Fitting In, But Never Belonging
on being a wandering spirit

To be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure what this essay is really about. The title has been in my note system for what seems like two years now, but every time I tried to write about it, it always ended up going in fifty different directions.

The best way I can describe this entire thing is that it's a really elaborate explanation for why I fail to connect with people in the long-term, though I wouldn't call this a sappy vent post. It's more of a cold list of discoveries I made about myself, and why it seems like I'm destined to be alone—but not lonely.

Multifaceted Ways of Being

I've always been the type to observe people rather than interacting with them. Jumping into the social arena sounds like the easiest way to give myself a panic attack, so I stand back for a while and see how people interact with one another.

In time, I'll get comfortable enough to join in and talk, but only after observing for a while. Usually by this point, I know what it takes to fit in, I know the type of people that I'm interacting with, and I can navigate the social sphere accordingly.

But I realized a while ago that I always try to fit in within a given situation. "Fitting in" implies that I inherently didn't belong there, but with enough effort it can seem like I belonged nowhere else.

It's almost like I'm a psychologist conducting research on people, constantly observing how people are, what they like, dislike, what to say, etc. And when it's time to interact, I know how they work, what topic starts a good conversation, and so on.

It's as if I show a different facet of my personality depending on the people that I'm around. Different groups may know different versions of myself—and it's not like I'm being disingenuous or being someone that I'm not, but rather emphasizing a part of myself that fits best in the group.

As a result, it never really felt like I truly belonged anywhere. I knew how to fit into any group, but there was never a place where I could truly be me, other than being by myself. From elementary going into high school, I could talk to all sorts of groups, all with differing interests and personalities without much of a problem, but I could never properly identify myself with any particular group of people.

While I may show one, or maybe even a few facets of who I am, there never is a place or person where they've seen everything about me. A person may get a key to open one of the door of my psyche (a few keys, if they're really fortunate), but not a single person on this Earth gets all of them.

In a way, I'm afraid to show everything about myself all at once. Maybe it's because there's this deep-seated fear that I'm more shallow than I make myself out to be? Maybe if people got to know other sides of me, that they'd actually hate who I am? I'm not entirely sure, but this act of exaggerating parts of myself that fit the group the best seems to be a defence mechanism—to hide who I truly am, to throw people off the scent.

This site, funnily enough, has the most parts of my personality that's out in the public. People who come here know more about me as a person than those who know me IRL, barring personal details of course, but those are rather irrelevant in my eyes. It's the thoughts, experiences, creations, and beliefs that make up a person, not necessarily what their name is, or where they live.

In the Wrong Generation

I technically fall under Generation Z (a.k.a the zoomers), though I'm on the older end of that spectrum. Despite this, I can't help but think that I should've been born like two generations ago, because I don't fit in in the slightest. Sometimes I feel like I should've belonged in the Middle Ages or something.

I suppose it's because I tend to hang out with people that are way older than I am. Since both of my siblings are millenials, with my age gap between them being rather substantial, it's not surprising then that I'm more used to talking to people older than me than with those around my age or younger.

I've gone to various social gatherings around my university and chatting with people there around my age, but I've never really connected with anyone in particular. The fact that I have a general distaste of social media alienates me by default.

The only way I can describe zoomer communications nowadays is "aggressively online". Some people take being online so seriously that talking to them in person becomes seriously aggravating to me. They talk in the latest Internet slang, their humour consisting of only memes—as if that should be the characteristic identity of an individual.

People who are chronically online tend to start becoming a product on everyone else’s wit. It’s a guise of individualism, making people seem funnier and clever than they really are. In reality, they’re a bunch of parrots. Consumerism is the foundation of their being; their identity ceases to exist when the Internet connection goes out; taking away their phone is equivalent to taking away their soul.

It’s not as bad when it’s contained online, as that is the culture on there after all. But when it starts spilling over to real life, it becomes annoying. Last time I checked, socializing with other people involved actually talking to them. Like verbally. Face-to-face. Looking at each other’s eyes while talking, not looking down at some glowing rectangle. Why then are social gatherings now degenerating to being on our phones and trying to see who will show the next funny meme? The people who one is “socializing” with are dispensable—you can replace a person with anyone and they’ll serve the same purpose: a meme curator, and nothing more. In such a case, the people who you’re friends with is the people on social media, not the people who you’re "socializing" with, if you could even call it that.

When interacting with people devolves into a competition as to who knows or shows the funnier memes, or the more interesting IG reel or TikTok whatever, that is when it becomes not interacting at all. I can probably create a bot that curates all this garbage better than these people can.

And if a bot can do what these people call human interactions better than they can, then that’s just pitiful more than anything. I'd rather befriend the algorithm if a human being's purpose in a relationship is to be a worse content curator than Mr. Zuck's Meta conglomerate.

On "Friends"

The term "friend" in itself is something that is subjective. Depending on how you define it, people may have many friends, or they may have none at all.

For some people, it's black or white: they're friends or strangers, nothing in between. I wouldn't hold it against them; it'd be pretty funny if Facebook has a Friends category and then one called Acquaintances—people are not usually willing to show their partiality that blatantly. So everyone is your friend, even those people who you literally exchanged one word with. Heck, you don't even have to exchange a word between one another—just mutually pressing the same button is enough apparently.

For myself, practically everyone get relegated to "acquaintances", even those who I've known for years. When I was younger, I was more lenient, and called people who I associated with as "friends", but as I've gotten older, the standard has become a lot stricter. So strict, in fact, that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't count anyone as my friends—even my family.

