I've been writing about health and science for The Atlantic for about seven years. I'm especially passionate about mental health, women's health, public policy, and longform journalism. I'm really excited for the release of my first book, WEIRD, on April 7. The book is all about the science of nonconformity and how being weird can make your life better. For it, I interviewed more than three dozen people who are different from everyone around them. I also tweet frequently @olgakhazan, and I'm on Instagram at olganator. Ask me anything about writing, journalism, magic mushrooms, coronavirus, or what have you!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/0pimdqffonp41.jpg

Quick edit (5 ET) that I'm gonna answer some of these later but have to step away from my computer for a bit

Comments: 390 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

babymybaby189 karma

I really enjoyed your article on weirdness and creativity! Do you think that there are psychological downsides to being "weird," like more time spent alone, without connection to others, or do you think those downsides can also be beneficial? (I'm especially thinking about it in the context of quarantine, where I have been spending a great deal more time alone, and I've found myself really enjoying it that there's no pressure to socialize).

olgakhazan287 karma

Omg! I feel the same way about quarantine haha. I do think there are downsides, though. In my book, I talk about the extreme pain of social ostracism. Most of us think of that as a middle-school, and high-school thing, but actually, there was a study done with *adult researchers who knew they were being ostracized.* Even though they were aware the ostracism was gonna be taking place, and it was being done as part of an experiment, it was still incredibly painful to them. They said things like, “I feel like I am a ghost on the floor that everyone hears, but no one can talk to." I think people make jokes about what it's like to not be invited to a wedding, or even a meeting, but the really deeply hurt feelings that can provoke are real.

laedelas50 karma

Thank you for validating some of the most intense feelings I've had about this whole covid-19 thing. I hope your book does well!

olgakhazan24 karma

Thank you!

wasionboy129 karma

Hi Olga!

What's it been like to be promoting your book in the midst of the current pandemic?

olgakhazan120 karma

It's been very strange! I'm trying to find ways to tie the book material into COVID (there are a few connections, surprisingly!) And obviously people can still buy and read the Kindle book instantly on April 7 -- and might have more time to do so. But would I have not chosen to have this come out in the middle of a pandemic, had I known? Absolutely :)

stehmansmith583 karma

Hi Olga,

Do you believe synergy and dynamic self-starting will disrupt the gig-economy given the utilization in the sustainable human capital values ecosystem to break down silos?

P.S. LOVED your February article about Corporate buzzwords.

olgakhazan91 karma

I totally think we should mindshare this synergy offline

UnknownQTY62 karma

Do you think there are TOO MANY "journalists?" Has the low barrier to entry within journalism (Anyone can start a blog) over the past 20-ish years created a toward trend in overall quality?

Do you feel that someone with your qualifications is "undermined" by some random blogger putting out clickbait, or do you think there is "never enough news?"

olgakhazan108 karma

Wow, really interesting question. I guess my instinct is no? So many prominent journalists have emerged from "blogs," and so many websites have been called "blogs" until just recently. I would say it has perhaps made journalism more competitive, because now not only are you trying to beat the WaPo or NYT at whatever you're doing, you're also racing against ScienceBlogger.com or whatever. But in general, I'm of the "let a thousand flowers bloom" school of journalism, where there are generally more stories than people to write them, and everyone who can and wants to should be able to give it a go

UnknownQTY25 karma

Follow up then —

Do you think there should be some sort of separate accreditation? Infowars is technically under the large umbrella of "news" but it took YEARS for "Distribution platforms" like FB and Twitter to de-platform them.

olgakhazan48 karma

Yeah, I worry that the "accreditation" process could be too easily politicized. I think a better idea is just to de-platform extremists of all stripes, including Infowars and the ilk. I also don't think he's a journalist? People should subscribe to news sources with real reporters providing real news, and not just click on whatever thing on Facebook.

rseymour43 karma

Were you hoping your boyfriend would come in here and ask some inane question about sourdough starter?

olgakhazan45 karma

blocked and reported

aphlipp28 karma

Is being weird in the sense of your book more about holding contrarian views or being ostracized from the mainstream social groups? Are the two related?

Did you study groups formed by weird people? In some ways, a group of people that don't like to be in the mainstream seems unstable and susceptible to leakage or offshoots, but I'm sure they exist. Would these groups nullify the benefits of being weird that you mention in your article?

Also, what is your boyfriend's favorite sport?

olgakhazan38 karma

Great questions! Gonna try to tackle them best I can:

1) I think both can happen, but usually ostracism occurs because you're different in some way. It's rare to be ostracized just for a random reason. It can be subtle though!

