Tag Archives: socialising is hard

What is the radius of your social circle?

Just want to share this brilliant matemathical social life metaphor by Mathematician Cartoonist* Ben Orlin of Math with Bad Drawings, illustrating what a “social circle” looks like on paper.

Social circle Ben Orlin

I quite like the symbolism and its implications:

 
The social people

People who have large social circles, have plenty of space at their disposal inside their circle. It gives them flexibility, mobility and dynamism, and exposes them to the inputs and perspectives of different people (although people inside social circles tend to be somewhat culturally alike, or at least compatible).

People with large social circles can cover a lot of ground and have many resources of whatever they need within their circle. They know a tons of people who can tip them off to opportunities they hadn’t even thought of, connect them up with useful people, and explain the complicated political insider dynamics of specific social groups and organisation. Also, they’ll typically have had ample social skills practice for many years.

People with large social circles probably don’t need to venture out of their circles often, but due to their extensive practice in navigating social networks, may find it relatively easy to do so, or to expand or alter their circle when they need it.

 
Radius zero

In contrast, a social circle with a radius of zero is a small and inflexible space. It tends to be more static than dynamic, there aren’t many fresh inputs and blending of perspectives, and not many opportunities dropping by. Outings are lone expeditions, like walking around in a circle, meeting no one, and ending back at start. The boundary is uncomfortably close, like right outside the window, exposing the loneliness to random strangers if the pay attention (they usually don’t).

Loneliness is seen as a mark of dysfunction in society. It signals that “This person is not good enough for anyone in the world”. So a social circle with a radius of Zero has a stigma attached to it, casting a shadow over it.
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Two-track writing

When writing about an experience or event in my diary, I sometimes write about it twice, so there is one version from an objectively descriptive (outward-oriented) perspective, and one version from a personal, introspective perspective.

Garageband

Analogy: an experience has many layers, that can be explored separately – just like musical tracks in a music editor


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To Pass or Not to Pass…

This post is inspired by The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim, and The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van.

Because passing is a myth. So often what we’re doing when we’re passing is simply keeping a lid on our natural tendencies. And sometimes we’re not even doing it very well.

The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim of Musings of an Aspie

 

Cartoon blue pony with rainbow mane and tail walks a tightrope between cliffs
Image: “Tightrope Walk” by Orfearus

 
What does it mean to pass?

“Passing for normal” if you have a disability, means to mask your disability enough so that so called normal people don’t notice it. For example, if you are deaf but so skilled at lip-reading + hard working at getting by that people forget or don’t realise you are deaf, you’re passing.

They may instead think you are weird though, if they presume that you can hear what they can hear, and think you “ignore” information selectively or even worse, that you are playing social games with them.

Worst of all, if you tried to compete on equal terms in a hearing world as deaf you’d work hundred times harder than everyone else and still not or barely do as well as them on their terms. You’d be in a constant battle to try to piece together information from disorganised bits and hang on to the shared hearing-reality with your fingernails while your errors accumulated. And if you were to work that hard everyday to just try to meet basic expectations, you’d probably soon burn out.

With deafness, the problem is obvious and no one really expects a deaf person to compete with the hearing in a hearing world. No one expects a blind person to pretend to be able to see either.

With Aspergers/high functioning autism which is what Cynthia wrote about, the situation is complex, because many autistic adults are capable of appearing normal and social – to “pass as normal”, at least some of the time and in certain situations.

Jodie has in The Lie of Social Skills Trainin listed some of some key factors that make it difficult for aspies/autistics to socialise on normal terms:

  • sensory processing lag meaning you can’t process the conversation fast enough to keep up
  • trouble turning visual or abstract thoughts into words
  • literal-mindedness leading to misunderstandings
  • lack of executive function for keeping track of social engagements and who’s who
  • reduced amount of energy available for socialising, because so much is drained processing sensory input
  • not necessarily having the same pop-culture grounding as others, thanks to our often eccentric skills and areas of interest

Any one of those things could get in the way of socialising effectively, even for the most socially adept person. Most people on the spectrum have several of those things going on, and some of us have all of them.

The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van of Letters from Aspergia

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