It's not to say that the relationship with these people are base level. I can talk to them about mildly personal matters, but I personally wouldn't call them friends. The only time I may call them that is if I need to refer to them when I'm talking about them in conversation, but other than that I wouldn't call them real friends.

I suppose I adopted a particular mentality a long time ago that is summed up by this text:

... if you think that a person is a friend when you do not trust him as much as you trust yourself, you are seriously mistaken; you do not know the meaning of real friendship.

Letters on Ethics, Letter 3.2

Now that is really strict standards, but I truly believe in it. If I have to hide something from someone, if I can't share my success or failures without fearing of the response, then that's not true friendship.

But just because they're not "friends" doesn't mean I don't trust them with anything. I trust them with some things, just as a manager would trust their employee to do the job they were hired for. But like a manager, I wouldn't trust the accountant to handle public relations, or the janitor to defend the company from a lawsuit; the same thing goes with other people: I may trust people with information X, but withhold Y, while sharing Y with someone else, but not X. There's just some people who I will never ever share my art with, nor my writings. It's never going to happen.

Some people will say that's normal for friends to do. Some may have friends that are only there for certain activities, like sports, or some other recreational activity. Fair enough. In such a case, I have a bunch of friends, but as it stands given my current definitions, I've encountered no one who is truly a friend—I'd call these people more as activity buddies rather than friends. There may be only a handful of people who'll ever reach that category, if any. Acquaintances? Yes. Friends? Far from it.

Then again, all of this could just be arguing semantics, but in any case, I don't think that any relationship I've been in has been particularly deep.

Drifting Apart & Failing to Reconnect

I have this tendency to outgrow relationships, especially when there's a large environmental shift: moving countries, moving schools, graduating, etc. Never has there really been a time when I became well-acquainted with someone in one place and that relationship transcending time and place. It always ends where it got started. But I'm pretty sure this is quite common and applies to literally everyone.

There are times though when I outgrow relationships regardless of the environment. After a while, I've stopped relating to the person who I'm talking to, and I become really cold, almost robotic. This also applies to people who I've corresponded with in the past.

When I come back to relationships that I've moved on from, it tends to always be a game of either catch-up, or reminiscing about the “good old days” or whatever. I don’t often find the case where other people want to look forward into the future, to aspire to do something better. When interacting it’s always “you remember back then, when X, Y, and Z?”. Yes, I do remember, and repeating it for the twentieth time isn’t making our lives any better. Is there anything else that you are capable of talking about other than the past?

It doesn’t help also that I’m the type of person who isn’t particularly sentimental. Reminiscing about the past isn't useful if all it does is fill in the silence. It’s like you’re perpetually stuck in your past self when you enter that social bubble.

Talking with people who you've moved on from is also a surefire way to regress back to your former self. In trying to not alienate the other person, you end up emulating your past self, but at the cost of everything that you've done till the present. There's this pressure to not sour a relationship that has a history to it, so as a result you end up being someone who you used to be, but aren't anymore. But to that extent, you might as well be acting like a different person.

I think this is simply the sunk cost fallacy in play here. It doesn't apply only to money, but also relationships. When you've drifted that far apart, the relationship might as well be over. You've grown in different directions. They recognize you, but the person who they once knew may be long gone. This likely makes the relationship more fragile than it already is.

There's really two options here when things aren't working out: you either leave and go your own way, likely alone, or you revert back to your old self and have the same companions as you had before.

Past a certain point, you have to sacrifice such a relationship if that means you'll develop into a better person. Some people are so desperate for friendship that they end up compromising in so many ways that strips them of their entire identity. I don't think that's the best course to take, ever.

But just because you leave such a relationship doesn't mean you leave empty-handed. You still have yourself to hold onto, and that's the only person whose development you can guarantee. Some try to bruteforce change onto a past relationship by trying to become the role model, but that tends to backfire and they end up back at square one. Because of this, if things are not working out and I'm forced to be the person who they were used to in the past, then I'll leave. That's the admission fee to freedom.

Group Identity

Usually the problem with associating with other groups is simply because by extension, your beliefs are also linked. i.e. people associate Twitter with certain groups of people, so you end up being thrown into that same category; same thing goes for other social media platforms.

One of the benefits of a website is that its merits are solely based on itself. You won’t be called an idiot solely because you live among idiots. If you do something dumb, then that’s all placed on you, but at least you’re dumb on your own accord.

I think it’s important that you don’t appease to a certain group, or a group of people, if you want to write genuine work. My essays may get a lot of attention from one group of people, but that shouldn’t stop me from addressing something that may end up upsetting that same group. Not like I’m deliberately doing it, but if they end up being collateral damage, so be it.

An example of this is my recent toasting of the Neocities platform. One of my essays ended up being linked all over the place without any intention of doing so, and it caught the attention of people moving into, or already in Neocities. However, this shouldn’t have stopped me from writing the essay basically lambasting the platform. Why should it stop me?

I don’t think it’s good to latch onto a group just because you agree with one of their beliefs. People may find out that one of my opinions line up with theirs and so they suddenly think that I’m “one of them“.

But I am not. Nor do I want to be. I’m not interested in being dragged or lumped into a group of people just for one mere opinion that may coincide with their beliefs.

Individuals are more than the groups that they associate with. But people get caught up with appeasing a group rather than actually saying what needs to be said.

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