Social intuition

Life does that to you, wrap you up like a burrito and barf you out in a torrent you don’t have a hold on to pause and write about. Or it does that to me, anyway.

Some necessary summary updates of my life:

1. The semester of teaching is over. Teaching proved to be more rewarding and less nerve-wracking than I thought it would be, maybe because of the reduced material from Prof Leong’s side. I had a handful of strong and weak students, and it is regretful that, at least in my opinion, I did not manage to convey the programmatic way of thinking well enough to the weak students. It is through the experience of teaching introductory courses that one really wonders whether programmatic thinking is something that can be taught, something that someone either has or hasn’t. To me programmatic thinking is a very natural way of thinking, something I felt immediately comfortable with despite not having experience with it — things operate in a comfortingly logical manner, and bugs often have to do with a flaw in your own logic. It was a matter of finding patterns and fitting them inside the tools provided by the programming language. Through teaching, however, I was exposed to students who approached programming in a very bewildered fashion, who did not possess a certain intuition on where it could have gone wrong when faced with unexpected behaviour. Trying to impart this intuition is probably the story of every (responsible) teacher’s life.

2. I’ve begun my internship with SUTD game lab as a programmer. I also happen to be the only female programmer (surprise, surprise). I will be blogging about my experience probably more regularly on my other blog, http://melodystaysachild.wordpress.com .

On my way home today I found myself wondering about my relation with other people. Part of it can be described in the terms of the age old dichotomy of extrovert vs introvert. How do I feel when dealing with people? What does an extrovert/introvert mean?

What if I enjoy company, but hanging out in social situations feels like an objectives checklist? In the sense that one is striving towards a standard of Enjoyable Interaction, and one’s performance can be measured against that standard upon reflection — I was at ease, conversation flowed naturally, I did not feel out of place.

To elaborate further, one is constantly measuring herself, trying to place herself in relation to all these other social entities — to find a place — and then to gauge whether that place was a good one after the experience.

Does that make her — me — an introvert then? (because this reflects an anxiety, meaning that this isn’t my natural mode) Or is this a feeling everyone has?

Another thought: Social intuition is one of those things whose lack is most heavily penalised, as compared to other forms of intuition, for example programmatic intuition as I mentioned just now. It is also one of those things we never teach in an institutionalised manner.

That occurred to me while reading Eliot Rodger’s manifesto, of which I’ve only read up to age 15. I found myself trying to Other him, falling back on trite statements like he doesn’t have self confidence, he never matured enough to give things their proper weightage in order to separate him from the people I know (we are all well-adjusted unlike him, that is what these sentiments say). But perhaps he could never have learnt the correct approach. He desired to be popular and cool, but he did not learn that those were (or should be) a result of comfortable interaction and genuine sincerity towards others — in other words, popularity was not a state to be, but a natural result from a certain attitude which he never had, but tried to fit on. If he possessed that social intuition, if his playdates were arranged by himself, if he made friends naturally and had good feelings of companionship from those friendships, he might not have been left with that huge gap of a link from his desire to the goal of popularity, meaning that he would have filled in that middle link (being sincere to others, liking others) and achieved his goal before even being aware that it was a goal.

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