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Becoming Antisocial

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Emily
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Since the beginning of high school I had the same group of friends. Recently, as become more and more focused on my career and my future I am increasingly less interested in my friends. With in the last few weeks it has become so apparent that I am considering breaking off friendships I have had for about 10 years. Here are two recent examples:

Last week I went to a play with one of these old friends. While we were standing in line waiting to be admitted into the theatre he started to talk to me. I found myself totally bored with our conversation. As we talked I realized he was exactly the same as he was in high school. He hasn't grown up or accomplished anything in the time I've known him. I really didn't have anything new to say to him and everything we talked about seemed meaningless and like it was just to fill the time. I started to wish the play was over before it even started and I was back at school studying. I wanted to get out of line and apologize to my friend for his waste of money on the ticket and tell him I didn't really feel like seeing him anymore.

I had a similar experience last night. I went out to dinner with another one of my old friends. He is an accomplished musician and about to leave on a year long tour with his band. I found myself wanting to be somewhere else. I started to think about how I could be doing physics homework instead. The more the thought about all the things I want to get done the more I realized I didn't want to be out at dinner with him. I would rather be working. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time with my friend as he will soon be leaving town, but I found that I was bored. I felt like I wasn't getting enough done sitting there with him.

Not only have I felt bored with many of my friends, I have also found myself uncomfortable with the friends I still like spending time with touching me. Even when someone puts their hand on my shoulder I feel the need to shudder away from them. There is a certain Objectivist male who an exception, but for the most part I don't want even my closest of friends touching me.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Should I really abandon my old friends or should I fight against what I am now feeling? Should I be concerned that I am withdrawing physically too?

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Emily, I had this same thing happen to me over Christmas break this year, my freshman year, of college. I looked at the people I was around, partying with, going out with, everything, and realized that about 80% I didn't respect. So I stopped talking to them. I just dropped them. I've actually found out recently that many of them have no idea what happened, why we stopped talking. I've thought about explaining to them why, but realized that they wouldn't understand and it would just cause an upset with everyone. So we just moved on. Now I spend time with people I feel deserve my friendship.

Actually, I really admire your complete passion and desire for work. Unfortunately, I do not have that same "god I wish I were working" feel yet -- once I get past all of my required classes and beginner courses, the interest in my school work will increase exponentially as I'll be doing what I truly want. And I'm really excited to start working this summer. But it sounds like my drive isn't as naturally intense as yours -- something I'm working on. It may because I'm such a perfectionist that doing work is an epic quest every time for me; immense amounts of internal pressure and personal guilt trips. Still working on that connection between my philosophical beliefs about work and actual exercising these beliefs. I do exercise them, but it's not as immediate or pleasant as yours sounds.

So I know what you're feeling and I have felt almost exactly the same recently, but not with such life-long friends. I think this individualistic burst is if anything closer to a moment of philosophical enlightenment than something to be fought. You are evolving and have realized that your previous friends are not -- keeping them as friends isn't rational, natural, or selfish anymore. Embrace this change, this turning point in your life, and it will only attract stronger people, events, and experiences to your life.

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I've had the same kind of fading desire to continue certain friendships after discovering Objectivism. I'd say it's just a matter of defining more clearly what one's values are, and therefore seeing the lack thereof in some previous relationships with others. There's also the changing of values that comes with integrating Objectivism -- whereas you may have actually enjoyed certain activities or people before, you don't anymore because the implicitly held value that gave rise to your previous enjoyment is no longer there. I don't think this is a bad sign, as long as you make an effort to introspect and identify what has caused the changed feelings. Plus, it opens you up to *real* friendships, because you won't waste your time and energy with people who aren't worth it.

As for the physical withdraw, that's something that might be cause for concern. It's one thing to decline an invitation to a party with a boring acquaintance, and quite another to jump away when they try to pat you on the shoulder. I'd suggest paying close attention when you have such reactions and trying to discover what's causing them if possible. Introspection goes a long way. :yarr:

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I've also had the same issue with some of my friends. Very few of my friends are people who are worth having intelligent conversations with. Welcome to being a loner.

By the way, you're not antisocial. You're asocial. Hannibal Lecter* is an example of what is mean by "antisocial."

*The new movie sucks. Don't waste your time.

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I had a similar experience last night. I went out to dinner with another one of my old friends. He is an accomplished musician and about to leave on a year long tour with his band. I found myself wanting to be somewhere else. I started to think about how I could be doing physics homework instead. The more the thought about all the things I want to get done the more I realized I didn't want to be out at dinner with him. I would rather be working. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time with my friend as he will soon be leaving town, but I found that I was bored. I felt like I wasn't getting enough done sitting there with him.

