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[personal profile] boxofdelights
Here are two good writeups of this panel:

http://www.bladeandcrown.com/blog/2014/05/30/wiscon-part-1-social-isolation/

http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/843353.html

This was a good panel, well-prepared and well-run, yet still frustrating in all the topics it opened up but didn't have time to explore. [personal profile] firecat wanted more analysis of the politics of what makes people more likely to be socially isolated. I wanted more brainstorming of strategies and tactics to break out of isolation. There we were, a room full of people, most of whom had experience with social isolation and attempts to break out of it. I wanted to know, what techniques have you tried? How did that work for you? How did it fail?

--Volunteering is a common suggestion. What if your social isolation is exacerbated by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Have you found a way to volunteer that works with unpredictable energy levels? What about if volunteering triggers your Imposter Syndrome? What about if you have already spent enough of your one wild and precious life among people who are only willing to tolerate you as long as you provide a service and don't ask for anything in return?

--Gaming works very well for some people as a low-stakes social activity with explicit rules and roles. What if competition gives you intolerable levels of anxiety? Are there cooperative games that work in this context?

--First Wiscon Dinner works for some people. What if you have to work around food allergies or difficulties with communication or mobility? What if you would really like to share a meal with up to four people, but more than that is kind of terrible? Have you found a way to say, I like you all, but could we split into two smaller groups?

And so on.


I'm pretty sure the story I told at that panel (went to another con that was billed as small and inclusive, could not persuade anyone to share a meal with me, even when I was armed with restaurant reviews and bus schedules; on the last night of the con, I gave up and went down to the hotel restaurant. After I had been seated but before my food was served, all the other people who hadn't found a better option came down as a group, and were seated as a group, and ate as a group. Next to my table. I have often wondered whether it is possible to literally die of embarrassment) managed to convey how terrible that felt, but I don't remember whether I ever got to the point of telling that story, which was: if you ever feel that terrible, you can talk to me.


Someone in the audience at this panel (who also attended the con that was terrible for me) offered to share a meal with me when I was lonely. And then she followed up and checked in with me from time to time for the rest of the con. That felt so good. I don't know how to solve the problem of how to get enough social credit in the first place, so you can tell your story and have people respond with kindness, but if you can find someone to do mutual checking-in with, it is a great comfort.
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