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I'm a shut-in. This is my story (fighttheurgetofade.com)
390 points by lastbookworm 1758 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 229 comments

I think you're wrong on one point: you constantly repeat how different and strange you are from everyone else. You're really not. As you mentioned at one point: you didn't want to go out and play, but the teacher forced you to do so. This is very common behavior, and teachers are forcing children every day to go out and play.

Huge amount of people go through similar experiences to yours. Others start to lapse into an experience like yours and get scared - they go the other way and try to force social behavior on themselves, often becoming bullies or the kid you mentioned who hurt himself trying to show off to you.

So my advice (since you're obviously not posting something publicly and expecting to get away without advice shoved at you) - stop worrying about 'normal'. Stop trying to fit in or not fit in. There are no points to be won by having social interactions. Social interactions are so you can learn, experience and enjoy. Approach them like this, and walk away when it's not working and try again. Everyone is doing the same thing, social interactions are breaking everywhere, you just don't see it so much from a distance because people cling to the precious few social interactions which have actually worked for them.

Since you're trying to put things in terms of programming: if your program doesn't work/is slow because you're looping over the wrong thing, try again with a different loop, try a different data structure. You don't need to avoid 'if' loops in the future because they didn't work once. You don't need to keep trying to use an 'if' loop because its 'normal to use an if loop'. Excuse the terrible metaphor.

I identify with huge portions of this post. And if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that I don't think like most other people.

I don't mean "my ideas are better" or "I have superior reasoning skills". I mean "the tools that I use to reason about the world are not the same that most people appear to use".

It's the only logical explanation for the fact that several popular ways in which humans communicate ideas (e.g. lectures/podcasts or poetry/lyrics) seem meaningless and like an inefficient use of time to me. I'm a visual thinker, visual communicator, and I convert all the important ideas in my life into mental pictures and animations. Mnemonics seem like the most idiotic thing ever to me, like remembering a person's phone number instead of what they're like.

Here's another one: I don't have a voice in my head. When I learnt from reddit discussions that most people experience their inner thoughts as an inner monologue, I was flabbergasted. If I heard a voice, I would think I was going insane. To me, thought is a completely parallel process of association, words are simply not necessary, they only serve to unnecessarily clamp you down into linear trains of thought early on. For years, I assumed that "learning to think in another language" was simply a metaphor for a certain level of proficiency in constructing sentences on the fly. Apparently it's not.

There is a lot more variation in how our brains work than people are generally aware of. It's certainly not acknowledged in culture or education. I think this is where a lot of the sentiment of 'not being normal' comes from, and telling people to stop worrying about it is not productive. It's something they will continue to be faced with their entire lives, even as all the 'neurotypical' folks insist nothing's different about you and you just need to get out more.

You're trying to paint the picture that everyone else thinks the same way, but you're completely unique and think your own way. Would it not be more likely that everyone thinks in their own way, based off of their own experiences?

We all have the same hardware - amazingly complex/simple neural links. We all have different inputs, which means we all think differently. This isn't the important part - the important part is that you can communicate with other people and learn from them - from their different ways of thinking.

So I agree, I never said you were normal. I never said I was normal either, or that anybody else was normal. The idea of normal is something you're forcing on the world. Others are trying to force their own idea of normal on the world too, and yet others are trying to change themselves to match someone's idea.

Throw that idea away and live your own life.

Also, there is a lot of acknowledgment and research in education into the different ways different people learn and how to identify and teach different people. Unfortunately, it's a wicked problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

You're trying to paint the picture that everyone else thinks the same way, but you're completely unique and think your own way. Would it not be more likely that everyone thinks in their own way, based off of their own experiences?

It seems quite believable that there is a multidimensional Gaussian distribution of thinking styles, and people at the edge of one or more dimensions can legitimately say that they don't think like most others.

I do live my own life, quite happily, and don't wallow in self-pity. I merely shared an insight that has helped me make more sense of my life after 30 years of living it. I never said I was unique, merely that I deviated from the norm. "I am a lot taller than most people" does not mean "I am a unique giant, woe is me, doomed to tower over the rest of humanity". It does mean that those people get to complain a bit more about cramped airplane seats.

My advice would be to leave the single-comment psychoanalysis at home, and the platitudes like "live your own life" to the trashy advice columns... Instead, go watch the documentary on Temple Grandin, an autist who is definitely further from the average than I am, and whose awareness of her own nature—as well as her ability to explain it to others—definitely improved her own life.

I don't have a voice in my head. When I learnt from reddit discussions that most people experience their inner thoughts as an inner monologue, I was flabbergasted. If I heard a voice, I would think I was going insane.

I think that's pretty normal. A quick poll of the other three people in the room reveals that none of us experience an 'inner voice'. It's more like a stream of associations, some of which might involve vocalised words, others might involve images, sounds, or recalled emotions. Sometimes the associations are sequential, sometimes they are parallel. Steven Pinker refers to this as 'mentalese'.

Edit: also, this: http://xkcd.com/610/

I'm pretty sure the "inner voice" is just a metaphor to describe a concept. I, too, do not hear a voice echoing in my head as if God was speaking inside my skull. I have a train of thought that I could directly translate to spoken words, but is not actually in words. It is more abstract; I shuffle around ideas. Sometimes I will speak aloud to myself when I'm trying to disassociate to find a new viewpoint, but that's about as far as the inner voice goes.

Of course, this could potentially be less typical than I usually assume. I've noticed writing notes to work through my thoughts is ridiculously limiting, because my train of thought goes 2-10x faster than I can write or draw. I've always wondered about that, because it seems to be a popular method for brainstorming.

I'm pretty sure the "inner voice" is just a metaphor to describe a concept.

I have both a strong inner voice (which is not perceived as a "voice of God" but more like speaking without uttering) and a weaker mind's eye, and a mind's ear (I can listen to songs I know with what seems like perfect reproduction, though it's definitely perceived as internal rather than external in origin). I also have peripheral awareness of other inputs into my thought process. I sometimes have ideas present themselves all at once, as though several words are silently present in the back of my consciousness, or as abstract notions, or as connections between components in a system. In the end, though, my thoughts don't feel "official" until I've serialized them into a linguistic stream, or at least given the mental images a good "look". This makes reading slower, as I have to read the words at roughly a spoken pace, but I still experience vivid imagery, and occasionally wonder how I ended up back in my house when I take a break from a really good book ;-).

For me, writing is definitely slower than thought. When I first attack a problem, dozens of concepts, edge cases, and other considerations will "come at me" from all corners of my mind. For me writing my ideas down isn't about brainstorming, but calming the storm.

I'm curious what my mental model of my mental model looks like in terms of neuronal connections. I'm also curious how many people are curious about their own thought processes. This discussion thread on HN has been very interesting, as we've seen comments from many different types of minds, all capable of expressing in verbal form their different ways of perceiving thought.

As someone with a very dominant "inner voice", I have to say that, at least to me, it is exactly as having a voice echoing in my head, constantly. More precisely, I happen to think exclusively in dialogues. I imagine talking to a person, and I hear the conversation I would have with that person in my head, and their counterpoints.

It gets tiring. Recently I've taken up drawing; when I draw my head is finally quiet.

More precisely, I happen to think exclusively in dialogues. I imagine talking to a person, and I hear the conversation I would have with that person in my head, and their counterpoints.

I'm pretty much the same way. I'm not sure I'd say I exactly "hear" my "inner voice" but my thinking is definitely dominated by "spoken word" stuff.

Of course, I also talk to myself out loud sometimes, when working on a hard problem. Not sure how "normal" that is, but I can't say I really care a whole lot either.

same here. also when i read or type something, i hear my 'inner voice' speak it out. funny, as i type this out - the voice goes exactly in the same speed that i type, in a sort of coaxing comforting way. maybe has something to do with teachers dictating, and me jotting them down throughout schooling.

i'm curious what happens in peoples minds when the sign goes from red to green at a crossing/signal. some people almost always need to hear a honk or someone moving ahead of them before they realise it's already green and being ahead means you may not get that visual cue you would if you were further behind.

it would be interesting to see what techniques f1 racers or 100 metre sprinters use to get their minds to tell their bodies to 'get off the block'.

I mostly do that too, but I can switch. For example, to trying to process everything visually, perhaps wandering through familiar places in my mind (or listening to familiar voices/songs).

Or you can turn it all off and focus entirely on your senses themselves. This can be interesting when, for example, you imagine something in contact with your body as a part of yourself. Do that to your car, for example, then you start to pay more attention to exactly how your wheels grip the road and you have a more intuitive feel for where every part of the car is in relation to you.

I know that feeling about drawing getting your mind out of the inner dialog. Meditation is probably the same.

> I'm pretty sure the "inner voice" is just a metaphor to describe a concept.

Amusingly, as someone with an inner voice, I used to think the same thing about the mind's eye. I couldn't visualise anything with it, and I asked someone else and he couldn't do it either, so I decided probably no one could do it.

Since then I've realised that the people who talk about visualising things are... y'know, actually visualising things. It turns out that some people do and some people don't.

Huh. I figured much the same way with mind's eye; much like my thoughts, I "visualize" in a very abstract fashion. I don't see the object, I just know it. So there are in fact people, who see it?

I figured much the same way with mind's eye; much like my thoughts, I "visualize" in a very abstract fashion. I don't see the object, I just know it. So there are in fact people, who see it?

I do. I don't really know what to say about it, so if you have any specific questions, feel free. I'll try to explain what it's like.

Example: when I see a math expression x times y, I mentally see a rectangle with side length labeled "x" and perpendicular labeled "y". So understanding (x+h)*(x+h) = x^2 + 2xh + h^2 was totally natural for me. It's not abstract symbols to me, it's pictures in my head. I see a tiny square in the upper right labeled "h^2", and a big square in the lower left labeled "x^2", and two rectangles along the edges labeled "xh".

I never memorized the derivatives of sine or cosine. I just figure them out whenever I need them. Takes a half second or so. Basically, when I need to know a derivative like sine, in my mind I pull up a function plot of sine. I look at the origin (x=0,y=0) and visually see that it passes through the origin and slopes upwards. So I know "when it starts out, sine is already sloped upwards, and as it goes along it slopes less and less, so therefore its derivative starts out as some large positive quantity and decelerates, which is exactly how cosine behaves. So the derivative of sine is cosine." For the derivative of cosine it's similar. I pull up its graph in my head and go "oh, it starts out with zero slope, but then as it goes along it slopes downwards, so it has a negative derivative. Sine starts out at zero, and negative sine would slope downwards as it goes along, so the derivative of cos is -sin." The process isn't as clearly separated as the words I'm using though.

When someone's talking with me about a program's architecture or about a design concept, I picture nodes in my head representing the components of the program. If he mentions a module, I create a new node and label it. If he says it interacts with another module, I draw a connecting line. Eventually I'll have a mental picture of the full system as we're talking.

I usually have a crisp mental picture of each function I write, before I write it. Not individual lines of code; just a clear understanding of its structure, the steps it will perform, and all possible side effects.

My favorite time is just before I nod off to sleep. Laying there with my eyes closed, a dark "hallway" seems to form in front of me, and I start to float forwards through it. Shapes begin to emerge toward me out of the blackness, and I morph them into animals or goblins or whatever I feel like molding them into. Sometimes I lose control and my mind generates horrifying faces or misshapen bodies. I see all of this with the same clarity as waking vision, and the colors are just as vivid. But it's a very narrow field of view, as if I can't see more than a spotlight's width at a time.

This was fascinating to read. I think in much the same way, but less vividly. For instance, when reading a formula, I do not immediately form a picture in my mind. I can do this if I've taken the time to establish the association, but with algebra I'm prone to rely on my visual understanding of the rules. Instead of switching to a visual representation, I've learned to visually move the symbols around on the page according to visual analogs of the rules of algebra.

I do, however, do exactly the same thing when derivating the sine function since it is so closely associated with the graph of sin(x) by default.

I found your example of building system diagrams interesting. I think I may do the same thing, but often it is unconscious. I do not see the image as I'm constructing it, but if I look, it's probably there.

I'm also tempted to suggest that I have a secondary mode of thinking that involves constructing arbitrarily complex logical trees (i.e. if this is the case, then this must be the case) since I seem to detect logical inconsistencies intuitively and without delay. I do not see them, they just occur to me with no representation at all. Perhaps this is a bit like the "just know it" type of thinking expressed in the parent post.

