Why Socially Awkward People Don't Always Get Along With Each Other

This article doesn't have much advice in it. Instead it will briefly cover a social phenomenon some people have experienced, especially in high school and college. You would think that if someone was isolated and socially awkward they could just form a group with everyone else who was in the same situation. Sometimes that ends up working out just fine, but not always. Occasionally what happens is that a social circle of awkward kids doesn't get along that well. The group may not form in the first place, and only last a few weeks before it falls apart. If it does manage to stay together it won't be that harmonious. There will be a fair amount of squabbling and petty conflicts. There's a sense that everybody is only sticking around because they feel they have no better options at the moment. Below I'll explain some reasons why this dynamic can occur:

Just because everyone fits a certain category doesn't necessarily mean they'll all like each other

In a smaller town or school there may only be a handful of students who default into a category such as 'the dorky kids' or 'people who are all fans of a certain comic'. Just because they fall into the same niche doesn't mean they're all going to like each other on a personal level. This can create tension because on one hand they have no other options and have to spend time together because of their commonalities, but they would also never choose to hang out with each other if they had a wider pool of friends to choose from. Sometimes people even instinctively chaff against the assumption that they should automatically be buddies just because there's one superficial thing connecting them.

They don't have the social skills to get along with each other

For the most part even awkward people are put off by socially inappropriate behavior in others. Not everyone who falls into the admittedly vague category of 'awkward' has off-putting tendencies, but some do. For example, they may be too blunt, strange, argumentative, or condescending. They might also be carrying around the wounds of being bullied and ostracized, and be reflexively guarded, suspicious, and hostile around other people. If you put a bunch of people like this together they're going to rub each other the wrong way.

Dysfunctional social rules can develop within a group

If a group of awkward people do end up becoming friends social rules may form that create a more grating atmosphere for everyone. Sometimes these rules are inherited from larger subcultures. For example, a group of guys who are all fans of a certain TV show may have the rule, "You should feel in constant competition with everyone over who knows more about the show". A group of guys who consider themselves intellectuals may feel it's healthy and sporting to constantly contradict and debate each other. A clique where all the members have been picked on in the past may have the rule, "We can't reject anyone ourselves", even if that means including someone who is difficult to deal with.

Members can feel conflicted about being in the awkward group

If you get a bunch of so-called awkward or dorky people together they'll generally split out into two camps: The first group are happy to be there. They realize they're a bit different or quirky, and they feel they've found their home base. They don't care or notice that everyone else is awkward as well. The second group is more conflicted and self-loathing. They hate that they're 'losers' and they can't stand that their friends are 'losers' too, because it reflects their own perceived inadequacies back at them.

People who fall into the latter category can harm a group's atmosphere. They can't accept that this is where they've ended up. They may be in denial and believe that while everyone else in the group is an awkward weirdo, they're not nearly as bad. They may feel very emotionally invested in seeing themselves as normal and everyone else as a true loser who's beneath them. As such they're always more concerned about putting distance between themselves and the other group members, rather than trying to make a connection. This attitude can come out in disrespectful, undermining behavior. Things really get tense when more than one person in the group feels the same way.

Group members may reenact the bullying they were exposed to

It's sad that sometimes when someone is bullied they don't become more sympathetic towards the downtrodden, but instead look to regain some sense of power and control by finding someone even further down the totem pole that they can kick around themselves. This dynamic can sometimes appear in groups of more awkward students. For example, a guy who everyone else makes fun of may zero in on the student who's even more socially clumsy than he is, and then 'good naturedly' tease his 'friend' all the time.

People may act out mistaken ideas of how they think more sociable, popular people behave

This one can come from a similar place as the point above. Sometimes a group's members will unconsciously try to emulate how they think more popular people act in their cliques. However because of their social inexperience they end up acting out a misinformed version of those interactions, based more on evil stock characters in high school movies than anything. Group members can end up playing catty power games with each other as they vie to become a more dominant member.