Socializing for Beginners: Trivia Night // Jana Misk
If you're lucky enough to have found a few friends who tolerate your regular extended absences from their social lives, you might be able to inspire tears of joy by suggesting that the lot of you attend a weekly Trivia Night at your local bar.
These perennially popular events are actually great for reclusive types who nevertheless feel they should be out in public more often.
First, the game is played in teams, which means that it's completely acceptable for you to talk only to your small group of friends--indeed, anything else might seem like treason. No one else will be milling around either, except the drunkest of the attendees, who have probably forgotten they're playing. It's socially acceptable to ignore these people. All the Trivia Nights I've been to involve writing answers down on a sheet of paper, which also eliminates excessive human contact.
Second, small talk is fairly limited and low-pressure thanks to the stream of trivia questions that everyone must discuss in fierce whispers until an answer is chosen. So you get the enjoyment of talking without the anxiety of needing something interesting to say. Also, don't feel too bad if you don't know anything about most of the questions. A couple of helpful comments throughout the game will be enough to justify your presence there (and anyway, I hear that friends are people who like to be around you even if you don't know the answer to Trivia Night questions). If the idea of being asked questions you don't know the answers to distresses you too much, some weekly trivia events announce their themes in advance, so you can study up. Try to find one of these and convince your friends it's the best one. They'll agree if you start winning free drinks for them every week. (In any case it's a good idea to try out several different Trivia Nights, to find which one suits your temperament and knowledge base best.)
Third, because Trivia Nights are usually at bars, you can drink. In fact, this is encouraged. Your friends will be drinking too, which of course means they'll notice your awkwardness less, which will anyhow melt away the more Jager bombs you do. Just remember: the next day, your level of retrospective shame and social anxiety will be directly proportional to the amount of alcohol you imbibed. (The emphasis on drinking is also a good reason for finding a Trivia Night within walking distance of your residence.)
Finally, Trivia Nights are usually held on weeknights and last about two hours, give or take, after which everyone is usually happy to head home feeling accomplished and content. Two hours is generally manageable for me, and it can be comforting to know that something has a definite end point.
Congratulations--you just made it through an evening of socializing without (I hope) having been bombarded too heinously with feelings of paranoia, panic, and shame. And what's more: you are now, officially, a team player.