Example: when I see a math expression x times y, I mentally see a rectangle with side length labeled "x" and perpendicular labeled "y". So understanding (x+h)(x+h) = x^2 + 2xh + h^2 was totally natural for me. It's not abstract symbols to me, it's pictures in my head. I see a tiny square in the upper right labeled "h^2", and a big square in the lower left labeled "x^2", and two rectangles along the edges labeled "xh".*

For me, it is the exact opposite. Teachers would spend ages trying to explain this to me, eventually I just had to accept the equation as being true, it never has really made intuitive sense to me. I dealt with it by coming to the conclusion that it is just the way math is agreed upon being done in the particular syntax we have all agreed upon using.

A good # of math courses later (enough for a minor in mathematics) and that is still basically my understanding. Physical diagrams don't really mean much. For some things they are useful, mostly for intro calculus concepts (which is a subject I find to be amazingly visualizable in general), but I just had to basically take all of Algebra on faith as being "agree upon syntax".

Does "FOIL" (first outer inner last) or the distributive property make more sense for your understanding of the expansion of (x+h) * (x+h) in algebraic terms? One thing I love about math is how there are different ways of representing the same concepts -- geometric, algebraic, etc. I wonder if this is because different mathematicians in history had different thinking styles, and paved the way for us modern folk to learn math in the format that works for our own unique minds.

Neither make sense. Memorizing it as a rule made sense.

Eventually learning about different algebraic systems made it all click for me.

A lot of math is intuitive for me, the distributive property never has been though. I just had to memorize it and move on to things that contained meaning for me.

This sounds a lot like synesthesia. Not the association of colors and sounds, but visual-mathematical synesthesia. There are people, like you, that can do arithmetic simply by looking at number-boards that float in the field of vision, like a visual slide-rule.

While I conceptualize differently than you, I do play the "morphing shapes/structures game," falling asleep, but it's in black and white. Also, I float around objects on all axises, like floating around the exterior of a spaceship...

This was really interesting. There's some stuff that seems similar to the way I work and some stuff that is completely different.

Like for you, you process math as a visual representation of what's happening. For me, math is just a written language. I don't see anything, I just read it, write in it, and think it when neccesary.

If there's something I can't understand without a diagram I can try to imagine one, but I usually just draw one. To imagine a system it's like 'speaking with my hands'(or like I've read that sign language works), I arrange the symbols in space, I know where they are in relationship to each other and how they interact. This set is over here, its members go through this function over there, ends up in this bucket here. I guess it's more symbolic and spatial than visual. It's like building a factory or some other kind of apparatus out of symbols that have various relationships or interactions.

All of this happens as I move symbols around on paper or the screen also. It's how I learned how to do math in my head as a kid, repeating things to myself and placing symbols in space.

I also have a strong inner monologue. I tend to think mostly in language but there's also a 'compiled' component, in that when I've really processed something just the symbol is enough.. they don't necessarily have names, I can't put a name to them. In my internal monologue they're just spaces that are filled with feelings I guess. So f(x), that I've internalized might be something like "So, when we put ___ through ___(this one is f) we'll get.."

I suppose sometimes I have no idea what the hell I'm thinking about in terms of a specific symbol and it stands for some computation I haven't completed but I can see how to complete.

I wish I had started with functional programming and lambda calculus, thunks and lambdas seem to map pretty closely to my software.

I also love just when I nod off to sleep, but mainly because that's the best time for me to think. That's the time when I can truly visualize whatever I want and in that state I feel like I can simulate the machines I'm thinking about freely.

For me, math is just a written language. I don't see anything, I just read it, write in it, and think it when neccesary.

Would you mind sending me an email, or putting an email address in the "about" section of your profile? I was hoping to get your thoughts on something.

I tend more towards inner monologue, but it's not 'the voice of God', it's like I constantly talk to myself, only not out loud. On the other hand I can't visualise images internally at all.

I think it's fascinating how we all have basically the same brain hardware but can end up with remarkably different inner experiences.

It's a metaphor, but only just. I talk to myself in my head, but only at the end of a thought process once I've formed some ideas and I'm trying to crystallise them into an argument that sounds right. Like others have said here, if you switch to thinking in English too early on you cripple yourself -- it's just too slow and linear for dealing with multiple threads, relationships and associations, which our minds are brilliant at.

Like you suggested, I also think in spoken words when I'm questioning myself, playing devil's advocate. "Why does that matter?" "Is such and such really the case? Prove it." "You're ignoring some really important factor over here."

I find thinking AND trying to record stuff frustrating. If I'm dictating to a recorder I'll always speak in fragments of sentences, or talk ridiculously fast if I'm on a train of thought, because I can feel the next three or four links & associations coming, and I'm scared of losing them while I finish the one I'm currently talking about. Of course, being scared of losing them pretty much guarantees that you do.

Regarding the "inner voice", I find it's always self-directed. I can keep thinking, but choose to talk or not talk in my head. I suppose, if ever you get words in your head that aren't self-directed, pay very close attention.

Pretty interesting topic and responses. For one more data point, I can create an internal voice and/or images but neither happens by default. If I need to verbalize my thoughts I often have a practice conversation in my head, to see how it comes out in words. I also find it very easy to not think about anything, mind blank and just taking the world in, which seems to be considered a "weird" ability in some circles.

I am very similar to you

It sucks that writing is slower than thinking, but it has to be done because thoughts are fleeting. You need enough notes to remember later or trigger recreate roughly the same idea.

By writing do you mean typing? While I don't have the same kind of need to work out my thoughts, typing is a relief over writing as I can type significantly faster than I can write or even speak. Allowing me to express myself much closer to the speed of my thoughts provides much better productivity.

This whole discussion reminds me very strongly of http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/ 's example about the 1800s debate about whether people could actually visualize things mentally or whether that was just a metaphor.

> If I heard a voice

It's more like talking to yourself. (There's a school of thought that language is thought; related is Sapir–Whorf). The limitation of words is a strength; it enables you to pin down ideas precisely, like butterflies for careful examination. But do it too soon, and they slip through the net.

Capturing thought in words implies that thought differs from words; but words are an important tool of thought. Linguistic thought seems a builtin for humans and our intelligence would be less if we did not have words - and not just for communication/collaboration and external storage.

BTW: There was a study of mathematicians done about a century ago IIRC, and it was found that about 70% of them thought visually about mathematics; about 15% verbally/linguistically; and only 5% thought in actual mathematical notation.

This is actually discussed in some length in Jacques Hadamards "The Mathematicians Mind" - although I'm certainly no psychologist or neurologist, and some of the ideas are probably incredibly out of date, it was interesting reading nonetheless.

I latched onto the part of your post about thinking in another language. Way back in school, I had these 90 minute long immersive Spanish classes. You had to speak Spanish the whole time, even for the most ordinary things. It was intended to get you really using the language, and it apparently worked. Here's why.

I eventually realized that for a few minutes after leaving that class, as I walked to my bus, my inner monologue was running in Spanish, too. I might be thinking about the same things, but the words used for them would be different. This would slowly click back over as I started hearing and talking to my fellow students, and I'd be back to normal a few minutes after that.

The thing is, this adaptive behavior isn't limited to extremes like EN vs. ES. There are different subsets of the language which swap in and out of my speech depending on who's around. I speak one way here on HN, for instance, knowing a bit about my potential audience. I wouldn't sound quite like this with random family members, after all.

What I'm guessing based on what you've said here is that this adaptation might not be a universal thing. Maybe some people just have their preferred language and use it no matter what their audience might be. Perhaps other people pick up on this and think they're "weird" since they're not using the common "code" of the rest of the group. Curious.

> I convert all the important ideas in my life into mental pictures and animations.

Ha! I thought I was pretty strange for doing that too. Unsurprisingly I always like to squiggle on pen and paper to visually organize things. I'd draw boxes and arrows. Or I like computer languages with pattern matching (like Erlang and Haskell). It might be related.

Also I speak 3 (human ;-) )languages and understand 4. 2 of those I learned in parallel while growing up. That has helped me form abstraction that are common between the two and not necessarily tied to either one.

While we are at it. I never knew what to answer when people say "so what language to do you dream in". I always think "huh, people I guess dream in languages?". Because in my dreams and experiences happen but they are mostly visual (with exceptions).

Podcasts are popular not because they're better, but because they take less time to produce. Say you want to get an idea out. Turn on your microphone and rant for 30 minutes. Done. Now imagine you want to write an essay on the same topic. It's going to take a lot longer than 30 minutes. (People listen to podcasts for the same reason they buy People magazine. It's easy and "social".)

I listen to podcasts so I can do other things while absorbing information or entertainment, such as driving, doing the dishes, or grocery shopping. In other words, it is efficient!

Ha. Is that what they're for? I rarely listen to podcasts or video recordings of lectures precisely because I can't do anything else while I'm listening - not if I want to actually hear what's being said.

Alas, I can read much faster than anyone can speak, so listening to someone talk feels like an exercise in tedium compared to just reading a transcript.

The RSA Animate talks work, though - the video adds enough to keep me from getting bored and wandering off.

I can do things at the same time that don't require my attention, like driving on a known route, using an exercise bike, cooking, etc.

I can and will listen to music when I'm doing graphic design.

I prefer silence when I'm doing logical thinking that requires me to use my inner voice, like programming or writing prose. Although I recently found out that it helps when I'm listening to music while writing song lyrics, because it enables me to write from the gut instead of overthinking stuff.

I view it in terms of System 1 / System 2 learning. Podcasts are great for system 2-style learning, where you absorb vocabulary and ideas into your subconscious. Then, when you're ready to sit down and actually learn the stuff, you have a nice scaffold of familiar words and phrases with which you can put together in the correct order.

I think it is important to distinguish here; you do not necessarily think differently from other people. You LEARN differently, which is VERY COMMON.

Supporting anecdotal evidence: I usually learn best with written words and supporting visualizations. My mother and youngest brother on the other hand are highly visual, and have an awful time with written words. They need imagery. This is all contrasted to the auditory method common in our schools, and this is just within my family.

It's interesting, but psychologists have found no evidence of learning styles.

title: "Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence" abstract: http://psi.sagepub.com/content/9/3/105.abstract fulltext: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.p...

Learning and thinking are different processes, and it's conceivable that one person can have different learning and thinking styles. The way you've capitalized LEARN and italicized think leads me to suspect that you're restating a simplification that I've heard from some friends, and I thus assume is taught in introductory college psychology classes as one of those "lies we tell children."

I'm like this too. It's awe-some power, but the downside is that serializing my ideas into language is, in the words of Bjork, "like trying to put an ocean through a straw." It's extreme enough in my case that I often sound completely retarded when speaking. Don't get me started about my many adventures in interview land. -.-

Feynman on the distinct modes of thinking that people possess:


??? If I may risk the typical mind fallacy, most people don't think in words most of the time. Just like typing or writing can serve as structure or canvas, imagining words is for special circumstances. For planning to say or write (and sometimes suppressing). For remembering something you heard or read. For imagining interactions or temporarily believing in hypotheses. For prayer, if you're into that.

(I have known people who talk out loud often enough about whatever preoccupies them that I must assume that they're in-their-head doing the same thing much of the time, so these people do exist - I just question if they're most people).

I do find myself remembering things I've read, said, or heard, when they seem relevant. I have vast amounts of "knowledge" that's waiting to be connected to real life experience.

That said, I wouldn't put too much stock into anyone's description of what their whole brain is doing. Why would we know? I find it's sometimes best to just pause, stop trying to steer, and wait for my brain to come up with something, no pressure. Just whatever comes up in response to a question or puzzle in the next X seconds (pick a small amount of time and commit to not act at all until it passes seems best).

I find this post extremely interesting. Are you saying spoken language plays no role in your thoughts at all, ever?

From various sources I've read over the years has always suggested to me that what one can think is constrained by what one can say (e.g. Pirahã). If you truly don't do any language conversion at all when not actually speaking to other humans that would mean my pseudo theory is completely invalid.

Personally, all my thought process is certainly not "inner monologue" based (and note this isn't something I "hear"). In fact, from what I can tell the "inner monologue" is the slowest form but it's also the most concrete. The faster forms of thinking slip away quickly, like a dream [1].

[1] This was described in an article some time back. A deaf sign language teacher met a man who was in his 20's and had no language at all. She gradually taught him sign language but after he become proficient and she tried to question him on his thoughts before he had language he resisted describing it. Then later he actually couldn't remember anymore. He claimed it all went away (over 20 years of living!) like a dream.

