I Hate Meeting New People

One of the worst aspects of moving suddenly and inexplicably to a distant location is meeting new people. Explore the city streets, scan the faces in the crowd—a bunch of weirdoes. No recognizable people to be seen. Only new people. New people with new faces and new names I have to waste time trying to remember. There’s a vast portion of humanity who enjoy meeting new people, relish it even, asking grocery store cashiers how their day’s going, striking up a conversation on the subway, and so forth. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. If I were an animal, I’d be a polar bear, wandering the desolate arctic wasteland, mauling any living thing I encounter due to a crippling fear of rejection/ contempt. That’s not actually true. I’d be a blue whale. Or a platypus. Or a tiger. Or a moth.

There’s this idea floating around in the culture that meeting new people is always an enriching experience because new people are always smart, interesting, and have a novel worldview that will spark a reexamination and revitalization of your own attitude toward life. Fallacious nonsense. Most people (90%?) are incompatible with me due to personality disorders, behavioral flaws, or weird mouths. They have names like Gary or Sarah or Christopher—disgusting. They want to talk about their pets, sports, or where they like to purchase their dishware (“Home Goods mostly, but I also like Big Lots.”). And then it takes an agonizingly long time to discover this incompatibility, countless hours of my limited mortal life wasted on the slow steady accumulation of this person’s personal information and character quirks, building inevitably toward my rejection of their friendship. How depressing for the both of us.

If I could skip the painful small talk and introductory conversation associated with meeting new people and transition directly to comfortable repartee, I would make that happen. If there was a cerebro-type machine that plugged into your forehead and installed a fundamental understanding of every human being on the planet so I never had to meet another person, could know everyone on earth, could merge with the vast collective human spirit, I would purchase this machine obviously.

Back in Texas, I avoided meeting new people because I felt I had met enough of them. Better to devote time to nurturing preexisting friendships with a small elite group than fritter away time on some new person who will probably prove to be an asshole. My thought was, ‘I’ve met enough people. I’m done,’ in the way a person who’s married would say, “Great, I don’t have to experience the awkwardness of dating anymore.” I didn’t actively avoid human contact, but I didn’t pursue interaction with people either. I sometimes wonder how many cool people I’ve deprived myself of meeting by erecting a cold impenetrable veneer, how many important friendships and contacts and girlfriends I’ve avoided over the years, but mostly I just think about cute cats, Spider-Man, and cake, and then I take a nap.

I moved temporarily to Chicago to take a couple improv classes and during orientation, I’m surrounded by a crowd of presumably “hilarious” strangers. You’d think everyone would meet and greet each other, these friendly extroverts, but instead they clung to their seats and stared straight ahead as one would on an airplane in severe turbulence. I sat there with a constipated facial expression and a nervous feral glare—should I play the role of ‘funny friendly easygoing guy’ or shall I retreat into judgmental asshole mode? Following a protracted and heroic internal struggle, I turned around to a kid sitting behind me and introduced myself. We discussed our reasons for taking the class, then our hometowns, then our previous achievements. At the end of this discussion, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake.

My new “friend” sees me come up a set of stairs to the classroom. “I noticed you take steps two at a time,” said the kid. “Yeah, I take them three at a time.”

I stared at him. The silence hung in the air like a poisonous gas, asphyxiating me, killing my soul. He said many more things, many more things, each more disappointing than the last. Hearing someone make “hilarious jokes” is worse than a baby crying on an airplane while someone puke-burps a little in his/ her mouth. It’s the little death, the creeping horror, the mind splinter. Fortunately, through subtle social cues (turning around when he’s talking, rolling my eyes, moving to the other side of the room) I managed to murder our tenuous friendship in the womb. This all occurred in the space of maybe ten minutes.

On the other hand, I’ve had several perfectly satisfactory experiences meeting new people. My new roommates both seem like smart reasonable guys who wouldn’t do anything unspeakably heinous like, say, steal the lease money and lie about it—which has happened to me before. Or invite a skacore (hardcore ska?) band to practice in the room next to mine, thus throwing my delicate mental machinery into disarray—which has also happened to me before. Or wield a machete for no reason, eat my food, drunkenly describe a murder they may or may not have committed a few months ago, etc. Furthermore, a man on the street helped me with directions when I passed him, stopped, looked around at the street signs, and then began walking in the opposite direction. Later, a strange lady sitting on my front stoop offered to show me around the neighborhood, but not in a creepy way. Shockingly, she had no fiendish hidden motives at all. She just wanted to walk around. I’ve encountered a surprisingly high number of cool new people here, so many it causes me to question and recalculate my previous percentage of 90% in regards to people I’m incompatible with.

In the end, meeting new people will improve my social skills and probably my overall humanity as well though I will hate every moment of it the way Voldemort hates love notes and birthday parties. It will be a harsh painful exercise, but I’ll get through it somehow. I have to get through it. From now on, the only people in my life will be new people. TC mark

image – ThisParticularGreg


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/t0dd.dwyer Todd Dwyer

    Meeting you sounds like a chore. Please continue to avoid us. 

    Thank you,Everybody

    • Anonymous

      Brad Pike is consistently funny and way better than ~90% of Thought Catalog Contributors.

      A bag of dicks 

      • Guesty

        surprising the amount of people who are unable to detect the sarcasm and self-deprecation the piece is obvs full of

      • Anonymous

        I survived the Bataan Death March…. Nothing surprises me anymore…..

