5 Ways Grad School Has Made Me (Even) More Socially Awkward…


I’m sure that by now, you know how I feel about grad school, since I declared unapologetically that I didn’t need my grad degree.
I’ve nearly completed this experience, and I wanted to share an anecdote about how grad school has changed my (social) life…

A couple of nights ago, a friend (and a grad colleague) hosted a small dinner get-together at her place, since we were on Spring Break and could live with the idea of doing something other than school work. Some of us were in the same program, but all but one of us were grad students, and tried as we might, we just couldn’t NOT talk about school. Seriously. We even openly acknowledged the fact that graduate school had consumed our lives and just had some good ole light-hearted fun talking about our classes, our instructors, undergrads, the terms of our indentured servitude teaching and research assistantships, our relative poverty and, of course, our own research. In fact, we got so enthralled in academic conversation that we didn’t even watch the movie we were supposed to watch. Of course, our conversation was peppered with talk about the most current events, but ALL of those were discussed from an academic point of view. It was then I realized the almost inevitable effect that grad school had upon me: I was becoming increasingly more socially awkward.

One my colleagues declared, hilariously, that grad school had messed everyone of us up in the mind, and I whole-heartedly agreed. I was able to specifically identify 5 ways that grad school made me (even) more socially awkward. I realized that…

  1. I can’t hold simple conversations anymore. I’m not even kidding. Especially about ANY current event or with anyone outside of academia. It’s not because I think I’m so smart. It’s because I’m so steeped in the academic vernacular. See? There it goes again. Since I’ve been in grad school (and even a little bit before then) my conversations have been peppered with academic buzzwords like “hegemony” and “discourse.” It’s really hard for me to hold a conversation with ANYONE without using a buzzword. It’s actually pretty annoying. I can be talking with someone about whether Nicki Minaj’s butt is real or fake and I guarantee you that somewhere in that conversation I will say something theoretically grounded. ABOUT NICKI MINAJ!  Which leads me to my next point…
  2. I overanalyze EVERYTHING. I can’t even watch Superbowl commercials without pointing out something problematic. I can argue that anything and everything is either racist, classist, patriarchal, capitalistic, imperialistic, or all five.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…”But, you’re studying media.” True, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to participate in a little escapism, too. I can’t turn my brain off. I’m always armed with some type of theory or critique, which doesn’t bode well for others in my company who just want to watch whatever it is they want to watch. The socially awkward part is not the fact that I overanalyze everything…It’s that I VERBALIZE my analysis. All. The. Time. and to anyone who will listen, which leads me to the fact that…
  3. I’m a narcissist. Yep, I am, and I blame grad school (hahaha). Since my grad program requires me to write a thesis to graduate, all I’ve been doing these days is reading, writing, and reading some more. Now that I’m done drafting my proverbial baby, I realized that I’ve mastered the skill of giving elevator speeches about my thesis. This thing ain’t some short semester paper, either…it’s nearly 90 pages of pure genius. I study the media’s role in disasters and crises, and since there are so many occurring these days, when anyone talks about ANY type of disaster or crises, I shamelessly plug my research. Why, you ask? Because I know that the only people really interested in reading a critical discourse analysis about  media during the Haiti earthquakes are my 3 committee members and maybe my momma. so I seize the opportunity while I have a captive audience. Speaking of seizing opportunities, I realize that…
  4. I can rant about anything at any given time. Because I’m pretty well-versed in every “-ism” and “schism” you can possibly think of, I’ve become increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with a lot of things lately. And because many of the courses I’ve taken are discussion-based, I’ve perfected the craft of ranting. But, not just any type of rant, it’s that “angry Black woman in a predominately White male environment” type of rant that prompts folk to roll their eyes and deeply sigh. I’ve noticed that outside of the classroom, discussions about nearly anything debatable trigger rants, too, which, a lot of times, end with me declaring that I’m moving to some far away land and only taking those aware of all the “-isms” with me. Finally, speaking of awareness, I realize that…
  5. I can’t do anything without experiencing an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance. Being exposed to the “world of ideas” (really, since undergrad) has challenged my very core beliefs. It’s that hyper sense of awareness that gets me every time. I can’t even watch Basketball Wives or The Real Housewives of Atlanta without feeling guilty about perpetuating long-standing notions of women, and women of color at that and feeling like a hypocrite. Although I enjoy Ne-Ne’s brand of candor and marvel at Tami’s brand of crazy, all this critical cultural scholarship has caused me to give many of these programs the “side-eye.”

Ok, now that you know how grad school has changed the ways I operate socially, tell me: how has college or grad school made you more socially awkward?


8 responses »

  1. Good stuff.

    I was at a Thanksgiving dinner with some grad friends a few years ago, and we were talking about how our faculty are even more socially awkward than we are… and then we pondered whether things were only destined to get worse for us. We noted that when grad students and faculty run into each other in a hallway, the faculty often act like the roadrunner… they say something along the lines of “meep meep” and they speed off the other direction. It’s made for some fun inside jokes here and there, but unfortunately I find myself doing something along these lines more and more often in everyday conversation. Meep meep.

    • Haha! You are so right about that, T.C. It’s funny to watch. And oh, yea…it’s only going to get worse for us. I’m chuckin’ the deuces in a couple of months, so now I’m left with the task of learning a new language.

  2. I constantly experience #2 and #5, which could easily lead me to #4. And I can’t agree more about it getting worse, because I haven’t even finished my first year. So I’m waiting for #1 and #3 to happen before I leave. I see how the level of awkwardness could increase if we continue to get the PhD.

    Clever post, Courtney!

  3. I wish I could argue with any of the above (especially the narcissism!), but you’ve perfectly captured my own grad school experience. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t increase as you continue toward the Ph.D., but it never goes away, either: you will never again be able to NOT analyze and complicate things. It’s a curse, but it’s a sweet curse that, frankly, we asked for.

    What does change, however, is that once you are out of grad school, it’s harder to find and maintain that cohort of people who understand and share your quirks and neuroses. You’ll have professional colleagues, of course, but it’s not the same. So enjoy those evenings while you have them!

  4. Pingback: What Are We Really Learning? « The Decadent Diva

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