[Sapir-Whorf](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity) is what you're thinking of. The case is usually dramatically overstated.

Clearly he's written a coherent comment. Language plays a role whether he knows it or not :)

A factoid about brains: we can attach a given type of input (say, visual input) to any one of a variety of brain regions X Y Z, and each such region is capable of learning that type of input. But these regions are unlikely to all be similar.

So even though, for example, we all seem to understand English, it's quite likely that different peoples' understanding of the various aspects of the language can arise through architecturally distinct brain regions. As you say, there is a veneer of similarity that hides how differently different people actually experience the world.

This is a very interesting topic, I recommend you read:

"Generalizing from one example" - http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/

and watch Temple Gradin's TED talk "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds"- http://blog.ted.com/2010/02/24/the_world_needs/

I also hear from others that I think "totally differently" - but when they tell me that, I also realize everyone thinks totally differently! The mind is immensely complex, and I think it's a positive thing if we still attempt to communicate and do things with people very different from us.

I agree with your first paragraph. We're really not very different from one another, but a craving for identity causes us to seek or invent distinguishing features, which have a way of turning into traps. The pattern seems to be that one spends adolescence and early adulthood acquiring this "wardrobe", then later the task becomes to shed it. That is not easy, because by when you get to shedding-time you've lost the ability to distinguish between your wardrobe and yourself.

It's counterintuitive and devilish, but the most enticing material for identity-building seems to be one's suffering. It took me many years to learn about that, and boy was that process slow.

Is this why travel is so important? It forces you to have a barebones "wardrobe" and it helps you down the identity-building path?

In my view, that can go either way. Sometimes we expect a change in external scenery to change us and, after the novelty wears off, find ourselves in the same state as before. Emerson said that travel narrows the mind; I suspect he was talking about something like that.

I have always thought travel is more than a change of external scenery. Travel forces you outside of your comfort zone, away from people/places/things that are known.

It depends where you go. Travel makes you pay attention to your surroundings. It also forces you to let go of certain things, and concentrate on a whole new set of issues, like "how to get from point A to point B", or "where am I going next."

fascinating. Are there studies done on this, or is this a well known developmental phenomenon?

Empirical studies? I run across the occasional one that seems tangentially relevant, but haven't kept a list. I feel somewhat skeptical about the possibility of studying that level of experience in a formal experimental way. What I'm saying comes from personal experience, discussion with others, and assorted reading.

> teachers are forcing children every day to go out and play.

until eventually they don't have to. I don't think they ever managed to quit doing it for the OP.

I am a person who loves being social but gets in shut-in cycles. I once took 4 months and backpacked in the woods of Canada in an extreme cycle.

Several points bothered me in this story, as it was a combination of honest observations and immature conclusions.

1) Life takes time, you need to be at peace with being young and not having all the solutions.

2) The author seems to suffer from observing the image of Silicon Valley success without actually experiencing it.

Most people fail, most projects go unfinished, most beyond that never make enough money to sustain a company.

A successful product is the evolutionary result of 10,000 products before it that failed, went unfinished, or were unprofitable. Even the best of the Valley didn't sit down, bang out some brilliant code, slap a business strategy on top, then cash a billion dollar check. They worked long and hard through repeated failures, with sometimes B and C squad talent, slowly carving away at the block of ideas until a product appeared. Then after that, they spend months or years compiling a business strategy and altering the product to become palatable to enough customers to gain a profit.

It takes a team of imperfect people and a lot of time to make even a passable product. Even finishing a unprofitable product is an massive achievement in itself.

It worries me at the end that the author again seems to come to a single conclusion that he believes will bring both success and happiness. That may never come, or it may be that the author never makes a lot of money or never is the best in the field.

This was the most painful part of growing up for me -- accepting that you live in a sea of talented individuals, and you are in no way, the most talented among them. You learn to reach out, form a team, and that great things come from hard work and diligence as much or more so than from natural talent.

you need to be at peace with being young and not having all the solutions.

Err, don't you mean "you need to be at peace with not having all the solutions"? :)

"A successful product is the evolutionary result...."

What we call success is possibly persistence mixed with applied failure science, a method in which the practitioner modifies his techniques continually based on previous failures. She is an explorer who does not stop because she meets an ocean north, instead she tries to go west or if she gots balls, she builds a ship, but ultimately she is determined to find what she seeks.

I completely agree with you. I would only add that even when living in a sea of talented individuals, most people will keep themselves on known waters. It takes a lot of effort to go outside of your comfort zone, but once you do, you gain a huge advantage over more talented people. Because now you feel able to do things they think are out of reach or simply don´t think of them at all. It is really being outside a bubble while the other people is inside.

I´ve been feeling this way for this last year since I begun my project. Probably I will fail, but even then I have am far ahead from I thought I would be able to be.

"Think outside the box"

Yep, but think outside the box can be a momentary act. It can bring yOu great insights. But behaving outside the box for long periods (against your oun will) is much hardther, but also are the benefits.

From the comments here I suspect that not many read to the end, and so may have judged the story before reading these closing words:

"Publishing this was hard but it felt like my only option. For years I have not been living my life, I have been delaying it. Five years ago I paused my life and now it's time to choose between play or stop. I'm pressing play. The world pushed me and instead of pushing back I hid, now I'm pushing back. I'm determined to be myself no matter the consequences.

I know that facing what I am and facing the world is really going to hurt, but I now know that I can survive it. I know that eventually all pain fades away and you're left with only scars. I know that no matter how shitty my emotions tell me things are, that it's not actually that bad. I'll come out the other side no matter what. I'm going to step once more into the fray, come whatever may.


For now, I'm going to;

Get Out.




Fight The Urge To Fade."

I thought that the ending actually ruined the essay. It felt like an anomaly, a self-contradiction. His entire life story is one of how it has always been impossible to reprogram who he is, and here he is, at the end, declaring how he's going to "fight the urge to fade," and change himself, trying to change himself into something that is very clearly antithetical to who he is at every level of his personality.

If eventually he is able to simply live and forget about how attack life, he´ll do nicely. If he obsesses about how he is struggling and how he is not fitting.. he may end in an infinite loop and going nowhere. I hope he succeeds.

I used to be just like you. I spent almost an year without leaving my apartment. Only going out for food (too hard to find 24/7 delivery in Brazil).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welcome_to_the_N.H.K. You're probably familiar with this animated series.

One thing that helped me a lot was doing some Vipassana meditation. Acknowledging that everything as an end. All the pleasures, all the pain. If you wait long enough you'll fell better.

Other important point is Nutrition. It makes a WHOLE LOT of difference on your mental habits. And after some time it will make you a new person.

I suggest you watch the movies "Food Matters" and "Fork over Knives". They're great movies (with some flaws) that can be a kind of "wake up call".

As someone that was on the same boat I wish you all the peace and happiness in the world.

Hey Ken, I see a deep internal contradiction in your belief system, and I want to point it out to you in the hopes that you can lead a happier, more fulfilled life. What is that contradiction?

   I want to be alone
   I want to make money
This does not compute. Creating things for money is a fundamentally social act. And indeed, the stuff of your life was all produced by others, from the house you live in to the clothes you wear to the food you eat. It was all build, manufactured, grown, distributed and sold by others. By consuming even these mundane things you've been integrated into society your whole life, even during these 5 years of isolation.

Now your childhood is over, and you know it is now time for you to create. But mere creation is not enough to make money. You need to create things that people want to buy. That means solving their problems, addressing their pain. And that means being social.

And, since money is vital for your very survival, you must be social to some extent. To rail against this fact is to rail against the need to eat, or to breath. Society is literally that vital to your existence. The fact that it is painful for you is bad luck. Just like asthmatics have it pretty hard when breathing itself can be painful. And just like an asthmatic, you need to figure out how to manage your condition so that you can breath again.

Don't worry about just "getting back to normal". Something tells me that you will remain a unique, talented individual even when you start socializing again.

You, of course, have to be social to some extent with or without an income. Food isn't going to just magically appear in your fridge.

But beyond short bursts of contact (which can often be automated via computer systems), I'm not sure I agree with your premise. I work as a software developer and farmer, and beyond sending an occasional email there is little need to be in contact with anyone in either profession. The former doesn't even require me to leave the house, ever.

I don't consider myself anti-social. I still enjoy social events outside of the workplace. But I see that it could be very easy to essentially disappear, while still making a decent income. They do not seem to be related concepts at all.

You are completely right, randomdata: there is a minimum threshold of social contact required to maintain oneself, and there is no reason to go beyond that threshold if you don't want to.

My concern for Ken is that his essay describes him as so isolated that he's well below that threshold, and in danger of self-harm through negligence. I don't want that to happen.

I would add that, non-trivially, Ken has expressed a desire to "set the world on fire!" which, in general, has social requirements well above the minimum. (Indeed, the only way to really impact the world in isolation would be to, say, take up a science hobby while working for the Swiss patent office.)

I'm going to argue a bit.

"you've been integrated into society your whole life"

Not really, no - this way you would have to say that wild foxes that eat garbage from backyards or birds that nest on buildings are integrated into society.

"But mere creation is not enough to make money."

That's true in a sense that you need other people to give you money to have money. Obviously self-created money is useless.

But mere creation is not useless if it does not produce money. One can create without even a shred of hope that his creation will give him money. And one can be very happy about it. I once knew a person who lived in the middle of the forest and was making mosaics; he tolerated guests (to some extent) but never went out to town or did anything social by his own will. And was really happy there, until he died.

"since money is vital for your very survival [...] To rail against this fact is to rail against the need to eat, or to breath."

That's absolutely not true. You can live a decent life without using money at all, or using money very sparingly. There is that one man who was "dumpster diving" and living years and years on a budged around 50$ iirc yearly. I forgot his name but he has a website and many articles detailing how exactly he pulled it off. He he is now retired and I once saw his comment here, on Hacker News...

...and I just spent half an hour to find him, because I forgot his name and really, really wanted to show you his writings. I'm feeling a bit stupid for forgetting the name, but I remember what he said clearly.

Anyway, here is the site: http://www.ranprieur.com/ and here is an essay that directly contradicts your statement: http://www.ranprieur.com/essays/dropout.html

Oh, also: we really don't need society to be breathing, you know...

"Don't worry about just "getting back to normal"."

That's right, don't worry about it. One can always go Ran Pieur's route and never. Well, I know he was socializing, but I imagine he could have such meaningful social interactions exactly because he "dropped out" from society...

Anyway, you seem to say here that people need to socialize in a way you know as "normal" to be able to live. They do not. They can choose to be outside of social norms and expectations and still live meaningful, happy life - it's rude to forget about them.

Couple of things. First, I didn't say that mere creation was useless. I said it is not enough to make money. The distinction is significant.

Second, thanks for the links. They are very good. However, I'm not sure if he's saying what you think he's saying. Throughout the second page is the tacit acknowledgment that you have to work and make money in order to live. His "most radical advice" is to not find a job that you love, but rather one that supports you with the least stress - which, by the way, I have no problem with.

Indeed, he even links to this wonderful essay, which expresses my point far more eloquently and with more erudition:


"Creating things for money is a fundamentally social act."

Uh!? For years and years I've been writing books (real, printed, published books) and articles. I was probably the most antisocial person in all my friends group and I was also the one making the more money.

I could disappear for months from civilization. My only trip outside would be to go to the grocery store and going to the garage doing the maintenance of my spiffy sport car (bought cash with the money I got from writing). The rest of the time I was writing, during night time. Sleep 6 to 7 hours and wake up at 1 or 2 pm. Take the car for a spin, alone. Rinse and repeat. No social life. No girlfriend. Just work (and the money that goes with it).

Making money and being social are two totally different things.

Especially moreso in that always-on, Internet connected, society were brilliant people can work from home if they want to: there are more and more domains where you can work from home and be as much anti-social as you want.

I know a single mom who runs her entire business from home, updating her websites, receiving her stuff and repackaging them. And she's making a killing money-wise.

A company I was contracting for was shelling big $$$ to south america to two genius programmers: we didn't have a freakin' clue as to wether this guys were socials or not. Doesn't matter.

It's nearly your entire comment which doesn't compute: making money and being social are two completely orthogonal concepts.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you should be anti-social just for the sake of it or be anti-social and make lots of $$$ just to make a point. Since I've opened a FB account (I barely ever go to the movie but a friend I hadn't seen in ten years convinced me to go see the movie and I kinda liked it, so I opened a FB account, go figure ; )

And now I've got a girlfriend since two years and life is better I'd say. Yet I make much less money than when I was that anti-social books and articles writer.

