There are marked differences between being asocial and antisocial. Antisocial is about doing things that society as a whole finds objectionable. Most graffiti. Dogpoo bags hung in trees at head height. People who mug old ladies. Skateboarders. People busking with Pan pipes. Being an estate agent. Those sorts of things.
Asocial is different. In the US they have cunningly adopted a noun to serve the function of a verb, a bit like a reverse gerund. They refer to this as, ‘to people,’ or with the present participle, ‘peopling.’ That means being social, sociable.
I’m a social animal in general. Though I’m quite comfortable with my own company, I do like people, and without them I’d never have been able to write any fiction that sounded realistic. But there are times when I really do not want to people. I become asocial.
This is not to say that I don’t want to be around people. Indeed I force myself to go out every day without fail, even when I just want to stick my head under the duvet and burst into tears. I head on out, go to where there will be people.
There’s a ‘but’ though, and it’s a pretty damned big one. I don’t necessarily want to talk. I just want to be around people but not have to interact. My friend Kev has a term for this. ‘You’ve got your invisible “Do not disturb” sign up.’
Most of the people who know me well can see that sign, and just leave me alone. It can even go up when I’m in the middle of a conversation. I simply say, ‘Look, I have to go now,’ and my mates don’t even bother asking, they simply wave me on my way then contact me the next day to make sure I’m all right.
One of the reasons I decided to stay out of advertising when I was made redundant way back, was that not long before I’d had a Damascene moment at an awards ceremony, when I realised that of all the several hundred liggers there, the only people I liked and respected were my work colleagues and (most of) our clients. That settled it for me.
Turns out that was quite an expensive decision, because a couple of weeks later I got a job offer from a top-flight agency who were willing to pay me 60 grand for a six month contract with a probable extension to the contract. Plus a car. Plus pension plan. Plus medical insurance.