"The best kind of friend is one with whom you sit on a bench saying nothing & when you get up and go, you feel you have had the best conversation of your life."

I value my friends because I value their presence. Sometimes we have intellectual discussions, sometimes we talk trivial things, and sometimes, we just hang out. I can say this, I prefer being with them as opposed to doing homework because they are worth something more to me. If your homework is more worthwhile to you then your friends, then it would seem that either you don't give your friends any value any more, or, that they never really had that value anyway. Only you can accurately tell whether or not they provide value to you.

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I looked at the people I was around, partying with, going out with, everything, and realized that about 80% I didn't respect. So I stopped talking to them. I just dropped them. I've actually found out recently that many of them have no idea what happened, why we stopped talking. I've thought about explaining to them why, but realized that they wouldn't understand and it would just cause an upset with everyone. So we just moved on. Now I spend time with people I feel deserve my friendship.

This happened with my best friend. I remember going bowling with my cousin and her and wondering why on earth anyone would feel anything other than disgust in the presence of my cousin (an irreasonable, violent, emo asshole). I got to wondering why she would like him. I realized something was wrong for her to like him, and after that I was just as disgusted with her, couldn't stand her. I hung out with her a few times after that, to make sure I wasn't wrong, but I couldn't make myself do it. My parents stilll don't believe we just stopped talking, and didn't have a fight or anything. I am not sad about it though. I've made new friends and enjoy their presence much more.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Why do you feel this way about your friends? I think this is an important question, to determine if you are acting rationally about this.

Others have given you good examples of when it's time to leave your friends. But, you say that you even have problems with people touching you. To me that sound like something is wrong. Do you have problems specifically with your old friends, or is it that you want to get away from people in general?

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I've always found that the best thing to do if you're getting bored with your current friends is to go out and make new friends. Join some social activities. It's not necessary to abandon your current friends: they just gradually get phased out as you're busy with other activities.

It's completely natural to change your outlook on the people you hang out with as you develop personally. I used to hang out with a lot of losers back when I was in the same boat. Now I'm much more selective. Some of the people I knew back when are still around, some of them aren't, but I've noticed a trend: I don't hang out with the ones that are still working at entry-level dead-end jobs, never finished their degree, etc. etc. etc. Most of my friends are the ones that finished their degree, got a good job, are getting married, buying a house, driving a company car, etc. It can't be coincidence.

You can usually sort out the gold from the dross. It sounds like you're starting to do this already.

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As long as one's emotional and intellectual evaluations are in agreement, one ought to be on firm ground. So, if one finds someone boring and one also understands why they aren't of interest to one anymore, there's really not much point continuing the friendship. Depending on the nature of the emotional and intellectual appraisal, one may decide to end the association altogether, or simply remain acquaintances, or to maintain some such "lesser-friendship" relationship. Of course, in the typical case one would want to be polite about it. Typically that would mean that one doesn't get up half-way during the movie and say: "You bore me; bye". Just don't extend the outing it any more than required; and, more importantly, don't feel one has to do it again.

If one's intellectual and emotional appraisal are in conflict, that's when things get more difficult. For instance, one might think, of someone: "I ought to like him, but he really bores me" or "I ought to dislike him, but I don't". Those are tricky, but that does not appear to be the subject of this thread anyway.

Sometimes, an old friend who has been "demoted" to acquaintance may even summarize it for you, saying: "You've changed". That really is the bottomline in most cases, it is you -- the Objectivist -- who have changed and the other person who has remained constant. It's nice when childhood friends can grow with us and change with us so that they're still our friends as young adults. Fact is, some will and some won't. It's also nice when the friends we have as young adults will grow and change with us, so we are "friends for life". Again, some will and some won't.

I suspect that in the case of an Objectivists it would be the exception rather than the rule to have a close high-school friend who remains a close friend for life. Not that you dislike them later, but as the pool of possible friends grows and one has to allocate one's limited time, one is forced to choose. It might still be great fun meeting up with such old pals at a reunion or some such event and talking about old times. You might even discover that some have changed for the better after all and seem more interesting that when you drifted apart. With others, the spur-of-the-moment "we must meet more often" doesn't reflect much more than a very limited common-context being experienced in that present moment.