I wish the author of that entry good luck and, like you (but for different reasons) I think he should try to socialize to some at least some extent.

>most antisocial person in all my friends group

I don't think antisocial means what you think it means.

Do you want that he writes out the names of all the hookers he has killed during his "driving around"? Didn't think so.

Something I find interesting that I don't see immediately mentioned in the comments is what a "shut-in" or "hermit" really means when you have the internet. The author has a prolific Twitter account, and in writing this is interacting with people.

Yes, online interactions are different, but a modern-day "hermit" with access to the internet can't really be viewed as such.

Also, I may get downvoted for "armchair psychology", but I did notice elements of what seemed like thought disorder in the post. It's also diagnosed often in autism spectrum, not just with schizophrenia. I do think diagnoses generally mean very little, and "personality disorders" generally bother me because it seems like broadly defined, you could slap that on anyone - which is also the case with thought disorder. It's not like everyone who goes off on a tangent is "crazy"! But I've interacted with enough non neuroptypical type people (myself being one of them) that I did notice a similarity to others.

Do note that interacting on the net is one thing, dealing with a network of people such as friends and colleagues at a firm, is an entirely different ball game.

Unspoken comments, reading between the lines, motivations behind bringing up a topic, moods, wit, having to respond to aggression immediately, saving face...

Its on a different level.


In the case of HN, personally I feel its more polite not to mention it and see if someone with real experience echoes the same.

The reason armchair psychology should get downvoted is the same reason idea-guys get downvoted when they talk about something they don't know much about.

Although I have to admit, I've seen my experience on HN change. Earlier someone would chime in with real information, now I see similar arm chair diagnoses (on subjects = all) crop up.

> When you are so different there is no frame of reference to figure life out.

I can relate to this. As I spend time withdrawn from society (including cybercultures like reddit), my views distance from everyone else's, and it becomes harder to relate to people.

I appreciate Hacker News because people here tend to be unusually receptive to independent thought.

"My name would be Kenneth Luke Erickson. I'd be male. I'd like blue. I would be a Gemini. I would be Christian. They'd chop off some of my penis so I'd never forget that last one."

There's a common misconception that circumcision, for Christians, is a religious ritual or a religious requirement.

In fact, it's just the opposite. Many Christian denominations (e.g. Catholicism) specifically DISALLOW circumcision, if it's done for religious reasons.

>In fact, it's just the opposite. Many Christian denominations (e.g. Catholicism) specifically DISALLOW circumcision, if it's done for religious reasons.

On the other hand, many christian denominations (e.g. esp pentecostals) circumcise precisely for religious reasons.

The simple fact is that while it might not be a religious ritual for some christians, it is for others christians.

Oh, look at that, christians not being consistent from one type to another. What a surprise.

> Oh, look at that, people not being consistent from one type to another. What a surprise.


I completely agree with what you're expressing here, but when you belong to an organization that claims to have a monopoly on meaning and truth in the universe, a higher level of consistency is not an unreasonable expectation.

Catholics and Pentecostals are different organizations. Back in the old days we used to purge non-orthodox views, but that's not as tenable anymore, so we have thousands of interpretations. In any event, the traditional Christian view is that circumcision is no longer necessary, as stated by Paul several times in the New Testament.

>the traditional Christian view

There is no such thing as 'the traditional christian view.' There are many 'traditional christian views' and many times they contain mutually exclusive things. Even in the earliest records of the different churches, there are arguments and discussions about what is and isn't "christian." There sprung up groups that mostly agreed on things, and some of those tried to forcefully make others believe the same things, but they never succeeded.

The early church had many disagreements, especially over observance of Jewish law such as circumcision. But the Judaizers (as they are called) essentially lost the debate, which Paul was active in, and the Church became rather Gentile-oriented. Many other things were up for dispute as well, such as the exact nature of Jesus, but these were ultimately ironed out under ecumenical councils which ratified certain dogmatic truths such as the Trinity. Beginning with the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, convened by Constantine, Rome sought to define Christianity properly and began to eradicate all heretics, such as Arianism and Catharism, though some remote groups such as the Copts evaded them due to being out of their jurisdiction.

Christianity thus maintained relative internal consistency under the Roman Church, and spread throughout Europe, until around the year 1000 when the Greek Orthodox split off from the Catholics. However, they still maintain very similar dogmas (including that circumcision is unnecessary).

Martin Luther did his work in the 16th century which caused a great deal of schism in the Church; until this time Protestants did not exist. King Henry VIII abandoned Catholicism and invented Anglicanism. All of these people nonetheless still believed circumcision was not necessary and it was not generally practiced in Europe, and many of their liturgical beliefs were much more aligned with traditional Catholicism than modern evangelicals.

It wasn't until the US, with its enormous variety, lack of traditional oversight, and radical re-interpretation of the Bible by individuals, that circumcision regained some religious significance in fringe groups. Pentecostalism in particular did not start until the 19th century. However, after looking around, I can't find any evidence that even they universally see circumcision as a religious requirement for Christians. Some Christians practice it anyway, but not as a religious requirement. Incidentally, so do many atheists.

I think it can be said that not only the New Testament but almost the entire history of Christianity is against circumcision being a religious requirement. There was disagreement in the early church, and there is disagreement in some fringe groups today, but it was never a mainstream view.

It is odd though to say circumcision is a Christian thing, when generally it is not, and for a long time in the past was considered definitely not Christian.

If you're talking about christian beliefs, circumcision doesn't even make the top 10 ten odd things.

Just like most things with christianity, having a definite 'yes' or 'no' is not really possible. Christianity has a very mixed history with circumcision.

Wikipedia has a surprisingly good overview, though it doesn't address at all an overview of modern christian beliefs in the US:


Of course, the fundamental premise of your statement is flawed. There isn't one single 'christian' thing. There are many christian things, and many of those contain mutually exclusive beliefs. Circumcision is one of them. There are many others.

Specifically, in many interpretations of Christianity, circumcision is not part of the observed religion (ie you don't need to have body parts chopped off or to have a certain type of diet to be a Christian)

The problem is the use of the word Christian. There are many different types each with vastly different views. When making a statement like that people need to be more specific.

It's sad that when your problems are genuinely different from other people's problems, people won't believe you. They will keep giving you advice that worked for them.

I think it's more sad to expect others to divine the solution to your problems when they have no point of reference; I think it's sad when expressions of love and concern are rebuffed with a dismissive, "But you don't understand."

Of course poor Aunt Sharon doesn't understand. And no, the onus isn't on you to make her understand. Unless you want her to...in which case, it may take some effort on your part to frame your emotions to her experience.

Even then you may only meet part way. Which you'll have to accept, but not as a failure.

I think it's more sad to expect others to divine the solution to your problems when they have no point of reference

I didn't get any sense that the author was expecting others to divine the solution to his problems; I think he was just irritated because they were besieging him with "concern" without actually helping any.

I think it's sad when expressions of love and concern are rebuffed with a dismissive, "But you don't understand."

An expression of love and concern like "Hey, it seems like you're going through a rough time, I hope things work out for you, let me know if there's anything I can do to help" is one thing. That should be met with thanks, yes.

An "expression of love and concern" like "I think you should do X" or "Have you tried Y?" is quite another. It is not really aimed at helping or comforting the person who is having a rough time; it is aimed at easing the emotions of the person who thinks they are being comforting. That is the sort of thing that might (and should) get met with "But you don't understand".

Of course poor Aunt Sharon doesn't understand.

Indeed. And therefore she should not presume to tell the person she doesn't understand how they should "fix" things. The issue isn't really that she doesn't understand; it's that she doesn't even know that she doesn't understand.

it may take some effort on your part to frame your emotions to her experience.

This is true, but Aunt Sharon has to be willing to meet you halfway. Many Aunt Sharons are not.

I didn't get any sense that the author was expecting others to divine the solution to his problems; I think he was just irritated because they were besieging him with "concern" without actually helping any.

Therein lies the contradiction. You presume the author isn't expecting solutions and yet he's justifiably irritated because other people aren't helping. I don't think he's justified at all.

So many presumptions about how other people should react and behave: expressions of love should be like this, auntie should know she doesn't understand...

Aunt Sharon has to be willing to meet you halfway

No, she doesn't; she needs to hear, "I don't need advice, I need you to listen."

he's justifiably irritated because other people aren't helping.

I didn't get the sense that that was the reason for his irritation. I got the sense that he was irritated because they were bothering him while he was trying to figure things out for himself, not that he was expecting them to help and they weren't.

No, she doesn't

She doesn't need to be willing to meet you halfway? Why not? How can someone possibly help at all (assuming help is what is desired in the first place, which it may not be--see above) if you have to do all the work?

she needs to hear, "I don't need advice, I need you to listen."

In some cases that may be appropriate, yes. But once again, it seemed to me like this author wanted to say something more like "Stop bothering me, I don't need help, I need to be left alone. I can't figure things out with you people bombarding me all the time."

Thank you for saying this. Reading the comments on this thread is making me very angry, because K-2052's piece speaks directly to my soul and captures so much of the frustration that I've had in life that by the end, I was cheering the guy on.

Coming back here and having everybody trivialize his experience like this...I don't know. Some problems are more fundamental than you've had to deal with in your life. Unfortunately, you (the people giving advice) will simply never understand -- you're an entire world apart from what it's like to view the world from K-2052 glasses.

I don't even know the guy. I just know what it's like to be truly isolated from the rest of the world.

In the aftermath of emotional implosion; friends, family, colleagues and even strangers will metamorph into an invasive species from planet Concern. You okay? Want me to come over? Is there anything I can do? Just let me know man. We are here for you. Remember we are all in this together.

It seems the first type is also irritating. And even though I agree it should be met with thanks the first time, if you keep bothering me I will get irritated. Or if many people keep bothering me, even if only once each. I can only imagine it's similar to what the author felt, and why he disconnected.

Yeah, the one I get is:

"Me and 'X' have been talking and we think you should do 'Y'"

Great, now I have groups of people talking about me.

I was a lot like you and the main thing I took away from your story is not that you're so different, but that you're _really_ young. I thought almost all the same things you did about books, being smarter than your peers, being an alien (for me it was an alien robot). When I was 12 or so I saw a kid on TV talking about how he intentionally made an inventory of facial expressions and body language and it literally changed my life to know I could do such a thing. You're not as different from other people as you think, but you're just coming out of the age where you think you are (again, I know from experience).

You've made it to the point where you know you have to make a change, which is awesome. I hope you can also get to the point where you can stop being so self-conscious about being different and just live your life. Unclench a little. I'm almost 35 and I'm just now starting to enjoy people in a real way, having done a program of "Fake it til you make it" for years. You're entering real adulthood now and you'll make adult friends, you'll move on and get some perspective on things. Take it from me, it seems like an impossibly long time now but in 5 years you'll look back on this story in a very different way.

This reminds me a bit of this first-person piece of autism-related sci-fi: http://www.amazon.com/The-Speed-Dark-Elizabeth-Moon/dp/03454...

I used to keep a diary, where 13 years ago my entries were long monologues similar to this. There was a clear correlation between amount of personal and emotional human contact I had in a day and the length of the diary entries where I tried to reminisce going mushroom picking with my grandmother a decade earlier.

The world today seems too constantly distracting for that sort of thing.

That seems like a very interesting book. Thanks for sharing! I have added it my list of things to read.

Just curious, which way did the correlation go? Less contact => Longer entries?

Yes, less personal contact, perhaps a less meaningful job at the time meant more time brooding over everything due. Now that I do something people depend on and no longer live alone, I haven't felt the need to reminiscence.

This is an excellent book. Thanks for reminding me of it.

"It only takes one crazy dick to cause dicks for generations to be forever mutilated, The Butterfly Dick Effect."

What am I reading.


Circumcision, like other hazing rituals, is simultaneously pointlessly arbitrary and unnecessarily barbaric.

There is a persistent ignorance about homeschoolers lacking socialization, an assertion I find laughable. Homeschooling done properly, frees up more time and increases true socialization. I was involved in sports, chess, and a wide range of homeschooler organized activities. 90% of the homeschoolers I have ever encountered were as equally if not more involved in social activities.

I was homeschooled and while it's true that homeschoolers tend to have cooperatives, and join social clubs, you're still more isolated than children in more traditional situations. To this day I'm more socially awkward than most of people I know and I wonder if the homeschooling didn't have something to do with it.

