (IMO) is to turn tail and run away. That's what the asshole wants you to do. Don't give him/her the satisfaction. Stand your ground and give them the whatfor.

On third read, the whole thing seems like a massive parody. Of what, I'm not sure ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:25 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also have a very strong need to be alone a lot, to "recharge" as I put it...

I have to say that there were few times in my life I have felt as relieved as when other people told me that they enjoyed hanging out with friends, but need (as in "food and water"-need, not "really want"-need) solitary recharge periods.
posted by griphus at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't it amazing how profound and intellectual somebody can sound when they take their own viewpoints and extrapolate those opinions onto other people?

Uh. You mean kind of like how you did right here? "Well, for me it leads to satisfaction. Maybe you're doing it wrong...?"
posted by elizardbits at 1:27 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why do you spend time with other people?

I don't. Or they don't spend time with me. Eh. Either way. Whatever.
posted by Decani at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean this part is ridiculously contradictory:

I suddenly felt it too—which led to a week and a half of fuming in bed, unable to sleep, my declaring this man my enemy, the reconceiving of a magazine article I was writing in such a way as to include a subtextual layer that would annihilate conceptual poetics, a week and a half of going out every night and talking through the insult with each of my friends—what am I even saying? It took leaving the continent for the insult to finally recede into the background of my days, and for me to regain my equilibrium.

So anyway, it is pretty far-fetched to claim that people provide satisfaction and relaxation. Or at least, if they sometimes do, they as often do not.


So what were (each of) your friends doing for you all that week? Not providing any relaxation or satisfaction? What were they providing? Whom would you have bitched to if not them? Wouldn't the lack of bitching to friends make things worse?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2012


So what were (each of) your friends doing for you all that week? Not providing any relaxation or satisfaction?

Apparently not, because the very next sentence states that she had to leave the continent for it to get better. And the "what am I even saying" acknowledges your objection.
posted by darksasami at 1:32 PM on July 2, 2012


@elizardbits: Yes, absolutely -but the key difference is that I'm not pretentious enough to write an essay about it, nor do I pretend I've made some sort of "deep insight" into the human condition.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:33 PM on July 2, 2012


Depending on your interpretation of a purposefully ambiguous piece of writing masquerading as an incredibly certain piece of writing, neither did the author.
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's acknowledge that the world is divided into two types of people: introverts and extroverts. Introverts become energized from being alone. Extroverts are the opposite.
posted by drinkcoffee at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know if it's that simple. I think it's closer to a gamut of benefit, with different people on different scales. The SEVERE introvert doesn't go out because it's soul-destroying to deal with people (for instance,) the SEVERE extrovert can't be by themselves because of some sort of existential dread (for instance.)

The rest of us spent some amount of time alone and wishing to be with others, some amount of time with others and wishing to be alone, and some amount of time happy alone, or happy with others. And everyone has a different breaking point where "happy being X" turns into "unhappy being X" and then we either change the circumstances or remain unhappy. The whole introvert/extrovert dichotomy, while applicable to certain people, rounds off way too much of the human condition.
posted by griphus at 1:42 PM on July 2, 2012


I'm getting a little bit of pronoia at how closely this little essay is matching my current circumstances -- I'm bedridden by injury during the one season of the year during which I do nearly all of my socializing; next week I will miss the annual event that contains the majority of my social ties; and I've been pondering a lot of the same questions she's raising. I'm not sure I buy the conclusion. It's a little too glib, a little too hopeful, a little too good to be true. But I'm not sure I disagree either. I'm going to have to think on this some more.

Fortunately, I guess, I have a lot of time to do that. All summer at least.

Anyway, thanks for posting this.
posted by ook at 1:42 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excellent. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:49 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why go out?
To come back home!

It's so obviously true on so many levels that I fear I've missed the point.

Seriously, sometimes I think it's the only reason I go out at all.

posted by iamkimiam at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know. I consider myself quite an extrovert. I need to be around at least one person a day otherwise I get antsy and unable to quite literally recharge. People recharge my batteries and recalibrate my compass. I must go out or see people to feel better.

Online socialization does somewhat to dampen it, but never enough...so there's my two cents on that issue.
posted by lizarrd at 2:19 PM on July 2, 2012


"Let's acknowledge that the world is divided into two types of people: introverts and extrovert"

Let's not. It's ridiculously reductive. Virtually everyone has some need for alone time and some need for social time. What's more, sometimes we're energized by spending time just with a partner or parent or child, sometimes we want to be with one friend, sometimes we want to be with several close friends, sometimes we want to be with everyone we know. Sometimes we're energized by spending time with imaginary people in books or on television or in games. Sometimes we want to just be in our own heads. Sometimes we feel crappy that we have no friends. Sometimes we feel crappy that we have tons of friends but they all suck.

Human socialization needs do not fall into the categories of "only alone" or "always together." They fall into a broad spectrum of "totally alone" to "EVERYONE ON THE PLANET ALSO I WOULD LIKE TO MEET SOME ALIENS" and they change on an hourly basis for each individual human.

I really did just throw a gigantic awesome party. It was fantastic. I now need to curl up in a fetal position and read books for several days and only interact with other people via facebook

Also too many people use "introvert" to mean "I can be super-rude and not acknowledge anyone else's needs" and "extrovert" to mean "I can be super-rude and steamroll over everyone else's needs." It annoys me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


@elizardbits: Yes, absolutely -but the key difference is that I'm not pretentious enough to write an essay about it, nor do I pretend I've made some sort of "deep insight" into the human condition.

You are, however, pretentious enough to know better.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


whenever I get involved in a relationship, my idea of who I think I am utterly collides with the reality of who I actually am

awesome writing. Thanks for posting.

(Also if we're diagnosing people she sounds not like an introvert, but like an extrovert with wicked social anxiety. I do the same thing; constantly go out and then get crabby and neurotic about it. The human condition can be relieved by benzodiazapenes, at least temporarily.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:29 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone actually enjoy more than one party in six?

It's annoying that she feels like she needs to generalize her personal opinions and project them on the rest of us. Am I supposed to feel bad that I like parties? Does she think that the rest of us are lying about having a good time with other people? Being a pretty serious introvert myself, I can sympathize with her need to be alone and if she hates socializing, that's cool. But she seems to be saying that the rest of us who do like socializing on occasion are being somehow deluded that we're really enjoying ourselves.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Overgeneralizing one's own experiences is a common rhetorical device. If you avoid technically talking about yourself, and you potentially include everyone, then should you be heard by a person to whom your experiences apply, they will hear you talking about them.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:17 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


but are forbidden to speak on any area in which they are professionally expert.

Huh. I have been running a very occasional lecture series (as in, 5 events in the past 4 years), with this same rule. Cool to see that someone else is doing it, and much more successfully.

Mine borrows from pecha kucha as well (20 slides 20 seconds), so it has a slightly different vibe, I would imagine.
posted by jonbro at 11:41 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also if we're diagnosing people she sounds not like an introvert, but like an extrovert with wicked social anxiety. I do the same thing; constantly go out and then get crabby and neurotic about it. The human condition can be relieved by benzodiazapenes, at least temporarily.

Marijuana. (The flip side: "individuals with SAD are seven times more likely to use marijuana than the general population")
posted by mrgrimm at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2012


Grow up, Sheila Heti!
posted by WalkingAround at 7:09 AM on July 10, 2012


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