“Anti-Social behavior is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists,” attributed to Nikola Tesla. I simply found this quote an interesting commentary on social behavior. I personally don’t believe our socialness is a mark of intelligence because there are so many facets to intelligence. 25 years ago Daniel Goleman discussed Emotional Intelligence and we are seeing now what a key factor that plays in success in life. Academically successful people aren’t necessarily socially successful. And socially successful people don’t always know the ins and outs of what needs to be done. There is a fine balance that we are still trying to achieve.
Toward the end of Tesla’s life, he became increasingly reclusive so if this quote is his, I’m not sure he was in the right mind frame to take this with much faith. The man was traumatized on a personal and professional level so his ideas regarding human social behavior may have been a bit skewed. But even if it was a skewed judgement, it’s interesting nonetheless because Tesla remained astute and had spent much of his life alone working on ideas.
I used to think being anti-social meant an intense dislike for people and avoiding them at all costs. I see now it encompasses a dislike for small-talk or a discomfort with new social situations. In those contexts, being anti-social may very well be beneficial as a choice in being where you want to be and with whom. Not everyone will get along as not everyone holds the same ideals so a certain degree of selective settings suggests a self-awareness. It is true that many people conform because they are afraid of what other people will think if they do something differently. If you’re socially selective, none of that matters.
I actually prefer the term socially selective to anti-social because it seems the norm. We can’t possibly be available for everything regardless, and not everyone will like us and vice versa. So self-awareness is key and does suggest intelligence. Knowing who supports us and what interests we have are traits that will push us in the right direction. It takes a lot to stand firmly in our identities but that is when we feel best. Not to mention sometimes we all need a break. We need time away from stimulation and from other people’s energy.
I’ve often been anti-social and I’ve often been wrong. I’ve always been a bit socially awkward so there were many events I found myself avoiding because I assumed I wouldn’t like them. After a bit of digging, I realized that I avoided a lot of things because I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted. So it wasn’t that I was necessarily anti-social, I was afraid of social situations. Those tend to be the moments I wish I had learned to bolster my courage a bit more because often times saying “yes” teaches us we can do more than we think. So be socially selective. Make choices to do things that really interest you and really spark you. Try new things but only if you feel they challenge you for a purpose. Above all, let go of any concern about what people think. This is your life—live it for you.