Friday, 7 February 2014

Can you learn social skills from books?

...not books about social skills - of which there are millions of varying degrees of usefulness and uselessness - but from reading fiction?

photo by Giulio Bernardi on Flickr
Despite what Lifehacker and The Guardian reckons, I'm not convinced.

I've personally not found fiction of any sort, be it books, movies or TV, to be massively useful in terms of real-world social skills.  What happens in books, even gritty realistic books written to be as true to life as possible, just isn't like reality.  Actual reality would really suck in book form.

Fiction tends to have too many layers of allegory and artistic licence for my literal mind to be able to learn anything useful from it on a how-to-interact-with-people level.  I might possibly have unconsciously picked up all sorts of interesting things about empathy and theory of mind through a lifetime of reading, I suppose - but consciously, I can't say I've noticed a difference.

Arguably my childhood and young-adult years, when I read the most fiction, were when my social skills were worst.  But that wasn't the books' fault - I just hadn't had enough practice yet.  Practice, as much as it's really difficult and awkward and full of the risk of rejection, is the only thing that's really worked for me.