Last night, I went to a wine & hummus (psyche!) party for the conclusion of the four-week “Get Connected” series. I had a great time at it, and it has somewhat reinforced my mixer strategy that I have developed since arriving in Chicago. (This time, unlike some other times, I voluntarily violated Rule #0 of Alcohol Consumption.)
Mixers are excellent social events, as they combine appetizers, conversation, and a (usually) fun atmosphere for socializing. It can be difficult for some people, as sometimes established groups will have a hard time splitting up to mingle with others or may be exclusive. I have noticed this at various social events from The Graduate School. For me, since I usually arrive at these events as an individual, I feel unconstrained by group dynamics, and it is fun to small-talk various ways. However, not everyone is as receptive to the atmosphere, which sometimes makes me wonder why people would go to this sort of an event if they wouldn’t enjoy the activity. The presence of alcohol is obviously NEVER a justification for me.
Of course, small talk can sometimes only go so far. Mixers are wonderful opportunities for social networking, which works differently for every person. For me, in order for social networking to be effective, some meaningful conversation starter is necessary, and even if it is small talk, delving into some sort of a more involved conversation is a better way for me to remember people and their stories. Granted, since I am naturally curious, there are many attributes that can pique my interest and start a conversation from one end. The environment of a mixer can make this difficult, since it is often noisy, and alcohol can get in the way.
However, sometimes I feel that when people are engaged in an interesting conversation, they are able to tune out the other ambient noise. I have noticed this at many social events that I have gone to, and I would say that my goal at these sorts of events is to make a new contact or perhaps start a new friendship. However, I must admit that I am not sure of all the mores involved with meeting someone and then the next contact. Social norms are something that are most easily learnt by experience, and because of my Asperger’s syndrome, what may be innate to most people I have to figure out through either experience or others’ advice.
Another positive of mixers, as I have mentioned before, is the live social networking. It is easy to rely on things like Facebook for social networking, but I feel it is much easier to network in person than online. I would rather meet someone in person for the first time instead of forming an impression based on what I read online, only to have expectations dashed if the person withheld important information or falsified. (Some people can be con-artists whether in person or in avatar, however.) If you enter a situation with zero expectations, there are no expectations to dash.
Well, I guess that is my incoherent rant on mixers. I figured that sometimes those random ideas that I have I can share on the blog.