        I just wish I could sleep without seeing all those faces again… Goddamnit Guesty, we were just 18! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/t0dd.dwyer Todd Dwyer

    Meeting you sounds like a chore. Please continue to avoid us. 

    Thank you,Everybody

  • Remo

    I can totally relate.  Would rather not meet new people if  I don’t have to, but understand its part of life.  The best and most accurate line: “should I play the role of ‘funny friendly easygoing guy’ or shall I retreat into judgmental asshole mode? ” I’ve definitely thought this to myself on numerous occasions. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

    Do you know Voldemort personally?

    • Loljame

      yeah, how would you know he disliked birthday parties?

  • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

    Do you know Voldemort personally?

  • Guest

    This was good. It is not always the case on thoughtcatalog that a person can write about themselves without it being a journal entry.

    • Anonymous

      You put into words why I liked this. Thanks!

  • http://allirense.com Alli Rense
    • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

      reading your blog from the beginning. great idea. wish i was committed enough to do that! it’ll be interesting reading the progress.

  • guest

    i hate meeting new people, too. i tend to swear my ass off when i’m around my best friends, and i don’t feel comfortable enough doing so around people i don’t know, so i end up being overly polite and just… not me. plus, small talk is an absolute nightmare to me. I JUST CAN’T DO IT. /sobs

    also, i don’t mind when fellow students say hi to me when they see me at the train station, but i don’t understand why they walk with me to class, while staying completely silent. you’re the one who came up to me, why do i have to think of things to talk about? D:

    #foreveralone, etc.

  • alexis

    just moved to chicago, struggling with this currently.fuck.

    • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

      same here. for some reason it seems harder to meet people here. or maybe it’s just me. (probably is)

  • Nigel D.

    Did you just come to the conclusion that you’re simply an unpleasant person that forces himself to be something he’s not? I have to start college soon and this article jaded me.

    • http://twitter.com/vickstahs Vicky Nguyen

      Likewise, and I myself will be starting college soon too.

  • Nate

    You seem nice. Wanna be friends? 

  • http://twitter.com/iamthepuddles irreverent puddles

    um i <3 you and agree. super stressful meeting new people. also you are funny. hi. do you want a pineapple?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

    I once invited Voldy to my birthday party. He sent me a dead rat in a box.

    I love you, Brad Pike.

  • V V Smalls

    meeting new people is hard. i find its best not to force it. It comes with time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wallace.webster Wallace Webster

    Brad, you never cease to amaze me with your spot on observations.  My sisters and I were just discussing the possibility that we’d actually been left in the woods at birth by aliens. We surmised this was the reason we’d always felt uncomfortable around new people.  Please don’t stop writing. You’re way more tolerable than the Bataan Death March.

  • sarah

    i want to start a relationship with new people on strictly emotional levels, and none of that painful small talk you have when you first meet someone; “Where are you from?” “How old are you?” “Wow i love your shoes!” ugh…

  • Stephens

    what a fucking waste of time reading this shit

  • Robert.

    I am exactly like you. I’m sure it gets easier but …let’s just say you can run but you can’t hide from who you really are. you’ll regress back into your hermit state eventually.

  • Asdf

    I hate meeting old people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

      In my experience old people are a lot friendlier than people around my age (I’m 22)

  • Guest

    Moved to DC about 3 months ago and experiencing, for the first time, a strong dislike for meeting new ppl. Many of the new ppl that I’ve met here are lame/boring/emotionally unstable. 

    • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

      really? I just got back from being there 2 weeks visiting my dad and was considering applying to college there or in maryland.  the people seemed pretty cool, but then again, the only ones I did talk to were from U of MD. the others did seem a little uptight though.

    • Guest

      I feel your pain. I live in DC and if one more person asks me, “So, what do you DO,” before asking my name, I’ll cry. 

    • Keyboardcomputertyping

      I’m from DC. I couldn’t agree with you two Guests more. uptight, pretentiousness, all about status. I gave up wanting to meet new people in DC.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    This post makes me painfully aware of the truth that is Dunbar’s number.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    I used to blame it on the place I was, but now I realize it’s just me. 
    People have told me it seems like I’m annoyed of them, but I guess that’s how my nervousness plays out. Only on certain occasions do I really do what you did to the guy in your class.

    I feel like just acting out a different friendlier persona one day and seeing what happens.

  • http://twitter.com/LaceMangle Halie Smith

    But see, you can get away with this type of behavior because you’re very clearly an extraordinarily gifted writer. You can act like a total asshole or a creep because, thought people might hate you initially, once they find out you’re a writer everyone will be like, “Oh, okay.”

    This rule applies to artists in general. Now what’s an excuse for the lesser talented of us who hate humanity?

  • Grimmstale

    You are quite wonderful.

  • DarkScarecrow

    You have some serious guts in making statements like that…
    However here´s the ugly truth nobody tells you… YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, MEETING PEOPLE IS HORRENDOUS CRAP and you are not the only person who hates it believe me.
    This is the ugly truth! Parents, teachers, even your friends will probably tell you you are a loser, your antisocial, your a freak and you are a horrible person! Dont fall for it its absolutely false! Meeting people is obviously a part of life, but in most cases its a horrendous process

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