The Spotlight Effect

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The Spotlight Effect

Post by bomaye on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:56 am

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tl;dr You're the center of your own world, but most other people don't notice or care as much as you think they do.

So I have some kind of problem with this. I haaaaate being the center of someone's attention, being noticed or recognized. It makes me feel uncomfortable because then I feel like a target (probs goes back to being teased at elementary school).

I live in a place where it's not uncommon to bump into people you know from as far back as elementary school. They either still live here or swing by regularly enough. I kind of mentally liken it to The Simpsons, every once in awhile there's a noticeable character making a cameo in the background. I kind of feel like the world is waiting to laugh at me if I go out and do anything (get a wageslave/min wage job at a coffee shop or something) especially if there's people who recognize me from like 10 years ago in high school or middle school or whenever. It even gets to the point where we're in a much larger neighbouring city-area and I know some people that do live there and I get like "I hope I don't run into anyone I know."

My sister was like "why would you care about what people who don't matter to you think" but it's more the being noticed and being a potential target of mockery for being something a loser that kind of makes it... worrisome or something? Or even just someone I don't know discovering the loseringerness of me and then becoming a "hey, check out this weirdo" type.

There's a person or two who've been trying to break me of this but I think I get too defensive or argumentative so maybe a bit more public forum might help them do it
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Enail on Thu Oct 22, 2015 9:14 pm

How much do you think about the other person when you run into someone like that? Here's what I was thinking about during the last couple of times I ran into someone I knew from school:

Person I was good friends with through most of school, lost touch with after high school:
-Did I just pass Person? Yeah, it's Person, hi!
-Glad I'm wearing my cool jacket instead of the ratty old one. Did I brush my hair today?
-Bleargh, it's the "what have you been up to" segment of the conversation, at least I made her go first! Do I have to give a long version? Should I skip the stuff I'm bored with and tell her about Thing I'm thinking of doing or is it dumb to talk about things I'm not actually doing?
-Ugh, whyyyyy did I make that awkward half-joke?
-oops, I didn't mean "I don't use Facebook" to sound like a brushoff, I should have told her to look me up on X instead. Eh.

Person I was friends with in elementary school, haven't seen since:
-Is that Person? I think it's Person, but wouldn't she look more different now? Am I even remembering her name right?
-Holy shit, how did she recognize me, she hasn't seen me since I was 10?? Oh right, I recognized her too. Do people really change that little?
-Should I introduce her to the person I'm with? Am I sure I've got the right name? Oops, too late, she introduced herself.
-Is she associated with Event I'm At? That'd be kind of cool to run into her again - hey, would I like to meet her again? Should I suggest meeting up? Is that weird? The other person I hadn't seen since I was 10 and she suggested meeting up, it was pretty weird. Too late, she's gone anyway.

Notice how I don't mention anything about what they looked like, what they said, what they're doing now. Those things didn't register at all, that's how much more focused I was on how I was coming across - and I'm not even usually a very self-conscious person or prone to overthinking social interactions!
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by bomaye on Thu Oct 22, 2015 9:32 pm

I think I can decently muddle my way through friends well enough (some of them maybe not) but it's more being recognized by people who'd use it as an opportunity to mock or judge, especially since as a non-cool weirdo then and now, it makes me an easier target :/

And like, if you're doing okay or making enough money, you're less likely to be worried about how you come off to someone like me too?


I guess I'm kind of asking for the trick to being bulletproof if something like that still happens?
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Enail on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:16 pm

bomaye wrote:I think I can decently muddle my way through friends well enough (some of them maybe not) but it's more being recognized by people who'd use it as an opportunity to mock or judge, especially since as a non-cool weirdo then and now, it makes me an easier target :/

And like, if you're doing okay or making enough money, you're less likely to be worried about how you come off to someone like me too?

I'm not sure most people would even really get to the point of evaluating what kind of person the other one is before they start thinking about themselves. I am probably more head-in-the-clouds than most people, but most people are pretty self-absorbed, I think.


I guess I'm kind of asking for the trick to being bulletproof if something like that still happens?

I don't think there's one trick, or an on/off switch to mind 100% or not mind at all, more like something you can build up your defences for in bits and pieces.

If someone is being a total asshole like that, I think one thing that helps is to have a response to it rather than be fumbling how to react? Something simple and multipurpose, so that you don't have to come up with something in the moment. Just a really scornful expression and "...okay" or "wow" can work pretty well, if you can pull off the look.
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by reboot on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:47 pm

Enail has some good scripts. Basically, if it is an adult being an asshole like a HS kid, they are the ones looking the fool, not you. Some other scripts are:

"Wow. You have not changed a bit since high school. "

"Huh, that was something I would expect a high school kid to say, not an adult"

"Really? Really?"