2) Most of the people I followed were not part of a group. I write that getting social support is really important if you're gonna be weird, but these support groups tended to be more ad-hoc, like the person's existing family or friends. In fact, the folks I followed had trouble finding groups they naturally fit in with because they were so unusual. If they did find a group of TOTALLY like-minded others, I suspect they would rejoice in their newfound community for a while, and then perhaps weirdos *within* that community would start to emerge after a while :)

Trust_No_1_28 karma

Why is it easier for people to conform even if what they're conforming to may be negative?

olgakhazan69 karma

This is in the book, but humans are just rule-followers! We love to conform, we like to fit in. It feels good and tickles our dopamine receptors. We like to be liked, and to be thought of as doing the "right thing." And for the most part this is a good thing! The problem is when the crowd starts doing something really effed up, and you're still following it.

alitasso26 karma

You have cojones to be releasing your book in the middle of a pandemic. Didn’t you also get your career going during the Great Recession 10 years ago? What was that like, and has it informed your approach to trying to make another big career move in the middle of another crisis? Would be grateful if you could any lessons for those of us staring down the abyss.

olgakhazan77 karma

Ah yes, the abyss my old friend. I can't stop thinking about how these past 10 years have been bookended by apocalypses. I would say starting a journalism career during the Great Recession was the hardest thing I've ever done. I honestly still talk to my therapist about it. Basically, people were looking for ways to tell you that they can't hire you because they can't afford it, but they would instead make it about *you*. "You're not what we're looking for," etc, "you don't have the right experience." It really did a number on my self-esteem! So I guess one lesson learned is just that not everything is about you ... sometimes you're great and the news org is just a flaming money fire with a "this is fine dog" sitting in the middle. So try to keep that in mind I guess. But not gonna sugarcoat it, it sucks. Good luck!

ihatethisjob4240 karma

I was also starting as a journalist during the Great Recession but never ended up being able to break out of local journalism. (I left the industry three years ago.)

I do have to say, though, that reading your pieces at the beginning of my career helped me believe in myself. Seeing someone roughly my age doing such quality reporting for a high-class publication was very inspiring. You were without a doubt someone I looked up to. Thanks for all your hard work. :)

olgakhazan36 karma

OMG thank you so much!! This seriously means a lot ahhh I'm tearing up.

jawnlobotomy20 karma

Hi!

I'm a punk rocker, definitely a non-conformist and I don't feel like I'm 'missing out' or am 'ostracized'. I feel as if I am just me and those who choose not to involve me do not matter to me in the grand scheme.

With that being said, a lot of my friends and peers feel that they are missing out or ostracized, or that the same advantages given to a 'normie' are not and would never be bestowed upon them.

Do you have any advice for those people? I maintain the attitude of "don't let the bastards grind you down" but some people don't feel the same.

Thanks!

olgakhazan31 karma

Yeah, kudos to you for being able to embrace your distinctiveness in that way! One thing that might work for your friends is to try to look at the situation from a third-person perspective. What advice would they give themselves if they were a therapist or a friend? Sometimes that can lead to breakthroughs simply because when we're not as close to a situation, we can see it more clearly

LouQuacious19 karma

Do magic mushrooms make you weird? I ate a lot about 20 years ago over several months and it just made everyone else weird to me. Thoughts? I ended up a snowboarding cannabis grower in Tahoe which felt normal to me.

olgakhazan36 karma

There's some strong evidence that magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can play a role in mental-health treatments. The reason is they make you see things in a new way ... much like weirdos do :)

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/live-like-youre-on-mushrooms/487286/

por_que_no4 karma

Is your writing/thinking changed because of a previous experience with shrooms?

olgakhazan21 karma

I've never done shrooms! I would in a clinical setting if they were ever legal, though

Iloveyoubromontana18 karma

When are the moments that make you want to give in and conform because it's easier than standing outside of the norm? [Edited for spelling and to remove a random word.]

olgakhazan39 karma

Anytime I'm at some function and people ask me if I'm married and have kids yet (nope and nope)

InquisitorEngel18 karma

How do you think the current pandemic will impact newspaper owners' views on monetization (and therefore... staying open)? What about readers' views?

olgakhazan24 karma

This is a tough one! News traffic is through the roof, but obviously recessions hit journalism really hard. Newspapers are already really struggling. Honestly, I'm *hopeful* that this will prompt people to see the value in journalism and to pay money for subscriptions. I'm *fearful* that this will lead news outlet owners to see a dearth of ad revenue and start laying off folks

gordyboy1234514 karma

What role do you think psychedelics will play in treatment of mental health disorders in the future? Will it be transformational? Thank you!

