Chaos Attraction

Weirdness Budget

2019-02-26, 9:31 p.m.

Not much happened today, other than GQ dislocating a rib and his 5-year-old coming down with the flu and it is still pissing rain, but while listening to podcasts today, I learned of the concept of the “weirdness budget.” This came up on Writing Excuses in the How Weird Is Too Weird?” episode, in which they discussed at what point something gets too weird to comprehend, and essentially that you get one “bye” and then after that you gotta watch it...and then someone mentioned the concept of a weirdness budget.

I went a-Googling.

Here is an explanation of it from a writing perspective: ”There is only so much weirdness a reader can take before they give up and stop reading. When you make up new things for a SFF world, make sure you’re spending your weirdness wisely, on things that really matter.” Then it talks a bit about how the traits of people don’t count as “weird.”

This one talks about your “weirdness points” and how you only have a few to use for advocating for weird ideas such as veganism.

This bit hit home: ”Lookism is a problem in society, and I wish people could look "weird" and still be socially acceptable. But if you're a guy wearing a dress in public, or some punk rocker vegan advocate, recognize that you're spending your weirdness points fighting lookism, which means less weirdness points to spend promoting veganism or something else.”

Idiosyncrasy credit: ”Idiosyncrasy credits are increased (earned) each time an individual conforms to a group's expectations, and decreased (spent) each time an individual deviates from a group's expectations.”

Dear Young Eccentric: ”This situation can seem pretty discouraging to those who find that they are naturally weird. Weird folks are often tempted to give up on grand ambitions, thinking there is little chance the world will let them succeed. Turns out, however, it isn’t as bad as all that. Especially if your main weirdness is in the realm of ideas.
First, being unusual can be an advantage. Unusual tastes can often be satisfied for cheaper than common tastes. If everyone wants to go to the beach, but you just want to hike in the woods, it won’t cost you as much for a nearby hotel. Unusual abilities can also be in more demand than usual abilities. And weird folks can be especially creative, a trait valued in certain occupations like marketing or research.
Second, people who are weird about ideas tend to care more about ideas, and so over-estimate how much others care. You can actually get away with a lot of weirdness in abstract ideas, if you are ordinary enough in manners and style.
I’ve known some very successful people with quite weird ideas. But these folks mostly keep regular schedules of sleep and bathing. Their dress and hairstyles are modest, they show up on time for meetings, and they finish assignments by deadline. They are willing to pay dues and work on what others think are important for a while, and they have many odd ideas they’d pursue if given a chance, instead of just one overwhelming obsession. They are willing to keep changing fields, careers, and jobs until they find one that works for them.
Their conversational styles are also modest and polite. While they are quite willing to talk about their weird ideas, they do not push such topics on uninterested others. They do not insult people around them, nor directly challenge local powers that be. They don’t lash out randomly and scare people.
Of course being modest isn’t enough for great success. You’ll also need some extraordinary abilities. Like being extra smart, articulate, hard-working, insightful, etc. But having weird ideas isn’t nearly as much of a liability as it may seem.
Think of it this way. When some folks go out of their way to show off their defiance and rebellion, others go out of their way to publicly squash such rebellion, to assert their dominance. But if you are not overtly rebellious, you can get away with a lot of abstract idea rebellion - few folks will even notice such deviations, and fewer still will care. So, ask yourself, do you want to look like a rebel, or do you want to be a rebel?”

The economy of weirdness:
”It is often said that you should spend your weirdness budget wisely. You should wear a gender-appropriate suit, and follow culture-appropriate sports, and use good grammar, and be non-specifically spiritual, and support moderate policies, and not have any tattoos around either of your eyes. And then on the odd occasion, when it happens to come up, you should gather up your entire weirdness budget and make a short, impassioned speech in favor of invertebrate equality. Or whatever you think is the very most effective use of weirdness. In short: you only get so much weirdness, so don’t use it up dressing like a clown or popularizing alternative sleep schedules.
A first simple model is that people don’t like weird things, so if you have any, they will like you less in expectation. Weirdness is a kind of badness. On this model, I suppose the reason you would want to be weird at all is that you just are weird, and it is hard or unpleasant to keep it under control.
Here is a closely related model. Weird traits are not inherently bad, but they are inherently unusual, and being unusual is inherently bad. On this model, the reason you want to have a weird trait could be that you like the trait, and so you want to make it less unusual.
Some weird traits are unambiguously bad. Some are unambiguously good, and empirically, these don’t appear to use up weirdness budget. If you are weirdly hilarious this probably means you can get away with more other weirdness, not less.
Many traits a bit good and a bit bad: they please some people while scaring off others. If a trait is ‘weird’, probably it displeases most people, and appeals to few. But this isn’t necessarily a bad deal, even from a selfish perspective.
For many circumstances, the big value is in having everyone think you are basically ok. If you are widely considered basically ok, you can be trusted on routine issues, you can have a job, you can have friends, you can be taken seriously. If you are basically ok and have one weird opinion, you can be a datapoint suggesting that weird opinion is ok for basically ok people to have.
However if you want people to buy your book, or change continents to live with you, or fund your experimental research organization, then you need some people to really like you. But luckily, you don’t need that many."

Socially optimal weirdness:

”When individuals avoid being weird, it is often because they want to be judged well in some way. From an impersonal perspective, does it matter if you judge me badly? This seems to depend on the extent to which people judge one another absolutely, versus relatively, and whether people care about the judgement absolutely or relatively.
In some cases, ‘not weird’ is continually and narrowly redefined, to make locating it a reasonable sign of social savvy. For instance, if you are a girl in high school, you might learn that it is weird to not own any barbie dolls. However once you manage to get a barbie doll, you may find that it is the wrong barbie doll, or that barbie dolls are no longer the normal thing any more and are now the preserve of weird kids like you. This race presumably takes some amount of effort from the weird and the non-weird people alike, which would be averted if people didn’t try to avoid weirdness.
from society’s perspective, it seems pretty unclear how weird it is best for people to be. Several considerations point in different directions. Incidentally, it also seems very unlikely to align with how weird individuals want to be.”

Here is a quote from a book online: “Most people have a weirdness budget and you’re not really allowed to use up too much of that, because if you are overdrawn on the weirdness account, then obviously you can’t be taken seriously. So a lot of people keep quite about considerations that might actually matter.”

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