Welcome to the Golden Age of Awkwardness

Awkwardness never seemed like something to aspire to. The paralyzing uncertainty of what to do at a party, the weird obsession with “Dungeons and Dragons,” the ill-considered fashion choices — exhibit any of these, and your social life was doomed.

But not anymore. Now, all you have to do is flip on your TV to witness the ascendancy of the bumbling antihero. “The Big Bang Theory,” a show revolving around the lives of perhaps the most socially inept characters ever to populate a sitcom, is consistently the No. 1 show on television. “Silicon Valley,” a black comedy about neurotic coders and start-up culture, is a cult hit. Now, there’s Comic-Con, basically Coachella for nerds. Bachelorettes convene not at Chippendale’s but at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. #MaytheFourthBeWithYou is a thing. And so is cosplay. And podcasts.

“It is,” says psychologist and author Ty Tashiro, “the golden age of awkwardness.” And he’s been waiting for it his whole life. Always socially awkward himself, Tashiro has become an evangelist for his kind, penning a book of research positing that there’s an upside to all this nerding out, to the unemotional, hyper-focused qualities of people lacking in the social graces.

“Awkwardness is associated with striking talent,” he says, because it’s often coupled with obsessive drive. The downsides, we’re more familiar with: Offended friends and loved ones. A lifetime of embarrassing moments and misread cues.

Reading Tashiro’s recent book, “Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome,” can be like trying to determine the source of a mystery rash by searching WebMD. Flipping through the anecdotes, the bar charts and the checklists, it’s nearly impossible not to self-diagnose. You find yourself exhuming and examining a lifetime’s worth of kale-in-teeth moments for evidence that you’re not just unlucky but awkward. Lots of people are secretly afraid that they might be, and chronically so. It’s what makes Tashiro’s premise so splashy.

Actually, the author thinks that only 15 percent of the population qualifies for the designation. And even though he has studied awkwardness for years, he says that it’s not always easy to recognize it from the outside.

Read more at The Washington Post.