olgakhazan22 karma

Yeah, I think this is our best hope for pervasive depression and addiction. I'm not seeing anything interesting come out of the conventional pharmaceutical space

butt_hut13 karma

I can understand being weird in your personal life (around friends, with hobbies, etc,) but is there any value in being weird in your professional life? I feel like business is all about conformity - esp if you’re just a peg and not trying to lead your own company.

olgakhazan19 karma

Totally, I get what you're saying. I think for the most part that's true -- a firm is all about "the mission" and everyone kind of being pointed toward that. However, research shows it's still helpful to have dissenting and contrarian types in conformist settings like businesses. It leads to better decision-making and better ideas.

dangrahn12 karma

I read your article about Buzzwords a while back. Are there new quarantine buzzwords that you hate?

olgakhazan48 karma

DROPLETS

br6112 karma

Hi Olga, what's the most surprising thing you've learned about yourself while writing the book?

I love your work in The Atlantic, by the way!

olgakhazan65 karma

Thank you so much for reading! The most surprising is this factoid: So we know that lonely people have more heart disease and high blood pressure, right? But why? It's actually because when you're lonely, your body thinks you're being attacked by bacteria:

As I write, "the immune system is gearing up to fight off bacteria that aren’t really there, pumping you full of inflammatory chemicals in the process. The inflammation shreds the blood-vessel walls, leading to plaque buildup, which is why lonely people have more heart attacks."

Our bodies: They're crazy just like us.

kamace1110 karma

Kind of a reach, but what about people who prefer to be alone? I've found that isolation to a certain extent is far less stressful for me than face to face interaction, for example. Would someone like that experience the opposite? (I.E., inflammatory immune response to too much socialization?)

olgakhazan19 karma

Ohhhh fascinating. I'm right there with you! I find social interaction to be stressful. I'm not aware of any research that too much socializing is bad for you, though obviously I understand that it can be cognitively and mentally hard, as someone who feels that same way. Maybe just enjoy the alone time while you can? :)

emazur12 karma

1) Are conformists running on auto-pilot to a much greater extent than non-conformists?

2) Are non-conformists generally less emotional than conformists?

3) For a non-conformist still in public school (or a private school modeled after one) who desperately wants out - what are his alternatives? If he is forced to remain as-is, what are the negative consequences?

olgakhazan13 karma

  1. I think so. Most of the people I met were very deliberate about their choices and lifestyles, they gave a lot of thought to everything they did, and indeed several of them were psychologists. They seemed to always be thinking about what they should do next, because they didn't really have a rulebook.
  2. I dunno! For whatever reason, the people I met seemed to be on a pretty even keel. I don't know if this is because they had just lived through so much that it was hard to get a rise out of them, or if the kind of person that signs up to be in a book is naturally emotionally regulated already.
  3. Augh, not sure at all. I'm sorry I can't be more help. Not an expert on education policy at all.

borealism-10 karma

How does unity in a time of crisis (during this pandemic) either hinder or bolster the practice of non-conformity?

olgakhazan37 karma

Pandemics lead to a surge in conformity. Because of the behavioral immune system, when we're worried about getting sick, we start to fear norm-violators and other types of outsiders. Women in their first trimester of pregnancy, when they're more vulnerable to infections, tend to be more xenophobic (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/01/the-disease-theory-of-xenophobia/423975/) I predict a huge retrenchment toward traditional norms and values after this -- you're already seeing that with people celebrating the idea that women are "back at home" with their kids and cooking for their husbands

saltybruise9 karma

Hey I'm a life long weirdo. You can ask any parent, friend, teacher, coach or boss I've ever had. Why do I get a lot of friends when other weird people don't? Is there a right way to be weird? Is there a wrong way?

olgakhazan13 karma

You probably have either 1) found your weird tribe or 2) subtly altered your personality to be less neurotic and more open! That's awesome. You can keep being weird and still have friends, that's a great way to be :)

lisanik9 karma

Big fan of your work in The Atlantic, and looking forward to the book (as a fellow weirdo).

My questions are both writerly:

  1. Did you begin at The Atlantic as a freelancer? How did you break in?
  2. Other than this AMA, what other creative ways have you come up with to promote your book in a time when a tour is out? I’ve got a friend whose books came out last week, and this is a challenging time to promote!

Keep up the wonderful work you do!

olgakhazan17 karma

Thank you! 1) I started as the Global editor -- editing pieces for the international section. I moved over to the health section after about a year. I think they hired me because I worked for the Washington Post before that. 2) It is hellllllish. I've been doing a lot of podcasts, newsletters, Instagram Lives, and other virtual events. And begging everyone to tweet it. Lolsob

dangrahn8 karma

Hi Olga! How do you think Trump has benefited from being a "WEIRD" outsider to politics?

