The Importance of Being Social

Disclaimer— This article may appear to be written as a kind of sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek rant. It is not. I am in dead earnest about this issue, and I sincerely feel that it must be addressed soon, if the pagan community is to survive in the 21st century. (And I greatly look forward to the rebuttal to this editorial that is already brewing in at least one person’s head.)

What has got me so worked up? The almost complete and total lack of basic social skills among pagans. I am not referring to the ability to successfully politic, or advanced social engineering– I am referring to the simplest and most basic of community building skills, starting right off with introductions. Or lack thereof. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself to someone, with no reciprocal introduction forthcoming. In no other venue have I experienced people so completely lacking in the basic skills we should all be taught as children. “Please” and “Thank You” seem to be endangered species, while thanking your host is already extinct.

May I make a few recommendations? If you are a guest coming to a pagan function, please seek out the host, or a representative of the host group, introduce yourself, thank them for their efforts and ask them if there is any assistance you can offer. After all– they’ve provided the basics, a place to have the event, and frequently, the food as well. In my experience almost every occasion can benefit from a few extra helping hands– especially those that are not yet burned out from preparation.

As a host (or representative of the host organization) you may not always be present to greet each new guest. It might not be a bad idea to have someone with good people skills to do that. When a guest arrives, they should be greeted with an introduction, so they have a single point person to address. Mass introductions, by contrast, are simply overwhelming and frequently alienating. I think that this will contribute to the creation of social bonds within and between groups, and decrease the “acting out behavior” of those people who aren’t comfortable with large crowds, or who are not familiar with more accepted ways of gaining attention.

I realize that not everybody comes to a ritual to be social, not everyone comes to a social gathering for a profound experience and I am perfectly aware that rules of social intercourse are fluid. Heck, I’m frequently the least social person in a room. But I do think that if we are to build a community, then beginning with these simple steps will go a long way to fostering good experiences and warm fuzzy feelings at most pagan occasions.

In lieu of paganism becoming the hot new thing in the 21st century (which would greatly increase its acceptability by the general public,) we’re going to have to hack out a community from the folks we have already. And I think it can be done, if we all start by introducing ourselves.

—Erica Friedman