I used to push myself to go to dev meetups and such, even gave a few presentations, but eventually stopped. The emotional cost of going was high, and when I would get back home feeling wiped out and reflecting on it, I realized I actually gained very little from the experience. All the socializing was just hollow small talk and no lasting connections were ever formed. Interest-based meetups I've found to generally be transient, ephemeral, and unfulfilling for those who can't muster the enormous social buy-in to get any meaningful results. Volunteer work was more satisfying, but also fleeting and temporary.
On the plus side I did gain experience in public speaking and discovered it really doesn't bother me (although the mingling afterwards is social anxiety hell). Unfortunately that skill on its own isn't terribly useful.
> I feel terrible for those of us on the spectrum without that option, as if I couldn't live this way I would end up being entirely dependent on my spouse or family. I can imagine that burning out + feeling guilty about being a burden financially makes recovery from that state even more difficult.
It is. I was swinging a remote-work career and doing the whole order-groceries-online shut-in routine as well. Eventually I succumbed to burnout for a host of reasons and the career crumbled to dust. Extended unemployment pulls you in like quicksand and I've been out of work for over a year now. I live in a converted tool shed in my parents back yard, and the guilt and shame is crushing. The erosion of self esteem saps your will to improve yourself, creating a vicious circle.
My last recourse at this point is to try to use this as an opportunity for learning and personal enrichment. While working I was myopically focused on programming and industry issues, and utterly ignored the wider world. I'm now trying to rectify that by reading more about philosophy, politics, history, etc.
There's so much more to the world than tech or vocation, and I regret ignoring that for so long. My advice to anyone in this situation is to, as much as your circumstances permit, expose yourself to a wider range of culture and find value and human dignity in ways other than your potential for capital generation. The value of a life is not measured in dollars, and don't let the world convince you that it is.
It feels like this is becoming a blog post or something, so I'll stop. Needless to say this topic hits home for me, as it seems to for many others here.
I agree entirely with your conclusion. That is frankly another reason I'm leaving. The connections I've made here around tech (and other hobbies) are largely shallow and unfulfilling. I feel like all my income got eaten up by rent, and bad habits I justified as coping mechanisms. I can save up and use the money to actually build something back home (NC) to help people there in tangible ways. I do hope I find some time to catch a breather at some point so I can dedicate myself to that type of effort completely.
Thanks for sharing your experience and findings. I wish you well and hope you dont dwell on that regret. We all have to learn how wrong we have been sooner or later. I know I have. It's an unfortunate necessity of developing into a better person. Still sucks though.
You have to be the one who moves the conversation from chit-chat about the weather to interesting topics. Sure, it's fine to show up to a dev meeting and chat about your favorite APIs and all, but that won't help you make friends.
The vague process chart I personally use looks like this:
1. Determine if you share common interests with the person (eg, small talk about things you do)
2. Talk at a higher level about a single interest. A good trick is to treat the other person a bit like an expert about that interest - "Oh, what board game would you recommend for X?"
3. Make an offer to hangout in the future. It should be in a situation with multiple people and a public place. You're not trying to invite them to a date, but instead communicate that you're already doing something and want them to join: "Hey, I hang out Tuesdays with some folks at the comicbook shop and play boardgames. You should come join us."
4. If the person finds that agreeable or reciprocates, exchange contact info. I usually just hand them my phone with my contact info on the screen so they can choose their preferred method, but you can also give them a personal card.
Congrats, you've now made a new person you know. Hang out with them, invite them to things. Relationships are like gardens, they require regular tending and maintenance at first but as they get established, they only need occasional check-ins.
Why is it always up to me? I feel the same as parent poster - I go to events or work functions or what-have-you and the onus is always on me - the one with stunted social skills - to advance things along.
Are there really no people that can at least bootstrap things for me? Or is it the case that those people with social competence already have a healthy social life and aren't actually interested in any deeper connection to begin with?
Herein is where my "you're a dummy" thought loops kick in on this. I can see it is a little spoiled to demand that a social life be handed to me with no work involved, but on the other hand, I see a bootstrapping problem here:
How am I supposed to invite new people to the comic book shop when I don't have the aforementioned "some folks" or the shop itself?
Gardens are great when you have good soil and plants already in place, but I feel like I am tearing up old blacktop and trying to build a garden on top of it.
> Are there really no people that can at least bootstrap things for me?
There are, it's whoever assembled your meetup/function/etc. Getting a bunch of people in a room together who share at least some kind of commonality is a borderline magic trick, and it's a ton of work.
Your job is to pair it down from there, because you don't have anyone who knows you well enough to do that last mile for you. You might get there - if you make good friends with organizers, you will be the person they introduce new folks to.
> How am I supposed to invite new people to the comic book shop..
There's two elements to this. One of which is just actually leaving your house to go to meetups or places on a regular basis - find your local board game shop (or other interest - hiking, old movies, food, etc) and go to that thing with some regularity.
The second element is to talk with folks. Maybe even folks with whom you don't have a connection yet, but enough to exchange your lists of interests and whatnot. If you struggle for things to talk about, use tools like FORD (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams) or the interview strategy ("Oh, and what got you into hiking?").
You don't have to have a deep connection to have folks you enjoy spending time with, even if it's just playing Catan once a week - but that's at least your bootstrap.
Ties into the other article on the front page about mitigating climate change.