Most personality traits follow a normal distribution: half are more socially awkward than average, half are less socially awkward than average.

I found it surprising and even counterintuitive, but empirical data suggests that on average home-schooled students are still better socialized than students of public schools. Here's one article: it was published in a Catholic journal, but it seems to be heavily cited by secular social scientists and sufficient in its methodology ( http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/02/001-is-private-sc... )

I'd add that there's also more to socialization than not being socially awkward: someone can be socially awkward, but start a family, be active in their community, and contribute to society through work, entrepreneurship, or academic pursuits.

I was homeschooled (just through highschool), yet maybe not a "traditional" homeschooling - I basically chose my own classes and went to community college, etc. I would think that any studies done on homeschooling from the more religious aspect would be hard to interpret.

I feel more socially awkward and that I have to fake it, but I think in reality I do quite well. Sometimes I wonder if what I'm experiencing is the fact that I have a low-tolerance for sophomoric, highschool-like drama and BS, because I never had to experience it :)

I wish there was a web community for shutins like myself who would like to no longer be shutins. It's definitely not Grouper - sorry, "ending loneliness" doesn't mean finding a girlfriend and being judged on your tagged Facebook photos (as someone who is actually lonely, I have no photos tagged, and I assume that's why Grouper never admitted me. You have to be unlonely to join Grouper, in reality.). The only people I've really been able to relate to are other loners but they're hard to find obviously. My biggest fear, which is confirmed time and time again, is that my awkwardness and general boringness scares people off. It'd be nice if I could meet someone who, with fair certainty, would not be like that to me.

> They form relationships with other people only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.


I think this would definitely be helpful. Definitely something I will think about starting. You can really only get a handle on your emotions when you've someone that understands you and to do that you need to be able to express yourself without fear of rejection; a group of us would definitely help with that.

All the resources for the socially isolated tend to be directed at;

1. Those that are depressed or insane. As I mentioned (albeit in a very hyperbolic manner) people tend to assume you're depressed and the only help I have ever been offered was to help cure my non-existent depression. I think it's because most people cant imagine cutting themselves off from the world. They'd only do it if they had a serious mental breakdown, so they assume we must have had one.


2. Autistic people that are severely socially disabled.

I'm neither depressed nor severely social disabled. I imagine most shut-ins aren't.

The judgment and inaccurate labeling that comes with seeking help severely deters people like us from seeking it. The very reason I withdrew from society is because I couldn't take the labeling and social judgment.

I'd encourage you to read up on Hikikomori. Japan has a culture that causes a great deal more shut-ins than we do and there is a significant body of work on the phenomenon. Shutting Out the Sun http://www.amazon.com/Shutting-Out-Sun-Generation-Departures... is a pretty good book. There is a good introductory article here http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/15/magazine/15japanese.html?p...

Simply reading about others like me was enough to give me the courage to share with a few online friends and from there I got the courage to publish my story. There are lots of people like us, you're not alone. Feel free to email me anytime "k@20252.me". We can chat about whatever.

"The very reason I withdrew from society"

It might be insightful to you, that you made a substantial Singular vs Plural mistake there. There's more than one society / culture, more than one way of life, more than one mode of socialization... Its a big planet, now go find the rest of it. Much like your story related numerous different places to physically live without getting the point there are numerous different cultures/societies to live in. As a much older dude than you, I found several (sub)cultures I like and happily socialize in. Lifestyle and culture of the masses, some parts are OK, some, maybe most, no. Reason, analyze, freely pick and choose, that is a feature, not a bug. Take reasoning engine, enter inadequate information, test and get confusing output, assume problem is the reasoning engine, not so. Its a big planet, there's more out there than just extroverted dominant media culture or nothingness. How to figure out the right way to live, that is the true education.

Don't feel too bad about not being eligible for Grouper. An [introverted, self-proclaimed lonely] friend of mine did one a few weeks ago and said he had nothing in common with any of the women except for one that also worked in tech. She ended up being the one everyone was pining after and because lonely/introverted people aren't the ones that are going to strike up conversations (especially if it means competing against others to do so), he ended up going home and feeling pretty bummed about the whole situation.

Are they really targeting "lonely" people? I thought their model was more about getting people who wanted to do that sort of thing out and doing it without the planning. If they're trying to target people who prefer staying in and playing board games, their homepage does a terrible job selling that.

Their official mission statement:

> Our mission is to end loneliness.

This is oft reported elsewhere in describing Grouper: https://www.google.com/search?q=grouper+mission+end+loneline...

It made me think it was just a site for meeting people, not necessarily dating. But it is exactly that: a group dating site. I was confused by its non-datey name, and their "sex in the bathroom" article which seemed incongruous with ending loneliness. You can fuck strangers while being utterly alone, and I think most people experienced with healthy relationships would agree that dating/sleeping around out of loneliness is an unhealthy way of getting out of it.

Yeah that's off; if I'm lonely it has something to do with my mental state/feelings about my self-worth. Their Instagram shots on the homepage of people having nights out on the town/doing extroverted activities don't do anything but dissuade me from thinking that that's something I want to partake in.

It sounds like they're trying to look like the good guys by offering such a service, while actually marketing and selling to those that would use it regardless. In that sense, GrubHub sounds like a better bet. Less expectant of me to be outgoing and social for the sake of finding someone to shack up with vs. just there for the company and if something comes of it - hooray.

I'm disturbed by how much of myself I saw in this. Cutting off all contact with friends in order to work on my project without distraction. During my day job I space out fantasizing about re-emerging into society as a successful entrepreneur. And I've picked up an adderall habit to facilitate binge programming on the weekends.

well, good luck with your _amphetamine_ habit.

I find it interesting that a person who has shunned all outward social connections, tries to then make a social connection via the internet in retelling his story to us.

Humans, whether you like it or not, have evolved to be a social species. Even if one wishes to withdraw, they can only do this in practice with the tacit permission of the society they live in, at least unless they're prepared to give up all worldly conveniences and just go live in a cave somewhere. I also find that interesting, though I'm not sure what to make of it.

I had the same thought. It's a bit of a paradox. If he is living a healthy asocial lifestyle, there is little chance he would need to externalize his internal thoughts. So by writing an essay on his healthy asocial lifestyle, he contradicts himself...


Edit: Seems reply below is right, I misread the article. He actually calls out his lifestyle as specifically "unhealthy".

>...my unhealthy mental state...

He didn't say his asocial lifestyle was healthy.

Programming is supposed to be enjoyable. If you're not enjoying it, why are you doing it? If you are enjoying it, then what is the problem? There's people who dedicated their entire lives to Mathematics, for example. They did it because they had a passion for it. The absolutely extreme case is obviously Erdos. If you don't have a passion for programming, stop damaging yourself… If you have a passion for programming, then you're lucky, and you should let the entire world know that you do.

TL;DR: Abuse survivor gets depressed, has untreated foot wounds, descends into his own echo chamber, navel gazes for fifteen pages.

Normally I wouldn't detract from someone's opinion of something I wrote by responding to summaries. I believe people should be allowed to judge for themselves whether opinions are accurate and when authors jump in defensively it's a slipper slope to derailing the conversation. However, your summary is factually misleading. You imply I was physically abused which I was not. Hopefully my article doesn't give that impression, I didn't mean to do so. I don't have foot wounds. They're bible cysts, basically fluid that leak from my joints into my feet. Here is a quick wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganglion_cyst. I'll leave it up to others to judge the rest of your summary.

I'm going to put this in all caps because you are not paying my day rate: YOU ARE AN ABUSE SURVIVOR.

Find professional help (NOW) to starting approaching it and dealing with it.

Find professional help (NOW) to help manage your mental disorder (depression) which carries an enormous and present risk of self-harm.

Get whatever the fuck is wrong with your foot fixed, and start walking out the door on the regular.

You appear to be bright, talented, and a capable writer. Resume applying those gifts to the people around you instead of yourself. You are the best person in your own life, now be the best person in other people's lives.

> ...now be the best person in other people's lives.


I've spent most of the last ten years trying to do just that. Do you know what it has gotten me? Let me tell you what it has gotten me: friends and family that never call unless they need something; an utterly depleted bank account; a complete lack of respect or even human regard from my peers; a pile of strife and struggle and pain and misery and not one single positive thing to show for it other than impotently small differences in the lives of sycophants.

No, do not live for others. Never live for others, because nobody will laud you for it -- in fact, people will find it laughable and openly sneer at you for it.

He wrote, "In the aftermath of emotional implosion; friends, family, colleagues and even strangers will metamorph into an invasive species from planet Concern," and I thought, "pfft, that must be lovely."

Further, I really wish people would stop talking to people with depression as though they were in boot camp for Turning Their Lives Around. e-shouting "find professional help!" is a sure sign of someone who has never actually tried seeking professional help, because here's the thing about a lot of "professional help": the professionals really suck. How do you think someone feels after sharing their troubles with a cold stranger for an hour, getting merely a few minutes' advice and another appointment at the end, and then paying for that? And when that person has tried 2, 3, half-a-dozen professionals, how do you think they begin to feel then?

Your commandments here strike me as being like an extrovert's advice to an introvert: "these are my values, and you must live by them! It is unacceptable for you to not go to parties!"

If a person wants to change, then perhaps you might be of some help to them -- and then only if you spend more than a minute's effort banging out a comment on your keyboard. I haven't yet finished reading his screed, but so far it sounds to me like he is not only not asking for help, he is openly rejecting it, in which case I doubt anybody else should have much to say about it.

"I can't find a good professional, so using professional help is useless" - that is an odd conclusion to come to.

Yes, many shrinks suck. It sucks dealing with them. I'll still shout "Find professional help" if that's what it'll take for that person. And that's the case here.

You(OP) don't go and write a whole long screed how you'd like to be left alone to then justify said screed on a site like HN without actually, at some level, wanting to interact with people.

Which means you(OP) have an issue - what you(OP) say and what you do is not congruent. Find somebody you can relate to, and ask for their advice. Doesn't need to be a shrink. Priest, Guru, Life Coach, whatever works for you. Work out which one of the two you want, and then live accordingly.

Edit: Clarifying "you"

(Upvoting you just to move your comment above jpxxx's blithering stupidity.)

I can't tell from your comment if you think I'm the author, but just FYI, I'm not.

> I'll still shout "Find professional help" if that's what it'll take for that person. And that's the case here.

OK, here's the thing, and it's really the only point I care to try to make here: telling someone to find professional help is not helpful. In fact, it's probably harmful, because it's the number one, most predictable piece of advice anybody can expect to get. So, being told over and over again to "find professional help" -- a task which is dramatically more difficult than the effort required to write those three words -- just makes people want to talk about their problems openly even less. i.e., "I'd talk about it, but they'll just tell me to find professional help, I really don't need to hear that again."

It's also harmful in that it's another kind of a dismissal. Surely you can see that "find professional help" could be interpreted as another way of saying, "Go away, I can't help you"? "Go find someone else and pay them to listen to you." -- I'm sure this isn't what you or anyone else means to say, but this is what it sounds like to someone with depression.


What you've said is something I understand and its a nice angle on an issue I haven't seen in this particular way in a while.

I'm on the opposite side of your stand. I've seen far too many people "Help". In all cases, the damage they cause casually is far greater than if they just said "you need help, get a doctor!"

So (1), in general saying "hey you need to get to a professional" is the least bad thing people can say, and for the sake of the sufferer, this is all I can hope for.

I've spent, or once HAD spend, an inordinate amount of time listening to people, both with and without unusual issues. I Listened in the way I learnt I would want to, with focus, concern, and no judgement.

I would still tell people to go get to a doctor.

But, I would never let it come across as a shut down or a brushing off. "hey, this is a question I can't answer for you. I believe someone with training and experience would be able to help you with this better than I could. The last thing I want to do is say something and make your life harder."

(I believe this can be put better, preferably without any of the "I")

So it comes down again to the kind of person listening on the other end. From what I can tell, this will always be someone who isn't cut out for the job, especially if you are depressed.

In all practicality saying "you need to see a doctor" is the average least bad thing that can happen to them.

I have a treadmill in my basement, but three times a week I pay $5 to go to the rec center and run on their treadmill. Maybe half the time I use weights but usually I just run and then go home.

I pay the $5 because it encourages me to get the best use of my time.

I have a similar philosophy with going to work instead of working from home, and also with vegetables (I hate vegetables and do a lot of gardening).