"Wow. You are kind of a jerk"

"Wow. That was petty"

EDIT: The key thing about not caring is actually not caring. If it is someone you have not spoken to in years and you are not planning on seeing again, why does their opinion matter? They can play the asshole if they want. But their assholedom cannot hurt you anymore. Those around you, unlike in HS, will see them as the jerk as long as you stay calm and deflect with a good script. They will be the pathetic ones, not you


Last edited by reboot on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by bomaye on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:50 pm

It's a decent script, but I'd also be doing a job suited to a high schooler at the same time.
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by reboot on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:54 pm

bomaye wrote:It's a decent script, but I'd also be doing a job suited to a high schooler at the same time.

Have you looked around lately? Where I live adults do all those jobs. Some are even older than me. Anyone who gives you shit for having a job in a depressed economy is a tool. You are working, plenty others would like to be so lucky
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by bomaye on Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:58 pm

My sister said something about that too, but I think the local scene with that kind of thing is that guys go do blue-collar or dangerous type jobs and the adults who do those jobs are their wives (if they're not trying to do their own side-businesses or whatever). There's like a gender-ish thing to it.

I'm not very manly really, but it's also not something I'd like other people piling on?
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Werel on Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:10 pm

I think Enail is right on to point out just how intensely and exclusively people are focused on how they're coming across 90% of the time.

However, I think she is probably also a really nice person who perhaps may lack a real bitchy streak and is not prone to mocking and judging. Razz Since those are the kind of people you're worried about, and I do have a bit of a bitchy streak (e.g. my internal monologue may include some snark when seeing an old acquaintance), here's my 2 cents:

1. Mean judginess usually comes from resentment or fear. My internal bitchiness is activated by the kids who pushed me on the playground, not the ones who sat alone poking at anthills. If somebody was just weird, but never harmful, I rarely end up thinking things like "lol of COURSE you look like a heroin skeleton now." One thing that does change after school: people may or may not get less mean, but they do spend less of that meanness on just going after harmless weirdos. You're not likely to draw fire for having been weird, you're likely to draw fire for having posed a threat or made people insecure back then.

2. Mean judgy comments that people say in their heads vanish nearly as soon as they're formulated. Unless I had a deep, abiding, well-founded hatred for someone (and boy is that a short list), I just don't care enough about them to retain the snarky thoughts I had when running into them. Did I think "yikes, John sure did end up the exact same kind of demonic Brooks Brothers beltway toady as his dad"? Sure. Did I remember thinking that a few days or hours later? Probably not.

3. Almost nobody dares externalize that meanness. It seriously violates the social contract to deviate from polite, friendly smalltalk when running into an old school acquaintance. But unless you're worried about the unconscious stuff like subtle facial expressions, basically no one is going to be rude enough to overtly say "wow, you suck for [whatever you're worried about them thinking you suck for]."

4. If you read the last sentence and thought "yeah, but they'll make fun of me behind my back the second I leave," you have two choices there. One is to accept that what other people say when you're not there is simply and utterly unknowable, and decide not to sweat it too much. The other is to imagine scenario after hypothetical scenario where that person is saying all sorts of shredding things about you. The latter choice is going to make you insane and eat up all your headspace, so I recommend not choosing to waste time speculating about things you cannot ever truly know.

5. That ties into the question of "how do I be bulletproof," which isn't a super easy one. Like Enail said, there's no 100% way on that. There are definitely ways to reduce the sting, though-- IME, the best one is to be reasonably okay with your life/self. If you're doing what you want to be doing, regardless of its social value, and living in ways which are true to your own beliefs, it's easier to brush off meanness which rests on the message "you're not doing it right," because fuck their "right." The things that are really going to hurt to be mocked for are the things that you don't feel good about-- and if you can whittle down that list by working on yourself, you'll have fewer spots where they can really hit you.

In the moment, though, the worst part can be fumbling for a response to meanness (especially bitchy plausible-deniability meanness like "well it's so nice that you're finally starting somewhere"), so the idea to have a go-to brushoff is a good one. Raised eyebrow + nonplussed face + "...okay then" is unassailable. Practice in the mirror until you can humble and silence your own self with your "okay then" face. Razz

Also,
reboot wrote:The key thing about not caring is actually not caring. If it is someone you have not spoken to in years and you are not planning on seeing again, why does their opinion matter? They can play the asshole if they want. But their assholedom cannot hurt you anymore.
Thiiiiiiiiiis. There's no reason to care. You can just run this hook through your brain during the whole conversation because you do not have to give a fuck. These people have nothing to do with you anymore, unless you want them to.
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by reboot on Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:15 pm

Understandable. I have cousins in the same situation. Where I grew up it is mining, but we all saw our dads laid off (or never saw our dads employed). So when the mines reopened some decided to stick with service jobs, figuring service would be there if the mines were not. They caught some shit for some years, but lived to tell the tale. Now the mines are cutting back because China is not buying as much copper and the jokes are dropping.

