Sociability

A few weeks ago I had dinner at my parents house with one of my Dad’s old co-workers. She became one of his very good friends and was quite famous around our house for inviting us to these blow-out Christmas parties, with 5 christmas trees and tons and tons of food. There was this one particular brand of chicken wings made with soy sauce that I found myself going for again and again (I was 10 at the time). At this most recent dinner she regaled us with stories about her life as a notary in the BC interior. They were baudy tales involving drunkenness, animals, and a police incident or two. She made a remark in the course of her stories that really impressed upon me. She said that cable TV and the internet were the death of the night life out in the interior. Before all this technology took over, the people of these towns would get together and produce the kinds of parties you imagine only happen on 5th avenue of some squeezed out metropolis. One of their hawaiian themed shindigs involved filling an entire basement with real sand, and all the guests came in their best hawaiian shirts and swimsuits. It was like she was describing a time when dragons roamed the earth. I looked down at my plate and felt a little sad.

It’s no secret that in adult life it’s harder to get out with your friends and hang out. Household chores are never more important to do than when it’s your own toilet that needs scrubbing. Friendly gatherings just don’t come together on Friday nights like they used to, so you have to start engineering your social life. However, in this age when music and movies can come out of an Internet cable, we want our personal interactions to be as convenient as our consumer transactions. In school we spend years in close contact with people we don’t like, whether you’re popular or not, so you expect more out of your adult life. It doesn’t work that way, and nor should it.

Every year I find myself going to anime conventions, and every year I find more to complain about, whether it’s over-zealous security, unintentionally hilarious fanfic readings, or the throng of Narutards, Bleachketeers, or whatever popular costume that’s featured that year. Yet still, I get that feeling of expectation in my bones every time I head out to one. It’s like I can feel the turning of the seasons when I see the costumes and the artist’s alley. But why would I put up with the crowds, the Line Nazis and Otaku Body Funk in order to experience this?

The answer occurred to me when I read this article on cracked.com called “7 reasons the 21st century is making you miserable”. Basically, by trying to maximize only the good interactions we have with people, we miss out on a great portion of the human experience. Hanging out with real live humans, even if they’re annoying, is a source of joy for us. We are social animals. If we catch someone doing something stupid, you can almost feel the rush of group-bonding chemicals as you gossip with your friends about that person. Being gossiped about or even confronted about our flaws drives us to better ourselves. At the very least, it reminds us that we are part of a strong, healthy society, something that can’t be replaced by cable TV or the Internet. So my advice is to get out there, go the reunions, the keggers, and the tupperware parties! Use that computer to supplement social gatherings instead of escape them! And most important of all: Live.