I think "find professional help" is more akin to "you can get that if you want it and are willing to do the hard work" than "I can't help you", although I understand that it's hard being the recipient of that comment, which is often casually thrown out (and not at all out of the ordinary for K's story), and easy to take a negative view of it. Objectively it's not bad advice--everybody needs a sounding board IMO, it's a helpful tool to unwind after an eventful day.

Hi Sir,

Thanks for spelling out the truth. For those who are young and impressionable, listen to this man. Let me paraphrase his two points,

1) Being a nice person will not only earn you any affection you crave but the opposite, contempt for being an agreeable person.

2) Professional help is an oxymoron. Psychiatrists waste money and time.

In my humble opinion, fundamental human problems involve three things, social class, money and sex. Sanitized into our civilized world, it means "pursuing your passion," "entrepreneurship," and "being a good citizen." Shrinks will not grant you any of those things. You have to do the dirty work yourself.

"Being a nice person will not only earn you any affection you crave but the opposite, contempt for being an agreeable person."

This has not been my experience. I like nice people, and dislike assholes. I know plenty of other people who feel the same. Of course, there are people who are attracted to assholes, but if you're interested in their affection then you might want to take a deep, hard look at why.

"Professional help is an oxymoron. Psychiatrists waste money and time."

There are lots of different types of psychiatrists and psychologists in the US and around the world. The most popular type of therapy in the US right now is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but there are many, many others. If one therapy (or one therapist) doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean that another won't.

"In my humble opinion, fundamental human problems involve three things, social class, money and sex."

You might want to look at Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs.[1] From most basic to the highest needs, they are:

* Physiological needs

* Safety needs

* Love and belonging

* Esteem

* Self-actualization

* Self-transcendence

Your "social class, money and sex" only really cover the bottom four levels, and completely ignore the need for self-actualization and self-transcendence. While Maslow's heirarchy is controversial, I personally think it's quite myopic to ignore the need many people have for getting beyond the lower levels in to the quest for self-discovery, self-development, and self-transcendence.

"Shrinks will not grant you any of those things. You have to do the dirty work yourself."

Psychologists and psychotherapists can certainly never "grant" you anything except a (hopefully) sympathetic ear. A good therapist can also help you get insight and offer good advice, but you will certainly have to do a lot of hard work in the therapy session and as homework. To think that on your own you can achieve anywhere near the amount of insight, healing, and growth that you could with the help of a good therapist is (usually and for most people) overly optimistic.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

Hi Gnosis,

Thanks for your detailed response with details. I'll address about being a nice person, CBT and Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

a) On Being Nice

My experience of dealing with "nice begets nice" have been situations where, a) both parties are equitable in some context and have something to gain from one another (emotional need met in relationships, being on the same sports or business team etc) or b) where someone who's in a higher position of power and doesn't find the less empowered person threatening. This may sound very clinical but often-times, people confuse themselves unconsciously about their capacity to be a altruistic person vs. their need to feel altruistic. Common example include some people's need to feel like a good person in romantic or social context but in the end lead on the more needy lover/friend, some people's need to feel like a "creative" person but find themselves resorting to "capitalist sins" about their career/promotion in critical times.

For me personally, it's more honest and accurate for myself to say that I enjoy the feeling of giving and being loved and it's important to my well-being; but that feeling is subordinate to my self-interest. I feel this is true love rather than confusing my ultimately selfishness, misrepresenting and leading myself and someone else on.

b) CBT

IMO, most therapy tries to change the way you think or feel about your problems but not how to go about fixing the problems themselves. I don't want to dive into the exact mechanics of CBT/NLP/Psychotherapy/SSRI, but I find them to be more evasive and ultimately ineffective ways to confront emotional issues.

I want to be a professional basketball player in the NBA. Correcting negative emotional triggers throughout the day as to why I'm not 6' 5'' is ultimately not going to be effective. I have to apply domain-specific knowledge in basketball for undersized guards such as floaters and dribble-attack moves to compensate for my shortness. Or if I'm past a specific age, it's pretty unrealistic and I should divert my attention/resources to more realistic goals. The same binary logic applies to relationships, career's and yuppie ambitions. Psychology is too vague to solve my domain specific problems such as how to talk to girls, whether to work for a RoR or Python shop or how to start a vegan bakery-shop that would impress my friends. I don't want to suppress my negative thoughts or "sublime" them into more positive one's, they are there to force me to either do correct my shortcomings or admit that I suck. And I'd rather concede to my realistic conditions and progress realistically than to delude myself with the magic bullet of positive thinking that will never come.

c) Maslow's Pyramid of Needs

I believe that self-actualization and self-transcendence is too abstract for me. Helping to start a school or free clinic in Africa to me is a vanity like owning a yacht because I wouldn't do it unless I have more free time or money. I don't see any of my artistic/creative activities like creative writing, composing music etc. as "higher-lifting" as much as playing World of Warcraft or programming. They are fun things that I like to do to get into the flow of one particular thing and to assign a higher purpose and say I'm a "maker/tinkerer" or "chronicler of human condition" is ludicrous and egoistic. In my humble opinion, Einstein, Shakespeare or Tom Brady whoever don't do necessarily write or think differently than I do. They just do it in orders of magnitude better which doesn't put them in a different "creative class" of "free-thinkers" which somehow one day I hope to associate with, it just means that I suck and will most likely suck for the rest of my life. My problem isn't "finding myself," I did that exercise in kindergarten But it's how to make my life better now.

Thanks. I have just one little quibble: if you want help, a good counselor, therapist, or psychologist can be invaluable. They can see you in ways very different from how you see yourself, and they can communicate with you in ways that nobody else close to you can. So, if you're still at the stage where you want some help, then do go and talk to a few professionals. You might be pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, finding a good professional takes money and energy and time, and many people lack one of the three. Commanding them to spend money, energy, or time isn't likely to make them do something they can't do.

If you've reached the stage where you no longer want help, then having random people on the internet tell you to go to a professional doesn't do you any good.

This is bad advice. Being a nice person is almost always the right thing to do. Nice people are pleasant to be around, so others want to help them. And if no one wants to help you, well, at least you were a nice person.

Being a jerk gets you nothing. The jerks who achieve success do so in spite of being a jerk. (There is more to life than your affect.)

People who say things like "nice guys finish last" are not actually being nice, they are being martyrs. There's a difference.

I don't appreciate some self-loathing bitch drafting on my thoughts for misanthropy points.

You know what sucks worse than trying to find competent professional medical attention in America? Blowing your head off with a gun and leaving your decomposing meat for someone to find and clean up. Those are the stakes here.

This author wrote a novella about watching his life reduce to nothing, then wrapped it in a wordpress, threw a vanity domain up, and submitted it to a hivemind. If it was about the quaint, quirky charms of a minimalist lifestyle then you special electronic snowflakes could give each other all the handjobs you want and nobody would mind.

But as this piece documents severe emotional trauma from a childhood marked by abandonment, drug abuse, emotional abuse, (and probably sexual/physical violence) it seems to -me- that he needs help, is looking for social oxygen, and is trying to figure his situation out.

It's not a pretty picture, and the more he rambles about how his sister won't let him eat ice cream the more confused he's going to be about the issues in his life and the fundamental plumbing in his head. Don't confuse depression with a lifestyle choice.

Of all the people replying to this thread, your responses are filled with the most love. Your anger shows that you care - and I don't think you're too off-base with your assessment, either.

I think I can help you with your message in some small way by noting that social integration is not good because it's 'normal'. It's good because it's vitally necessary for survival. Human society is entirely synthetic, artificial. We are born depending on others. The doctor. The hospital. Our mothers. We are raised depending on others: the teacher, our classmates, our siblings. We live in structures built by others eating food grown by others.

The interesting contradiction here is between Ken's desire to make money and his desire to withdraw from the world. These are totally incompatible desires. One of them has to give. And given that 'not making money' means, essentially, starvation and death, it suggests that perhaps he should rethink the normalcy of withdrawing so completely from the world.

I would only add this argument to yours, not replace it. Thanks for your comments.

"And given that 'not making money' means, essentially, starvation and death"

I can't even begin to imagine where do you live to have that drastic views...

Just because you're a shut in doesn't mean you're depressed. Most people are incredibly vapid. I don't like interacting with most people because of this reason. Being a shut in is not as depressing as it seems. Perhaps you are an extrovert and simply cannot comprehend this.

"People are generally worthless, unlike me." Check.

That is really what a lot of introverts feel. It's okay if you are uncomfortable with that. We can recognize our own so in case it was not obvious that it was a blanket statement, let me just say "it was a blanket statement".

Everything past 3/4ths down in the article is explicitly about the author's self-described depression.

It sounds like you're replying more to feed your ego as an expert advisor full of "tough love," rather than to actually help OP. There's no better way to steel a depressed person's resolve to stay depressed than to criticize him further and to not listen to him. You're telling him exactly that ("TL;DR"), that he is not worth listening to.

Egotistical self-serving tough love vendor? Guilty as charged. But he now has a googleable term for something that's undoubtedly been causing him grief and unexpected outcomes in life, and that's probably the best I can do from where I sit.

Well said. I want to add a couple comments:

-For some people, writing it all out is therapeutic. That's probably the best time (most suggestible time) to suggest therapy.

-CBT is useful, and the #1 long-term cure for depression. A good CBT therapist is what the author should look for.

-Author is making plans for the future, which is a good sign that things aren't totally dire right now.

Please, tell us how you really feel :). Good work, I hope this gets back to OP.

Replying here since your reply to mine is too deeply nested:

Yes, "ask a professional" can be misread as "I don't care about that person". What it means when I say that is "I am not qualified to help you. You're in deep shit, and you need help. You really should find somebody who is qualified".

If I happen to know the person, and they're in my area, it comes together with a number or two where they could find somebody competent. And with a clear statement that I expect them to call, plus follow-ups from me if they called. I'm a persistent nag if I have to :)

I'm also pretty clear about the fact that if they keep coming to me with their problem, I expect them to do something about it.

On the Internets, it's hard to do more than say "go see a professional". The OP laid their soul bare, but I don't know them enough to give them any better advice.

You sound like a good person -- at least you put some effort in. The only other comment I'd have here is that sometimes it's better to simply listen than to expect someone to change. Believe me, I get that it's emotionally draining to hear someone vent and rehash the same personal issues over and over and over again; but, sometimes, they just want someone to talk to, not someone to tell them what they need to do. It's up to your judgement whether or not you (or anyone else) has time or room in your life for that, and whether or not it'll do any good if you do.

No, do not live for others. Never live for others, because nobody will laud you for it -- in fact, people will find it laughable and openly sneer at you for it.

He wrote, "In the aftermath of emotional implosion; friends, family, colleagues and even strangers will metamorph into an invasive species from planet Concern," and I thought, "pfft, that must be lovely."

I know that I'm just a stranger on the Internet, but it sounds like you need to find yourself a better peer-group.

Not sure that helps JP. As you can see from his response he doesn't see himself as being abused so yelling at him might not get the message through.

One of the weirdest things I've encountered was how much the brain internalizes its existence from a very young age. Without going massively philosophical on people the question of what is 'normal' is really really fluid. Nearly everyone I've met baselines their own childhood experience as 'normal' even though people have widely different sets of acceptable/unacceptable behaviors, language usage, religious views, Etc. These get injected into the pliable and undiscriminating brain of a child, and children of dysfunctional families usually can't express their discomfort as a function of their own upbringing because human brains don't work that way.

So while I agree the author would benefit greatly by deconstructing his earliest inputs and re-contextualizing them in a way that allows him to move forward with his life, that has to happen somewhat on his timeline.

Very well put. Here's to hoping this happens sooner rather than later.

What was the cause of abuse? (the story is too boring and egocentric to read fully, thanks for the tldr btw.)

He/she doesn't sound depressed - depressed people don't walk 5 miles a day and still want more

It's normal to be a hermit/anachorite/anything, countless people have done it over the centuries (under the pretense/justification of religion)

He/she doesn't really have a writing talent - in fact he/she doesn't seem well read.

Perhaps it would be best to enjoy their alone time, read tons of books. The will to start giving to this cruel world will develop after their teenage angst years when their weltschmerz starts to subside.

You seem to have a significant bias against leading an asocial lifestyle. I suggest that this says more about you then it does the OP.

His posts aren't for OP; they're for himself.

Drats! Foiled again by the karma police. If only I'd recommended some cartoons to watch or new diets to try!

> I'm going to put this in all caps because you are not paying my day rate: YOU ARE AN ABUSE SURVIVOR.

