Many people at MIT are nerdier than most, and some have and continue to spend hours at a time playing video games instead of talking to anything with a pulse. So, it’s self-explanatory that social skills, at least among us freshmen, may be a smidgen underdeveloped. As impressive as our LANs are, we are not, by and large, a party school. By that, I mean that when people hear “MIT,” they generally don’t think of us as the “Planet of the Witty, Friendly, and Appropriately Hygienic Students” so much as they do the “Planet of the Slide-Ruling Apes.” Tragic, no?
Of course, I don’t mean to slight the underrated social opportunities here. I’ve had fun at plenty of events here, from dances to mixers to barbecues in places as widely varied as the Senior Haus basement, the Simmons Hall basement, and the Stata Center basement. Just because the activities are part of a giant conspiracy (as my two regular readers will remember) is no reason not to have a good time. Yet the ability to interact comfortably among strangers without making them proportionally uncomfortable is not a skill with which most of us were born. I like to believe that I’m better at mingling than most, but as is usually the case with male egocentrism, I’m probably wrong.
I’m tempted to distribute pointers on smooth introductions, but I probably shouldn’t, for three reasons. One is that I’m about as smooth as the morning Tech Shuttle ride. Another is that I don’t write an advice column; I write a humor column, or at least I would if it were funny. The third is that I don’t even know whether or not those of you reading this even need my help.
Clearly, I should let someone more qualified be the one to bring everyone up to speed on social skills. Then again, what I should do and what I end up doing rarely coincide, so I’m going to allow myself just one indulgence. If you think of yourself as being socially adept enough to be the ideal protagonist for an MIT-located threequel to “Legally Blonde,” feel free to skip the next paragraph.
“Confident” is the happy medium, the visible light portion of the spectrum of self-esteem. Nobody likes a narcissist. Nobody likes a whiner — Anakin Skywalker, I’m talking to you. The implication is that sitting in a corner and waiting to be approached probably won’t do the trick, unless your name is Helen of Troy. Interjecting yourself into the conversations of every passerby, though occasionally effective, has a somewhat unfavorable risk-consequence balance. You might make new friends, or you might get funny looks, depending on how tactful you are and what kind of shindig you’re attending.
I realize that doesn’t leave a whole lot of options, but social interactions are much more entertaining when people don’t know exactly what to do. It seems only right to let you figure out some things on your own. Besides, that was the extent of my knowledge on the matter. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to interject myself into the Rockband session across the hall. I’ll let you know how it goes.