Archive for April 24th, 2009

I would guess that every graduate student knows at least one professor who is socially awkward.  In sociology, socially awkward professors must also deal with the irony of a life spent studying human behavior and social interaction.  While I have long been aware of the potential for awkwardness, I have considered myself fairly competent in social interactions relative to other graduate students.

Until I started writing my dissertation.

These days, social interactions with professors and other graduate students are rare.  When they occur, I find myself struggling to form complete, grammatically correct sentences.  In the event that I am able to speak a coherent sentence, it is typically unrelated to the sentence that follows.  The recognition of my increasing awkwardness does little to ease the transition.  I can see the return of Phaedrus but I am helpless to stop it.

To be fair to my dissertation, I have neither been on fellowship nor attempted to write a dissertation until this year.  Thus, the possibility remains that my decreasing social skills are the result of the decreased social contact that spending eight hours a day alone in a room allows.  On the other hand, during my failed interactions I have sometimes found myself thinking coherently about my dissertation.

In four months I will be done with my dissertation and will once again have daily interactions with students and colleagues.  With luck, this will reverse the onset of social awkwardness.  Considering the lack of social skills exhibited by some sociology professors, however, I have to wonder whether the process is truly reversible.  Perhaps they too once considered themselves fairly competent in social interactions relative to other graduate students.

Until they started writing their dissertations.


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