...and you're being abusive under the guise of trying to help.

Aggression is not a good answer and if you can't make your point succinctly without it then now would be a good time to learn. Not to mention the arrogance of presuming you know what's best for someone to the point where you feel you should attempt to force your opinion upon them.

I am declaring in no uncertain terms that this author is a survivor of childhood abuse, and that fact has led to ingrained behaviors causing undesirable outcomes in his life.

And now I will presumptuously bully my way into forcing my opinion on him with abusive HATECAPS under the self-serving, egotistical guise of trying to help:


even a cursory read of the post would suggest that the OP is actually doing quite a good job of dealing with his problems

To the uninitiated, perhaps.

It's the first step to wellness, but people (especially the types that are drawn to technology) put way too much weight in analysis. "Getting better" stalls, more often than not, in analysis. It's why your friend or cousin or mother or whoever tells you they went to therapy for 10 years and accomplished nothing.

The root cause is this: feeling bad about yourself is easier than the pain of actually doing something about it. So if you can stay in analysis mode and take a couple hesitant shuffles in some direction, that's good enough. You'll never get better, but at least you don't have to change.

That's why the author should get into therapy today. With a good therapist, and some willpower, he can begin actually changing his life. As it stands, I expect a couple more blog posts and another existential crisis sometime around Thanksgiving.

I had one on my coding wrist, saw the doc, he advised against surgery. Sometimes they come back after excision or spontaneously disappear. In my case the latter happened years later, literally overnight. Good luck!

This kind of answer is totally unnecessary. Only because you can't understand someone that's different from you and has different problems, that does not mean you're allowed to ridicule and make fun of their situations.

This kind of abusive behavior is the root of many suicidal (and homicidal) tragedies.

Thanks for writing your story. I didn't read the whole lot but I can tell you're a person who could use a friend or someone who can help you.

Would it be a loss for you if you told your story to a professional counselor? I think you should. It's only a small step to take and there are no obligations what so ever.

You're a prisoner of your own life and it doesn't have to be like this. You already took a first step by publishing this story, now take that second step!

> If you don't like who I am then you can go fuck yourself.

I think this is something that comes with age for almost everyone that perceives themselves as different. People in their younger years attempt to change how they are in order to make everyone like them. Later on in life, they realize that this is pointless and they're better off just being themselves and shedding the people who can't deal with that.

Hey K-2052 / lastbookworm, good job on coming out of the closet, that's a difficult step. You obviously want to turn things around, and I think you'll find that in general, at least a tiny part of the world will be there to support you if you genuinely want your life to change. It's gonna take some guts and determination, but it can be done.

Don't pay too much attention to all of the people in this thread criticizing you or offering advice that doesn't fit. The two worst things about the internet are that it's simply more difficult to empathize with other people, and that there are fewer / zero consequences for rudeness.

One thing caught my attention:

> I have never known my Dad. My mom left him when I was four. They were both drug users and to escape the drug usage my mom left him. I have only blurry memories of him. None of my memories of him are positive.

Having had similar experiences, from my perspective this is the root cause of your troubles. It's kind of unbelievable how deep the rabbit hole can go in terms of how this affects your life. I just want you to keep that in mind.

Take care and good luck. You'll figure it out.

It was an interesting read and I saw a lot of myself in there. Instead of books on science I was reading books on philosophy. My favorites were Neitzsche, Sarte and Kirkegaard. One thing that definitely struck me about this though was how much it reminded me of the narration of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, maybe that is why I enjoyed this as much as I did.

There's one paragraph that's sticking with me:

> Play keep away with a normal persons hat and you're just taking their hat. Play keep away with an Autistic persons hat and it's possible that it's his best friend named "Charlie". It's highly unlikely that Charlie enjoys flying at highspeeds through the air into greasy hands. You're not playing keep away with a hat, you are tossing around and abusing his best friend. It takes a damaged monster to play keep away with someone's dog or their younger sibling, but most will think nothing of playing keep away with the weird kids hat.

My four-year old daughter isn't autistic, but this morning we were running to her daycare. My wife had her blankie and was out-running my daughter. All of a sudden my daughter stopped and started bawling, when five seconds earlier she was loving the chase. I'm thinking that maybe the above paragraph doesn't just apply to autistic people, it applies to anybody who forms a bond with an inanimate object.

People find the idea of people who prefer to live by themselves disturbing. I mentioned Sylvan Hart recently to some geeks, and cue the deranged bomber jokes. Really made me sad.

Nothing wrong with introversion, IMO. Lots of people have done it throughout centuries. It can be harmful, and props to OP for recognizing the problem and choosing to move forward.

Interesting read, though I just have one minor complaint about your style of writing... Foot notes after every 3-5 paragraphs is somewhat jarring and hampers the flow of reading your story. I suggest moving all of the foot notes to the bottom of the post and let the reader read them if they want to.

Just my $0.02.

The footnotes wouldn't have made any sense all the way at the end. My favorite footnotes on a webpage are when you can hover over the superscript, and have the note floating there. That way, they wouldn't interrupt the reading.

The hover design, while nice, doesn't work well on tablets.

Indeed, I got to the first set of footnotes and assumed I was done reading until I saw this comment!

Thanks for an excellent read, K-2052! Loved your story. You should really start publising! (Oh, you won't be alone after the collapse, I have a cunning plan as well -wink-wink, nod, nod).

I have a logistical question: how/what do you eat?

I presume he orders online. I'm not sure what it's like where you are but here I order online from the largest supermarkets (Tesco, Asda etc.) and have it delivered to my door the next day for a £3-5 delivery charge. It's pretty commonplace.

That isn't commonplace in the US which I assume that is where he is from considering the whois info.

In fact it would probably be much more expensive here.

The main choices probably are a family member picking up groceries for you, or a small market which still can deliver groceries, I know mine stopped offering delivery around 5 years ago because the community size grew so much.

Though I'm UK-based, not US, I'm a housebound agoraphobic (I don't leave at all, ever) - you'd be surprised how easy it is logistically in this day and age, actually. I have family members pick things up that are time critical (ie. my dumb ass forgot something I'd need) but other than that everything is deliverable from somewhere.

Though I don't have any metrics on how "commonplace" it is, it is pretty accessible in several urban areas (Portland and other Oregonian urban areas, Seattle, LA and other SoCal urban areas, San Francisco, and New York off the top of my head) and the price is only slightly higher than what k-mcgrady quoted. In Portland, if you're okay with a four-hour window, Safeway charges ~$7 USD. A one-hour window is ~$13.

Being in somewhat similar situation:

1) Ordering online from supermarkets. 2) Ordering from restaurants.

Is this an AMA now?

I used to shut myself in a lot of time when I was playing poker avidly. Instead of going to parties, bars, socialize with friends, there were always tournaments to grind. Putting in more hands meant cutting down on variance, meant being able to deal better with bad luck and facilitating a more consistent winning playing style.

Obviously it was the thing I loved at that moment, the riches allured to me and my friends didn't "Get" the amounts I would be playing for anyway. They also didn't "get it" why it sucked so hard to end up 11/1500 in a big tournament. (Hey you still won right?).

You're right when you see relationships don't work when you always have a communication problem.

Usually though, the problem is not that people don't understand you - (sidenote: i know there are just stupid people who don't, or don't want to. You don't need them anyway). The problem is you won't let people understand you, because you are ignorant, arrogant and self-righteous. No offence but, if you were such a genius you wouldn't be working on Ruby projects (no pun.) People probably would understand you, and you would probably have better socializing experiences if you tried.

Seems you sucked at this stuff when you were a kid, and now when you've grown up enough to be able to understand yourself and put everything into words, you still decide its the best route to go.

Well die lonely then if you like it. It's not for me.

I've been struggling with overcommitment for years, too. It's caused a lot of pain and it's a very serious thing. Like you, it makes me tend toward isolation and it... well, it hurts.

"Before long I'm committed to a shit ton of things and I am so stressed out that I cant focus long enough to fake my way through life. Inevitably I implode and disappoint everyone I had commitments to."

First, there's a ton of positivity in your writing, because you're recognizing that overcommitment is really bringing you and (even better) you're taking responsibility for correcting this.

This part concerned me a bit:

"I'm taking all the skills I have learned from learning and applying them to my psyche. I'm going to re-build and re-form my emotional centers from the ground up. I'm going to take my unhealthy mental state and refactor it into a functional vibrant self. I'm re-life-ing"

This is very ambitious!

Not all ambitious goals are a path to overcommitment, but are you being very careful that this ambitious goal won't wind up being yet another overcommitment (leading to yet more pain) on your part?

Perhaps you could set up meaningful milestones along the way? For example, you could count the number of times you stick to a 4-day or 5-day work week each month. Even if the "reward" is just a big green checkmark on the wall calendar, that can be really gratifying.

Best wishes!

I found that the 'Bad habits can become a lifestyle' section to be very well written and it made a number of great points, notably:

"Life is the series of choices we remember making. When something goes wrong it's easy to see it is as not a choice. There was too much stress. Your dog ate it. Your clients were assholes ... I now realize that to fix myself, I'm going to have to be myself; and to be myself, I'm going to face myself."

Hey K, have you ever considered working with children?

You know, the ones who'd prefer not to play outside with the other kids?

Whilst at uni I worked part time in various capacities as a tutor or educational assistant. One school in particular was very accommodating to students with different needs. And not just the kids who couldnt read, but the kids who wanted to read all day.

I think you'd have something to contribute in that space.

I like the humorous tone of this essay. It made it resonate all the more powerfully for me -- who also use humor to deal with painful situations -- but you're the sort of person about which one of my more gregarious friends might say "u r soooo fukin funny!" all the while without understanding.

I say fade. See what happens.

You already know what happens if you don't fade.

You fight every second of every minute of every hour of every day until one day you die. It'll be exhausting and possibly not worth it.

Maybe fading will be some totally cool experience? Of course no one else would ever know, but screw em.

Recluse? I work from home, so I only leave to get groceries or go out to dinner with my girlfriend on an average week. I don't have any more IRL friends.

Going to try to make some when spring comes, but it's too cold to really bother right now. Being a recluse isn't so bad.

The typeface on this page creates a visual illusion whereby the terminals and serifs appear brighter than the stems and bowls.

Makes me wonder if this happens with a lot of serif faces in light on dark color schemes and if there's some way to fix it.

Also, not sure if the OP is reading, but while the alternating dark/light text on a grey background is an interesting idea, it just doesn't work. The dark on dark text is hard to read, the emphasis is too strong and comes off as heavy-handed, and the overall effect on the experience of reading is negative in my subjective evaluation.

On the surface, this sounds like schizoid personality type:



I know it's not about labels, but sometimes knowing a word for it can help you find others' stories, which can help you go easier on yourself for being different from what you perceive is "normal".

Edit to add: Get your B12 levels checked. Low B12 can lead to schizoid-type behaviour. Also possibly folate levels.

I will read it to the end, half way, got to go, but two things: I am year older than you, you know what psychologist said to me, only time I ever visited her(I had to, for some paperwork)? I am still not grown up. If you are under 30, you are still not fully developed.

Second, there seems to be unlucky amount of not your kind of people around you. I have managed to find people, who seem "default" on the surface, because they have to, but the praise different. Almost any kind, there is no "you are too weird". And it helps, its awesome.

Stay strong pal. You are clearly a gifted and talented individual. However, more often than not, individuals such as yourself tend to be extremely critical of themselves. Change is hard to accomplish, especially when you're set in your ways. But I think you have solid achievable goals. FWIW I'd be your friend :)

On a side note, I didn't realize HN was becoming more and more Reddit-like every day. This is probably the first submission I've seen that reads almost like an AMA...perhaps it is a sign of things to come.

It sounds silly & cliche but having a significant other will really help him out in this department.

Someone that you have to commit to. Someone that'll be there long enough to see all your bullshit and hypocrisies and call you out on them.

If you're alone, it's easy to commit to doing something only to later "forget" about the commitment when it is no longer convenient for you. A partner that you've made a commitment to won't forget it so easily.

The same goes for business. Maybe that's why startups often have strong co-founders.

Not necessarily.

For me, when I'm living with someone, in several months I become a complete hermit. Probably because all my rudimentary needs for socialization are fulfilled.

Funny how many things are similar in my own biography.