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Actually, I really admire your complete passion and desire for work. Unfortunately, I do not have that same "god I wish I were working" feel yet -- once I get past all of my required classes and beginner courses, the interest in my school work will increase exponentially as I'll be doing what I truly want. And I'm really excited to start working this summer. But it sounds like my drive isn't as naturally intense as yours -- something I'm working on.

It wasn't always this way for me either. I've always felt the need to be doing something constantly, but only once my philosophical ideas started to congeal did my energy go to work. If you already know what you truly want it sounds like the motivation is there, maybe just not the action yet.

So I know what you're feeling and I have felt almost exactly the same recently, but not with such life-long friends. I think this individualistic burst is if anything closer to a moment of philosophical enlightenment than something to be fought. You are evolving and have realized that your previous friends are not -- keeping them as friends isn't rational, natural, or selfish anymore. Embrace this change, this turning point in your life, and it will only attract stronger people, events, and experiences to your life.

From an Objectivist standpoint, I can see how I should let go of these friends. I mostly feel reluctant because they have been my friends for so long and have know me though so many changes. I'm sure they would stand by me now, I just don't feel the same anymore.

Edited by softwareNerd
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There's also the changing of values that comes with integrating Objectivism -- whereas you may have actually enjoyed certain activities or people before, you don't anymore because the implicitly held value that gave rise to your previous enjoyment is no longer there.

I'm sure this is the case, I just hadn't thought of it this way before. Maybe my disinterest in my friends is stemming from the fact that I no longer value the same things they do. This could link to my discomfort in being touched, too. My friends expect to be able to touch me since they have been able to touch me before. As my views are changing towards having to continually earn friendship instead of just maintaining friendship I find that there are very few people I continue to respect enough to open myself up physically.

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Why do you feel this way about your friends? I think this is an important question, to determine if you are acting rationally about this.

I feel like I have grown out of them. I have continued to move, while they have stayed static. They have been good friends to me in the sense they support me, but they are not the type of people I would now choose to associate with as a new friend.

Do you have problems specifically with your old friends, or is it that you want to get away from people in general?

I don't feel the need to get away from people in general. I very much enjoy time with my study-mates, co-workers, and about 2 other people I hold in high regard.

I've always found that the best thing to do if you're getting bored with your current friends is to go out and make new friends. Join some social activities. It's not necessary to abandon your current friends: they just gradually get phased out as you're busy with other activities.

I am WAY too busy to start something new. I am taking 18 hours of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I research in the nanotech and electro-optics labs on Mondays and Wednesdays; and on Fridays and Saturdays I work at North American Stainless as a Junior Electrical Engineer. I'm not really interested in meeting new people, because I don't have the time to develop new friendships.

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I think it's quite natural to grow apart from old friends, especially high school friends, as your paths diverge. (This is true whether one is Objectivist or not -- I remember, as a college student, reuning with some of the women I'd considered my closest girlfriends in high school and thinking, "Who ARE these people?")

I'm having a similar issue now with wanting to "downgrade" many longstanding friendships, but for different reasons. Since becoming an Objectivist I've started to notice more which of my friendships are really trades of value, and which are becoming increasingly one-sided. I can see a pattern in certain old friends (perhaps becoming former friends) that they only contact me when they are in emotional distress. Granted, we live in different parts of the country, but why not share good news too, or ask me how I am doing? It seems that I think of them, and ask about them, more often than the reverse. I know that the best friendships last through thick and thin, but lately I feel like I've been getting too much of the thin part. It makes me treasure the friends who do treat our friendship like a two-way street all the more.

As JMeganSnow said, you eventually separate the gold from the dross, and it doesn't take much gold to enrich your life, while all the dross in the world won't.

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I'm the same way, Emily. I'm actually in high school now and as my philosophical understanding has expanded, I have begun to feel "out of the loop" in my friend circle. I am not abandoning anyone, though, because I only have a couple months left before college....and that's where I hope to spend most of my time with people who view life the same way I do. In the mean time, I'm enjoying the values my friends and I share together and am open to meeting new people whom I can connect with more deeply.

Edited by Mimpy
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  • 3 weeks later...
Has anyone else had similar experiences? Should I really abandon my old friends or should I fight against what I am now feeling? Should I be concerned that I am withdrawing physically too?

Objectivism liberates you to become your authentic Self by removing traditional social barriers such as, "Oh, but what will others think of me?" I underwent this experience shortly after exposure to Objectivism by terminating a long term platonic relationship with someone with whom I finally realized why I felt irritated. You can read about that in my story "Houseguests from Hell" if you like.