The thing is, the guys with jobs rarely said much to their faces. It was the unemployed ones. And someone not working mocking a working person looks like quite the asshole
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Wondering on Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:32 am

I agree with what everyone is saying in that most people really, really aren't going to care. I have a major bitchy streak, and if I saw someone I knew from high school at McDonalds and I actually recognized them, I would totally think, "Well, they have a job, and I know how many people are trying just to get McDonalds jobs these days."

For scripts, I'd actually avoid saying anything about high school or how high-schoolish people are behaving if you're worried about how former high school classmates are going to treat you.

If they do mock you, I would recommend something really simple that doesn't rely on your past experience with them at all. But in a shrugging, nonchalant way, like they matter no more to you then any other stranger on the planet: "Huh, that was rude," and immediately move (back) into ringing up their purchases or entering their food order or stocking the shelves or whatever else you would do if they hadn't said the rude thing.

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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by reboot on Fri Oct 23, 2015 8:51 am

One thing to keep in mind is that other people's memories are going to be different than yours. For example, my friend ran into her Jr High bullies (who bullied her so badly she switched schools) at an event in her home town. They walked up and talked to her like they had all been besties. Awhile later, after the shock wore off, she went up to them and asked them if they remembered bullying her and if they knew that they were the reason she changed schools. They were shocked, claimed no recollection, and said they remembered all being friends.

I went to my HS reunion and actually got into a bit of an argument about what I was like in school. This person said I was a "goody two shoes" but I actually in detention or in school suspension more often than not because I ditched class a ton and when I was in class I was often high. Still not sure how they mixed me up with someone else because my birth defect makes me stand out, but there you have it. They remembered a totally different person.

tl;Dr You may remember being the bullied weirdo but other people may remember you (if they remember you) very differently. They may even remember being your friend when they were your bully.
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:56 pm

Three things:

1. The spotlight effect is probably happening to the other person too.

2. No guarantee they'll recognize/remember you. I saw pictures on facebook of the 20 year class reunion of my high school and struggled to recognize anyone except the one or two people I'm still in contact with.

3. If I were talking to an adult and they said something that a mean high school/middle school kid would say, I would be so confused that I would probably just stare at them like they'd grown a second head. Saying mean stuff when you're 14 is an unfortunate symptom of immaturity due to age. Saying the same stuff when you're grown is just odd.
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by Jayce on Sat Oct 24, 2015 1:16 am

As for people from high school. I was at a party three months ago for a high school friend's 21st. So in the past two years I've learnt a lot more social skills compared to high school. Anyway I had really fun and interesting conversations with everyone else at the party, then I went up to a group of 3 people, all which I knew at high school. I said hi enthusiastically, smiled and talked about things I've been doing and asked what have they been up to. They looked at me weirdly and then gave one word responses like "oh nothing much", "just here and there you know", and then I did what I could to continue the conversation, like "do you still travel around a lot like you used to?" etc... They just didn't want to talk with me or continue the conversation. They even looked at me weirdly. When I talked about having a cold recently, one of them just laughed and said that's funny condescendingly. So after two or three minutes trying to make the conversation continue I realised it was a lost cause, and I gave myself a graceful exit by saying that "they I'll talk to you guys in a bit, I'm going to catch up with some other people over there". As I said that one person in the group just laughed and said ha!, and smiled at me.

I didn't break any social contracts, I approached their group to catch up, I was sociable. They just didn't want to socialise with me. I guess it helps to be aware, I understood that I didn't do anything particularly wrong socially. At the end of the day some people aren't going to like you, and that's just life. I was surprised that the interaction didn't went well when all the other ones went great and curiously talked about it with my best friend and he said that they were passively condescending to him as well.

But life goes on, I talked with other people at the party that night and it was fun, it's not that big of a deal that some people still see you the way you were before. At least now I had to skills to recognize that I wasn't being  bad at socialising, it's their problem.

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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by bomaye on Mon Oct 26, 2015 4:33 am

Werel wrote:
Also,
reboot wrote:The key thing about not caring is actually not caring. If it is someone you have not spoken to in years and you are not planning on seeing again, why does their opinion matter? They can play the asshole if they want. But their assholedom cannot hurt you anymore.
Thiiiiiiiiiis. There's no reason to care. You can just run this hook through your brain during the whole conversation because you do not have to give a fuck. These people have nothing to do with you anymore, unless you want them to.

Yeah, I was just thinking about ending up working in a pretty public place where you end up seeing people regularly? I could see that being kind of uncomfortable

Jayce wrote:
But life goes on, I talked with other people at the party that night and it was fun, it's not that big of a deal that some people still see you the way you were before. At least now I had to skills to recognize that I wasn't being bad at socialising, it's their problem.

I'd kind of like that situation (without the condescension) as a baseline for most people, really. <_<
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Re: The Spotlight Effect

Post by kath on Tue Oct 27, 2015 3:22 pm

I think it's one of those things where it is uncomfortable, and you just kinda get used to it being mildly uncomfortable, or ideally get enough practice with it where people aren't jerks that it becomes generically pleasant to run into people.
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