(Epistemic status: rambling after a therapy high; also posting from mobile so forgive lack of style)
I think one of the fundamental concepts of social interaction that gets beat into us poor internet socialized saps is “lurk moar.” I suppose the kids these days would say “talk less, smile more”. I hope they say that anyway. This is a really great strategy, too! Rather than being a noob crashing into an existing culture and forming a negative impression, you get an idea of how the culture fits you and how you fit the culture. This is critical because of how little cultural common ground you can assume online. You have people from different generations, countries, classes, religions, all that good stuff, and everyone has to agree to neutral territory to make their communities work…and the amazing part is they MANAGE it, all because they really love some crazy bullet hell game from Japan, or are super into a crazy person’s philosophy/self help blog. Lurking moar is vital to this harmony, and it’s an incredible social strategy…
In real life…I’m increasingly convinced it’s a weak strategy for several reasons. The first is bandwidth. Online is extremely low bandwidth. You can /consciously/ suss out the majority of social rules and follow them if you’re good enough. That doesn’t fly irl. There is way too much bandwidth to properly process a constantly updating social situation like a meetup or a party. Your information is forced to build in so many assumptions you might as well just make a model up and pray. Further, by waiting and seeing, you lose evidence you would naturally get in online contexts. You don’t get the panoramic view a forum or chat room offers at a party. Following even one conversation while not being part of it is hard, and also kinda awkward.
Second is time. Time is so, so discounted online. You can lurk a chat room or forum and do a million other things with minimal cost and still learn the ropes. In a real life gathering, you can…stand around awkwardly staring at people. I mean, you could also play with your phone, but then you aren’t gaining the knowledge lurking was supposed to give you. I further posit that time is of highest value at the start of a party, before attendees have found “their people”…and the start is when you would be inclined to lurk most.
Thirdly, lurking irl just /looks/ weird and makes people avoid you. You basically get into a no information cycle because all the analyses you’re broadcasting look weird.
So, overall, this is probably obvious to like 90% of you but these realizations were pretty amazing for me and I intend to test them at the next social event I’m at. Rather than waiting and seeing, I’m going to try to poach other solo party goers and see what happens. My theory is, they’ll be happy someone took the burden of finding conversations off of them, and a group will form that in turn attracts more people, and gives me options when the initial conversation dies to keep chaining new interaction. Remind me to follow up with a report sometime.