Last time I started a topic like this, some of the replies were...honestly disgusting, so before I start I'd just like to give a word of advice-- if you're going to disagree with anything I say (and you have every right to), maybe try not to make dismissive remarks while you're doing it??
If you sit down to type a reply and find yourself about to say that you don't think my experiences are valid, you don't think people like me actually exist, or that you think the concerns I'm expressing/ideas I'm proposing go against "what makes people human"...maybe first, stop and think about why the existence of someone with a different outlook on social life is so unacceptable to you (because it really shouldn't be...). And above all, consider that the person you're replying to...is also a human. =/
Anyway...this isn't actually gonna be a super-long rant, despite the weighty preface. ^^; After all, I haven't actually written a story about this type of social outcast before...except once. And even then, that character was still a child-- i.e. a couple years too young to truly understand the implications of 'not fitting in', and too impulsive to let his social anxieties actually stop him from doing things. Rather than keeping to himself out of fear of having an awkward interaction, he would just continually jump into interactions with anyone he was interested in, and then when they turned out awkward, he'd beat himself up for his thoughtless decisions later on. ^^; Which is another common struggle with socializing, but not the one I'm talking about today.
What I'm thinking of is a pretty commonplace YA narrative, where we start out with an MC who is shy, isolated, and very lonely; and for any number of reasons-- neurodivergence, trauma, psychological/medical disorders, bullying, having a different cultural background, or just for having different interests from most people their age. Or all of the above. ^^;
But then, over the course of the story, due to some fantastical plot or a dire situation, or even just happenstance, they finally form a connection with someone. And while this relationship gradually grows and develops, they gain self-confidence and become more willing to share themselves with the world, and before you know it, they have 'come out of their shell', and generally end the story with a group of new friends, a 'found family', and/or a love interest to support them.
I can appreciate these stories, and I get what they mean: the point is to show that just one special human connection can change the course of your entire life. And that even if you feel alone and hopeless now, it won't always be that way. Someday you'll meet the right person, and things will change. There's a good friend for you out there somewhere, and you just need to wait until they come around.
I don't think this message is bad, or untrue, or unnecessary...but personally, I've never really liked it. :T And it's only recently that I've become able to articulate why.
It's really just the same thing I've always felt-- that encouraging people to wait for someone else to validate them and make them feel worthy of existing can easily just set people up for problems. Because...there's actually no guarantee that this will happen when you're at that 'magical age' in high school or college. ^^ I mean, what happens when you're still lonely and friendless at age 25? Age 35?? Age 65?? How do you cope while you "wait"? How long can a person go on "waiting" before they become bitter and clinically depressed, or worse...? What if you spend your whole life waiting for nothing...??
I think it's the 'waiting' aspect that gets me, because it implies that if you're not socially adept, or even just a member of a friend group of any kind (even if they're fellow weirdos), then it just hasn't happened "yet". That it's definitely going to happen eventually, just not now. And I think the fact that, again, there's actually no guarantee, should probably be addressed by someone, somewhere, at some point...
Because in my experience, I feel it's given me this weird expectation whenever I enter into a new group of people, especially now that I'm an adult, switching jobs and being introduced to different communities more often. I'm always looking at each new person wondering if they are going to be that 'special connection' that changes my entire life, my first experience of """real""" friendship. After all, that's how it works in stories, right??
But in reality...that's never even come close to happening for me. ^^; I like most of the people I work with, and I've even formed casual workplace friendships with a few of them, but that's about it. Since I left school, I've never even exchanged phone numbers with anyone for non-work-related reasons.
And honestly? I don't mind. :T I think it's fine to just have nice interactions with people, even if they aren't deep and enduring, and tend to end as soon as you leave the environment. My social needs are more or less fulfilled from that alone.
Which makes that aforementioned weird expectation feel...unhealthy. Like something I need to stop doing, so I can truly be satisfied with my life the way it is. Like "if you don't need more, why are you still waiting for more??"
And I think it's because I've just never heard anything else. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Not from fiction, obviously, but not even from other people (especially after that previous incident on this forum...). There's just no such thing as a solitary person; even internet friendships are eventually supposed to blossom into life-changing encounters. The idea that it might just...not happen, is unheard of, to the point of appearing nonsensical.
I don't actually believe ^that, though. ^^; I think it's much more likely that people who are solitary or even desperately lonely just don't talk about it. It's not like it's a cheery subject...people don't seem to want to hear about it, even when you're using a fictional character as a proxy. The only instance in which they want to see this issue come up is in one where it's solved, preferably quickly.
But, yet again...that's not actually a guarantee.
And it just makes me think...if, someday, I can overcome my experience-based aversion to socially anxious, lonely outcast characters...I'd like to try and write a story with a different ending. Even if it's short. Just something that says, y'know, even if you don't end up with that magical friendship that changes everything...you're gonna be okay. Even a casual relationship is still a human connection-- if it becomes something more, great. But if it doesn't, that's fine too. It doesn't mean you did something wrong or that you're less worthy; it just is what it is.
And most importantly, you don't have to be miserable until someone finally arrives to rescue you; even if no one ever does, things CAN get better. Even if you still want to wait-- in the meantime, it's not impossible to make a difference in your own life.