Friday, September 8, 2017

Does Wanting to Meet New People Make a Person Narcissistic?

In Tokyo's social meetups, attendees frequently ask each other about their respective personal hobbies.  Trying to come up with something that is not too cliched ("I like to travel around the world!") the author usually tell people that he enjoys going to such social events and speaking with complete strangers.  In fact, he would add, he enjoys speaking to strangers so much that he'd rather devote more time meeting new people out of the blue that go through the troubles of communicating and setting up meetups with his own long-time acquaintances.

When asked why strangers are preferred as social company over friends, he would respond that with new people, there are simply more possibilities where conversations can go and ideas can be shared.  Friends are predictable.  How they behave and respond under certain conditions are already well-known enough that often, it is impossible to be surprised in conversations with them unless they went through some major life decisions (changed jobs, got married, had babies, moved to another country).  But at the author's age, people rarely take such massive risks with their relatively stable lives.

Of course, the reverse is also true.  The author's daily life is not that particularly interesting either, and there really is not much changes from day to day, week to week, and even month to month.  With little changes in the realities of life, there also is correspondingly a worrying consistency of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.  Perhaps some, more sensitive people go through emotional ups and downs because of, at least in the eyes of the author, rather trivial matters, but since handling relationships such types is like walking  through an emotional minefield, frankly it is easier to just stay away from them in any case.

Hence the excitement of meeting new people.  It is not because the strangers at these social events are exceptionally interesting in anyway.  It is more because the mere fact that there is such a big backlog of personal history.  Strangers know literally nothing about each other, and even mundane stories about where did each person grew up and traveled to can bring fresh perspectives to otherwise ordinary experiences that many people may have already experienced at one point or the other.  It is simply eye-opening and refreshing to see the same from a completely new perspective of someone practically unknown.

Moreover, the types of people who frequent such social events tend to be extraordinary in the first place.  Many people have highly unusual background stories and hobbies that normal people cannot even imagine, much less undertake.  Speaking to them adds to the knowledge base that one would not normally get off existing acquaintances.  Similarly, one would get quite a bit of joy out of being able to share one's own unique perspectives and stories with others, basking in the positive reactions, ranging from respect to admiration, of others upon hearing them.

Indeed, at the end of the day, when one chooses to meet strangers in different events is really not about the new people, but about oneself.  It is about gaining a new set of social skills, along with secondhand knowledge from others, that would make one a more interesting person in any social setting.  But even more than that, it is about how one can learn to become, for the lack of better words, center of attention in a limited capacity, for however small period of time.  Learning how to talk better, and lure the audience with good stories told in convincing ways, is all ultimately part of that attention-seeking.

Of course, no one in a social event is looking to be noticed by everyone.  But then again, if one is unwilling to at least divulge some part of one's life story, then why is one there in the social events in the first place?  Communication is a two-way street, listening to other people's stories requires compensation in telling one's own.  And as one becomes more and more used to and better at telling those stories with hundreds of strangers met in different occasions, one slowly comes around to enjoy telling them and basking in the positive reactions that come out of the listeners.

In essence, by meeting strangers and telling one's life stories, one is getting a kick out of the recognition of their past achievements.  It is a sure sign of narcissism that come from inflated sense of self-confidence.  It is only worsened by the fact that the most unimpressive of stories will still be received highly by strangers out of pure politeness.  As one continues to show one's face around different social events, it is necessary to remember that whatever adulation that one might sense and even receive from others is mostly an act, rather than reality to be taken at face value.  Only then can one enjoy socializing with strangers without getting too full of oneself.  

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