OP: chess, checkers - me: school olympics, chemistry, math, physics

OP: tour trauma, when asking tour guide a question, everybody laughed - me: tour trauma when tour guide played naughty joke on my mom and everybody laughed

OP: abusive dad, divorced early - me: no dad, left at birth (fortunately awesome grandpa that taught me Ohm's law, how to drill, solder and lots of other stuff)

OP and me: interest in psychology (for me ended with learning what Freud was saying, I have no business in branch of science where name of such clueless bent puppy is remembered)

OP: crappy kindergarten experience, me: spent few hours in kindergarten, don't remember anything but I never went back there, I cried too much when they tried to drag me there

Fortunately, I had (still have) great, stable mother, I had close friends (full honesty with them, nearly kind of mind melt) until I was 17 or so (OP had some till 12).

I'm 34. My true self kind of melded with my fake self. They switch in seconds. When I'm interacting with acquaintances I still fake it. Often I fake amusement because I want to come off as cheerful, but I'm rarely truly amused. Pretty often I fake quite well which makes me proud. But I don't have to fake with few people that are close to me. I just have to restrain myself from exposing full me in some cases, but I guess most people do that even (especially?) with their loved ones.

I went different way than OP, I was madly in love two times as a teenager, now I have de-facto wife. She's awesome. After 8 years or so of the relationship, from time to time I feel that I love her and I feel the urge to tell her that. Not sure if that's unusual but I think it's a good sign.

But I know I chose one path. And sometimes I long for the other, for being a shut-in. I hate going out. I hate meeting people who are not my closes friends. I don't eagrely await meeting even my closest friends. Social interaction exhausts me. I used my relationship to shed off almost all of my friends. Still I think living among people takes at least 80% of my energy. I have only 20% left for doing the stuff I actually care about.

As they say, grass is always greener on the other side. I'd probably be same looser with too high IQ and too little motivation if I were a shut-in. But one can dream.

>Over concerned humans must cause at least some percentage of suicides. Someone needs to compile the stats and do a TED talk stat.

Now that's an interesting hypothesis. I have seen a study on how insufficient parental attention increases the risk of suicide in teenagers but not this.

Edit: searching for "overprotection and suicide" ("overprotection" is the best keyword I could come up with; I did the search without the quotes) yields little.

England has some suicide and deliberate self harm research done by "University of Oxford". (Uh, that's not "Oxford University" or any of the colleges.) You could noodle through their website?


You might remember the reports a few years ago about cortisol levels in children at nurseries, compared to children at home? People said that cortisol was a stress hormone, and thus it's bad to be in the brains of children, and thus putting children in nursery is bad because it causes cortisol to be released. But other interpretations are that children need to learn to regulate their emotions, and that lack of cortisol means over-protection and lack of a chance to learn how to regulate emotion.

Sorry about the lousy links, it's the best I can do at the moment.



> "University of Oxford". (Uh, that's not "Oxford University" or any of the colleges.)

The University of Oxford is indeed the ancient and well-known university informally called Oxford University.

This guy probably has aspergers. It makes sense in my opinion. Very articulate, doesn't see the social necessity to be around others.

I don't have much to comment on this, as I myself am an introvert and somewhat of a shut-in.

But after reading up to "I guess I'm kinda different.", I couldn't stand it and had to use Developer Tools to change the background color and font color. Still feeling some discomfort in my eyes and it feels like the text is burned in front of me.

The paragraph text didn't necessarily bother me, but the nearly invisible headers are just ridiculous.

I did copy paste into gedit.

A for effort.

I read this and had this small voice in the back of my head translating what I read into "Look at me! I'm special! I'm a shut-in! I do it because I'm special!"

In reality the author is just alike everyone else, with fears and emotions which caused him to shut himself in and rationalize it with some meditative jargon.

Don't think so. That rather reads like the description of an undiagnosed asperger or not-so-dramatic (not in a sense of not severe, in a sense of "not screaming when overloaden" unlike in movies) autistic patterns. He even mentions an Aspie-board, maybe he is aware of it but didn't want to mention it in his article?

The water, the need for routine, the unabilty to fully play chess when in a social context, the need to simulate social interactions - the "funny" thing is that if that diagnosis is right, he is not faking by faking it, it's simply him.

The not so funny thing is that if that diagnosis were right, many comments in this thread like "we all feel like we are not normal" mask that condition, and lead to unhelpful advice.

Although I think you overestimate your uniqueness, you have the potential to be a very good writer. Please keep the posts coming, Kay.

Of everything you wrote, this line was the most relatable to my own experiences:

"If you don't like who I am then you can go fuck yourself."

Once I adopted this mindset, all things became possible.

Good Luck!

What I find funny is that everyone wants to be different but we are all different and thats what makes us the same. Also shut-ins are ironic in that they will never meet each other, therefore missing the people that they might possibly get along with best.

So many words defending his recreation and insisting it was a legitimate sport. It was as if he presumed the reader was judging him and he felt the need to defend himself.

I suspect some spectrum issues are involved but he is still no less of a person.

In all seriousness, how can you support this? Is it assumed that he lives with somebody who pays for his living expenses? If I didn't have so many bills to pay I feel like I would be more of a shut-in.

>I'm not agoraphobic, I'm not depressed, and I'm not insane 2. I simply don't socialize.

Isn't that for others to judge? It's not like one person can judge himself to be or not be the above.

Site Advisor has flagged this site as a security risk. I wonder if the site got hacked. Wow... Talk about kicking someone when they're down!

Did a quick check and nothing is hacked. It's just a static page served up by a rack app on heroku so it's unlikely it would ever be hacked. One other comment mentions the site being flagged so I imagine there is something that certain filters don't like. IIRC Site Advisor uses bots to flag sites. In the essay I cuss a lot, mention Las Vegas and mention drugs so I imagine it's a combination of 1. bots not liking the things I mentioned and 2. it's a recently registered domain.

FYI, the page was blocked by my workplace in the brief period between reading it and re-visiting it after reading the comments here.

You're a 23 year old boy who thinks too much. I hate to sound like a cliché, but, it's just a phase!

I have to agree on this point somewhat. I'm not saying you're "just some 23 year old boy who think too much" (Altho I'm leaning that way), but the difference in thinking, attitude and well-being between teens to early twenties to late twenties and into thirties and beyond can be drastically different in each.

Yes and we have to keep in mind that people grow up a lot slower these days in well developed nations. In other words, we're spoiled rotten kids at 25.

So not having found your role in life at 23 is not uncommon these days.

What I find strange is that this story even exists. If OP truly wanted to live in solitude, truly didn't want to be bothered by others, this story would have never been written. Why even bother?

I'm not suggesting it is a cry for help (though it certainly could be), but it certainly is an attempt to connect with others.

I must admit I haven't read the full story. I found it too lengthy.

Skipping to the end might give you more perspective.

Really interesting read. That is the first time in a while I have read something that long on the internet without skimming. A couple of thoughts:

You mentioned that your last close friend was when you were 12 and that you were in a distance high school. Do be sure that you realize that middle school was as bad as it gets in regards to social pressure to be normal. This is a different world now. Immediately out of college around your age (22?), nerds like us become pretty cool because we have interesting jobs and make a lot of money. To some extent, almost all programmers have a few social idiosyncrasies and for the most part we share these in common. So what that means for you is that those idiosyncrasies which previously got you bullied are now the same that people associate with success.

While I realize that for you it might be the only way, I think your plan in the 're-life' section is a bit misguided. Learning to be social is a fundamentally different thing from learning a new skill. There is no sense in focusing down and trying to find the core problems because social behaviors generally exist below our stream of consciousness (somewhat related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection_illusion). If you approach this in a way that you would learn a new programming language, you will also quickly find that the difference is that learning to socialize is NOT interesting or fun in an academic sense and you will quickly lose motivation. Instead, since you seem to have a lot of varied interests, I would start with a Meetup. There should be hacker or entrepreneurial groups holding meetings near you (unless of course you still live in Idaho!) The important thing is to go out and try to do things you are interested in with other people no matter how painful or awkward at first. Social behaviors will eventually be picked up subconsciously.

Measuring your progress is always a good way to motivate yourself and stay on track. But I would avoid measuring "all the human things" and instead focus on metrics like, "how many people did I say hi to today" or "how long was I outside of my room".

To make this easier for yourself (and therefore increase your chances for success), you might not want to change your name to K-2052 just yet. I think it is great move and I agree with your logic but put it to the side until you are a bit further along on your quest. Then, you will have the ability to rock the name.

And suggestions on where to move? Being in a big city is important more than anything else. I live in San Francisco and a great thing about this city is that weirdness is embraced more than anywhere else I have ever spent time. You might also think about moving to a abroad if you know any foreign languages. People will tend interpret social differences as cultural differences and you will be get a bit more wiggle-room with your weird behaviors while you come out of your shell.

I would venture to say that most of us here (myself included) feel empathy towards parts of your story so just know that you are not as different as you think you are!

Great reply. I'm always so happy that the comments on HN seem to be so reasonable.

What stood out to me is your comment about moving...I myself have picked up a lot of unhealthy behaviors and habits by being trapped in a city where people are distant and flaky. I've forgotten that not everyone is like that. I myself have thought that my only other options are SF or moving abroad, so it's interesting to hear someone else voice that.

This comes up as porn for me... (work filters)

This is really interesting and I'm glad you felt like sharing, but as a lot of people have pointed out, I don't think you're so far out from the norm, or maybe few people are actually normal, I'm not sure. The more you segregate yourself from society the more you'll try and generalize behavior, leading to the idea that most other people fall in the same basket when in fact they're just normal in only certain respects.

I was born with a slight genetic defect, meaning that by the age of five my hearing was entirely gone. Luckily enough for me, multiple operations have led to getting most of my hearing back, and of course I'm extremely thankful for that. Not meaning to spill out my life here, but I simply want to point out that being a shut-in was in a way forced on me, and I learnt a lot from it. I turned the most traumatic experience of my life into the best thing that's ever happened to me. Very much like you I'm pretty weird in a lot of respects, and as I believe you're trying to achieve, I've turned most of my weirdness into strengths. I can read body language naturally, so I use it to identify stress and discomfort in other people, often before they even realize it. I empathize very strongly, generally without people needing to tell me what's happening. I can become "deaf at will", i.e. shut the world around me entirely and concentrate even in the noisiest places. I see rhythm and patterns in everything, even in social interactions. And so on.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the source of your weirdness is very much the same as the source of your greatness. Having the tools is one thing, and it's now a matter of using them properly. It also turns out socializing is very much an elaborate way to showcase your weirdness to your peers, and often realize someone will share some of it with you (a lot like some people have done in this thread).

Two things that have made my life considerably better in every respect:

Don't lie, to others but also to yourself. I have done the same thing you have, pretending, a lot! Pretending to be happy when I wasn't, pretending that I cared when I didn't and vice-versa, making up stories that I actually started believing in myself to justify everything... So I made the simple decision to not lie, ever. I can't even begin to explain properly the freedom of mind it's brought me, and how much simpler and cleaner it's made my relationships and my life in general. It also means that after a while, you'll also never get offended by things. When you don't lie, it's nearly impossible for somebody to undermine you.

Simplify your life. I used to have a fancy place, owned tons of fancy stuff, have very strong opinions about everything that I thought other people were too stupid not to agree with, etc. You start believing that you actually need the crap you buy, then you get attached and worry about said crap. It is, in my honest opinion, a waste of physical and emotional time and effort. Nobody gains from it, least of all you. I've done away with pretty much all of it and am really happy for it. I have more room in my head and in my life for genuine worries (of which there are now very few) and I appreciate the simple things a lot more; the things that most people of all backgrounds can connect with.

This is my 2 cents, but as a fellow weirdo and programmer who's gone through depression and a bunch of other unpleasant things, I thought I'd share how I've become the happiest I've ever been.

(My apologies for the long comment)

One small comment, black on white pages tend to read a little better.


i'm pretty sure he choice of typeface is part of the shut-in work.

worlds worst foursquare user! :)

Not much of a story.

If you're serious about the world forgetting you then why did you write this post?

If you'd read the post to the end, you'd know. He explained it pretty clearly.

Oh, guess I had more important things to do with my time.

And yet you still had time to leave a comment? If you want to criticize what someone writes, read it first. As it stands, you're just an ass.

omg dude serial?


A professional psychiatrist or psychologist would never presume to diagnose someone based on something they wrote, and I doubt that your armchair psychology is any more accurate.

That's a very specific diagnosis made from a quite widely interpretable blog-post.

I'm sure you mean well but these kinds of off-the-cuff diagnoses are, if not wrong, rarely of any benefit to the diagnosed.

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