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Social Outposts – A Strategy for Introverts to Meet New People

Social Outposts – A Strategy for Introverts to Meet New People

    I have a confession to make – I’m an introvert, but I like meeting new people.  That may sound contradictory, but hear me out.  Unlike extroverts, meeting lots of new people all the time is tiring for me – it doesn’t energize me the way running, playing guitar, or even writing does.  I love social contact with close friends though, and I enjoy meeting new people … in limited quantities.

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    Why does this matter?  I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and at one point switched apartments every 6 months for a few years.  Each move has come with it’s own cultural challenges, and in addition I’ve always lost most of my circle of friends.   As an introvert, I needed to make an effort to get out and meet new people – and it recently occurred to me that I had unknowingly stumbled across a strategy to easily meet people without realizing it. I call it using social outposts.

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    What Is a Social Outpost?

    Online, people talk about social media outposts – Facebook and Twitter for example. These are places where your online persona extends out of your blog, so other people can meet you and get to know you through different social media avenues.

    Long before I knew anything about social media, I was doing the same thing with my hobbies to meet new people. I was using real life social outposts by going where people similar to me gathered, and using those meetings to showcase that aspect of my personality and form connections.  Let’s take a look at some real life examples I’ve used.

    Sid’s Social Outposts

    • Open Mic Nights.  I’ve performed at tons of open mic nights. I play guitar, write songs, sing – and even occasionally read my (terrible) poetry.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad I am – by putting myself out there and going to open mic nights consistently, no matter what happens I always am able to form a connection with other musicians when I move to a new city.  Some of those turn into friendships that have lasted years.  Even if I don’t perform, I can always strike up a conversation with someone who has just gotten off stage by complimenting them, commenting on their playing style or song choice.   There’s nothing sinister going on – I’m genuinely interested in music, and by putting myself in a situation that matches my interests, I can find common ground and meet people.
    • Clubs and Meetups.  It seems so cliche that I almost didn’t include it on the list, but the fact is I use these types of meetings to meet people like myself.  My favorites include hiking meetups since we’re spending hours out in the mountains and valleys with no distractions.  If you’re into running, there are running clubs everywhere, and if you aren’t really sure what you want, you can always check out Toastmasters.
    • Networking Events.  I’m a software engineer and love technology – so you’ll always find me at technology related networking events. I don’t know how popular this is in other professions, but for whatever reasons, software engineers love getting together to talk about their latest gadgets or websites we’ve built.  A great way for me to show part of my personality, and easily meet others with similar interests.
    • Organized Classes.  I like playing volleyball, basketball and tennis – but I know there’s always room for me to improve.  I have previously organized basketball and tennis meetups, but when I don’t want to go through the trouble of organizing them, it’s easy to find other people to play.  I just find the local tennis courts and sign up for classes – it’s an outpost where I know I’ll meet other people to get together with for tennis.  You don’t have to sign up for sports classes – acting classes, dance classes, and cooking classes are all options.
    • Concerts.  One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles was going to concerts.  I spent thousands of dollars attending all kinds of concerts, from big name acts to local bands performing in coffee shops.  By connecting with people on fan forums online and then meeting up in person at the show, I formed friendships quickly with dozens of people.  Very often they would be the same age as me, have similar hobbies and similar income levels.  We’d hang out, meet up for lunch or dinner and if nothing else, would meet up a few times a year to attend different concerts together.
    • Regular Hangouts.  A final note, if you can’t find anything in your new town related to your hobbies or interests, just get out of the house and go to a regular hang out – whether that’s a coffee shop, bar, or happy hour.  Typically my regular hang out will end up being something I wanted to do anyway – such as being a regular at an open mic night, or taking my laptop somewhere so I can work on my website somewhere I know other web developers congregate.

    So, that’s how as an introvert I’m able to quickly meet people whenever I move to a new city – and how I can keep growing my circle of friends. What do you think? Do you have any social outposts that you consistently use to meet people?

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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