A survey I conducted some years ago revealed "Friendship Formation" as the primary motivator for people wanting to join local Objectivist clubs. So I recently started a global network called PROPEL™ toward that end. Visit http://www.PropelObjectivism.com to see if you can find an Ayn Rand Meetup near you or consider opening one in your state on my nickel if you wish.

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A survey I conducted some years ago revealed "Friendship Formation" as the primary motivator for people wanting to join local Objectivist clubs. So I recently started a global network called PROPEL™ toward that end. Visit http://www.PropelObjectivism.com to see if you can find an Ayn Rand Meetup near you or consider opening one in your state on my nickel if you wish.

This seems like an excellent service. Thank you for your benevolence and time.

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I always shudder when I hear people describe themselves as "social." To me that sounds right on par with "mindless" and "time-wasting." I've never been into "going out" for the sake of going out. (When all is said and done and you come home, you ultimately have to deal with yourself; your drinking buddies add no long term value to your life.) I do feel I have a need for connection with others, but like others here have said, over time you develop an ease for selectivity and the friendships you do form are often more valuable. I also share your struggle of wanting to meet more (like-minded) people, but lacking the time for new people...!

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I was wondering if you thought something was wrong with you because you felt this way? I hope not. There is everything right with you. I am a little older than you and have friends for 20 years who have really begun to bore me. They seem to wallow in their problems and I find they have the same old tired rhetoric. I found myself, like you at dinner with a friend thinking I'd rather be home reading a book or something more productive, like watching law & order re runs (smile). I have stopped calling at least 3 friends recently because they really have nothing to offer me and come to me for advice and support. Other than my boyfriend, I know no other objectivist personally so I rely on achievement types like my running club members and other goal oriented people.

Edited by Alessa36
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I was wondering if you thought something was wrong with you because you felt this way? I hope not. There is everything right with you. I am a little older than you and have friends for 20 years who have really begun to bore me. They seem to wallow in their problems and I find they have the same old tired rhetoric. I found myself, like you at dinner with a friend thinking I'd rather be home reading a book or something more productive, like watching law & order re runs (smile). I have stopped calling at least 3 friends recently because they really have nothing to offer me and come to me for advice and support. Other than my boyfriend, I know no other objectivist personally so I rely on achievement types like my running club members and other goal oriented people.

I don't think there is anything wrong with me. In fact, the more critical I become, the more confident I feel. When everyone has a right to my attention there is no differentiating between those that deserve it and those to whom I feel obligated to give it. As I let go of those obligations, I am freer to spend MY time doing the things I judge as valuable. Since I initially posted this I have stopped talking to both of the people mentioned in the original post. It's not that I don't like them, but that I don't care about them anymore. I see no reason to waste my time on them. Sometimes I still have a hard time facing the fact that I am becoming what many people consider to be cold and uncaring, but I don't think it is bad. I'm not cold and uncaring to those who matter to me. I have no tolerance anymore for the wallowing in problems you speak of.

I know a few Objectivists in person, but they are not close friends. I don't have a group of "best friends" anymore, but I don't feel that I need it. Sometimes I do feel lonely, but I don't want to settle for someone less than my standards to "fill" this loneliness. My plan is to focus on my work, improve myself, and be as productive as possible. Hopefully, if there is someone of a like mind around they will be drawn to me, because am certainly not going to stress over looking for such a person.

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I know a few Objectivists in person, but they are not close friends. I don't have a group of "best friends" anymore, but I don't feel that I need it. Sometimes I do feel lonely, but I don't want to settle for someone less than my standards to "fill" this loneliness. My plan is to focus on my work, improve myself, and be as productive as possible. Hopefully, if there is someone of a like mind around they will be drawn to me, because am certainly not going to stress over looking for such a person.

Sorry to hear about your situation. :( I know what it feels like, to wish and hope for a spark of intelligence.

I had a group of friends in high school who I completely lost contact with. They have not changed. I'm afraid they will never change.

I had a couple friends that I completely stopped talking to because I have concluded most of them to be non-objectivists. One of which I has actually read the Fountainhead and decided he cannot be an objectivist. He is openly mediocre. Another barely operates on reason and claims to be altruistic and tries to be. He tries to manipulate others for his benefit in a typical looter kind of way. I completely despise both of them.

I've recently made several great friends who are objectivists but do not know it. They operate on mind & reason above all else. All of them are atheists or agnostic. I've given one of the three my copy of Fountainhead. If he does not give my book back to me when he is done I'll assume the worse. To me it's not hard to find an objectivist friend, the problem is finding one who knows it. Good luck :)

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