Are groups for socially awkward people too awkward?

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seasong
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10 Feb 2016, 10:07 am

I am thinking about starting a Meetup in the Myrtle Beach, SC area for Aspies and others who feel socially awkward. I've never participated in this kind of group before. I am excited by the idea of meeting others like me but I am also worried that hanging out with a group of awkward folks would be... overwhelmingly awkward for me. Has anybody else hung out in group situations like this? How did it go? I am thinking it would be best to have Meetups planned around specific outings or events so we have something to focus on besides small talk.



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10 Feb 2016, 10:23 pm

I found it so, when I tried attending groups for high functioning adults. I'm not sure if it was just the subset of people, but they seemed to me to be of low intelligence levels. I had gone along hoping for some engaged discussion without the social rigmarole, to be exposed to others' interests, but not so. It was just dull and awkward as hell.
Not sure if this applies to every group though, it might depend on the individuals involved.


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11 Feb 2016, 3:11 pm

In the early 2010s, I attended a monthly autistic meet-up group. My initial experience was mostly positive. While the group was essentially targeted toward autistics, there were also some people who were BAP or had a different diagnosis, but felt a recognition with the spectrum.

The people attending were mostly HFA and Asperger, the age ranged from late teens to 60+. As the group attracted many newly-diagnosed people, every month there a lot of conversation was on the topic of autism itself, and how best to navigate through society- and those of us who had been diagnosed a while ago were usually perfectly happy to share our own experiences. Most people attending had gotten their diagnosis in adulthood; I was one of few who had been diagnosed since childhood.

As for social awkwardness, there is some truth to it that having multiple people with social issues in a room leads to some communicative problems sometimes, but on the other hand, knowing that pretty much everyone has a similar experience also means that you don't have to explain certain things that are 'typically autistic' and there will likely be an atmosphere of mutual understanding.

When it comes to topics of conversation, it can go in many different directions, although people with similar interests will be drawn toward each other. Toward the end of my attending the monthly meet-up, I mostly spoke to an older lady who had similar interest. Partially due to my personal situation being difficult and stressful, I found the meet-up increasingly aggravating, and eventually stopped altogether.

In my experience, an autistic get-together would benefit from a good organisation that takes care that everyone feels welcome and involved.


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11 Feb 2016, 3:32 pm

When I attended an Aspie social group, basically there was one group of people who hung out and talked, while other, quieter members (including me) were left on the outside.



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11 Feb 2016, 3:59 pm

I joined a similar group, but if I hadn't asked a friend to come along with me, it would have been awkward. Perhaps consider asking someone you know to come along with you, and have conversation starter topics.



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11 Feb 2016, 4:02 pm

I tried to attend such a group once at my college, the level of awkwardness was so great that no one even showed up to begin with besides me.


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11 Feb 2016, 6:32 pm

The meetup can work, but not without rigorous organisation and playing the good host constantly to begin with.
I found this with several meet ups tailored to gaming and anime. The awkward folks would take 2-3 meet ups to come out of their shell, providing any creeps didn't scare them out of the group to begin with.

Expect a low turnout the first time but make them feel welcome and let them do their own thing.
After a couple of times of that it should pick up. :)


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11 Feb 2016, 9:25 pm

I went to a meetup group that might as well have been an awkward people meetup. I found that I was too 'normal' from the group. The next closest to normal was a 45 year old woman who was like a child (and even looked half her age at most). In hindsight she was almost certainly on the spectrum but I felt I could not relate to anyone there, like having a stable if mediocre career.



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13 Feb 2016, 10:59 pm

The short answer is a yes from me.

A few years ago I did go to an aspie meetup a few times. It was targeted at teenagers and everyone's parents were there too, there was a parents table and a kids table (although a lot of the parents were quite obvious aspies too). I did find it pretty awkward, when you sit a bunch of socially inept aspies at a table and simply tell them to talk, of course it's going to be a disaster.

In general, the parents were more likely to discuss autism related issues, a lot of the parents found it helpful to talk to parents who were autistic themselves and discuss issues surrounding autistics growing up and getting to the point when they need/want to get a job, find a partner, move out of home, etc. The teens, meanwhile, were more likely to talk about interests such as video games, music, literature, etc., but even this was pretty forced. I would say the parents got more out of it than the kids did.

I did notice that I was one of the more 'normal' people there (as in I went to a normal school, had a couple, if not many, friends, was learning to drive at the normal age, etc.). It was also very obvious that a decent proportion of the teens were forced there by their parents.

I did find that I was able to relate to everyone there and it was nice to be around people who truly understand you, don't care what you're wearing, don't mind if you take a while to answer a question, etc., but the general awkwardness of the situation, plus the fact that the meetup was an hour's drive away, was the deal breaker for me. Another thing that scared me away was that if I happened to start chatting with someone who was particularly introverted (such as the aforementioned kids who were forced there by their parents), their parents would suddenly get really pushy and desperate and would start pushing me to share contact details, meet up with them outside the context of the support group, and would just generally completely forget the fact that I'm still an aspie myself, therefore that kind of pressure would intimidate me.

I think it would be better if there was a general purpose to the meeting rather than simply sitting a bunch of aspies down and ordering them to socialise. For example a movie or gaming night, that way they would actually have something to talk about. There were a few people there who liked getting into deep philosophical discussion (myself included), and watching a thought-provoking movie such as the Matrix, 2001, Planet of the Apes, or even a good Star Trek episode, would've been the perfect conversation-starter. I've been on a couple of band camps with a marching band (I'll resist the urge to say 'this one time at band camp...') and we were playing some quite social games such as Munchkin (which is essentially a watered-down, more accessible version of the traditional tabletop RPG) and a game called 'werewolf' (I believe it is known by different names around the world, such as 'mafia') which got me thinking 'this game would be perfect for getting aspies to socialise'. Even videogames could be a good idea, although there is some potential for disaster if people get a bit too competitive and start having meltdowns when they lose.


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14 Feb 2016, 5:18 am

In my experience, meetup specifically for social anxiety had more "treading on egg shells" than meet for ASD. Even if there is some overlap.

That is the nature of social anxiety. Don't confuse the two. There is a differnce being socially clueless and socially anxious. One may lead to another but not necessarily.

However that doesn't mean they aren't worth doing.

I met to great friend from SA meets, ASD meet have been good too.