Oh, and why do you hate sourdough starters?

olgakhazan22 karma

Lol. I don't hate the starter, I just am perhaps not as into it as my partner is :)

Trump has totally benefitted from being a weirdo! If you think about it, he has brought a lot of the innovation that we typically see from weirdos to the political space: He doesn't do politically correct stuff, he's upended a lot of the norms around interacting with the public (like with his tweets), he's changed a lot of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the presidency. And people have really responded to it, thinking he's "one of them." Not saying that's a good thing! But yeah, he really sort of exemplifies the rule-breaking that we often see with weirdos.

Chtorrr7 karma

What is the very best cheese?

olgakhazan6 karma

Hard to say! Pepper jack perhaps?

secretmadscientist7 karma

Hi Olga,

My partner has dealt with endometriosis for years, something that causes her pain, discomfort, and some sexual disfunction. It has also caused an enormous toll on her mental health. Do you see any changing trends in the research of women's health? It seems overall we focus on a lot of men's health in America (little blue pill comes to mind). While women's health is sometimes, although not always, a secondary concern.

-Thank you

olgakhazan8 karma

That's totally true about men's vs. women's health. (And I'm so sorry for what your partner is going through!) Unfortunately scientific research in general has really been given the short shrift by recent political trends, as we're now seeing with the COVID pandemic. I'm hopeful that as we get more female political leaders we'll hopefully rethink our priorities and realize how many women suffer from conditions that are long overdue for serious scientific investments.

yee_of_little_faith7 karma

You had a semi-viral tweet recently about your boyfriend's sourdough bread hobby. Did you think that was especially funny when you wrote it, or do you think it was totally random that it took off?

olgakhazan19 karma

Ha. I thought it was funny. But I also think everything I do is funny, but things rarely take off.

jaysanw7 karma

During your childhood in West Texas, did you befriend any other Russian or Central European immigrants, or was the community entirely American-born Americans?

olgakhazan7 karma

No, there weren't any

butt_hut6 karma

I think the message that being weird can actually make your life better is a really, really hard message for a child/teen struggling to fit in to accept. What is the must succinct way you’d propose this message to them to change their opinion?

olgakhazan15 karma

I feel like the child/teen years are the toughest to be different. Honestly, so many people are like, "I wish I could revisit high school!" but that sounds like a nightmare to me. I think the best message, which has been said so much more eloquently by others, is that it gets better. Do the best you can to hang in there, focus on your hobbies and interests, and delight in knowing that the bullies will be working at Home Depot when you're working at Microsoft.

MicrocultivationRegs12 karma

You know what worked for me? My mother always told me, "Why do you want to be/look/act the same as everybody else?! That's BORING! Be yourself, not someone else!" As a result, I grew up with my own sense of self that became (it was a process) impermeable to attacks. My confidence was further facilitated by doing my absolute best at whatever task I faced. Given this, I knew with concrete certainty no one else in my shoes could have done better. This gives you an enormous sense of power and confidence. "They laughed at me because I was different. I laughed at them because they were all the same."

olgakhazan4 karma

love this!

ksgif26 karma

Seems like the folks who are normally conformists are really enjoying the opportunity covid has given them to shout the rules at the rest of us. It's a really tough time for those who lack a home address or live on the road, with transportation options disappearing. Any thoughts on the folks calling for fines and jail time for those who break the new rules?

olgakhazan11 karma

I really don't support fines or jail time for breaking COVID rules. Sorry your housing situation is in flux -- I can't imagine dealing with that while dealing with the pandemic too. I agree that this seems to be a primetime for rule-followers, and while perhaps medically necessary, it can be ... grating.

HerrVonStrahlen6 karma

I struggle with this so much. With so many hours I spend working in an office every week without finding a way to be true to myself, I feel like I’m stuck on this societal treadmill that just wears me down. It’s so frustrating to constantly feel I’m not doing the right things without knowing what it IS I ‘should’ be doing to materialise my self-expression. I’ve had a lot of professional help but it hasn’t shed much light on it so far.

Anyway let’s not make this all about me! It sounds like an interesting book. I just preordered but I do not have a Kindle. Is there any alternative? Thanks! :)

olgakhazan7 karma

Gah, sorry you're dealing with that. I totally get what that's like, and I hope you find some answers. Kindle is gonna be your fastest way, but Amazon will still deliver a hardcopy, it just might be delayed, or you can pre-order from your favorite local indie

lennon8185 karma

How do you differentiate between someone being "weird" and someone having genuine, pathological / psychological problems? I find the biggest problem is that society just lumps both categories together. Also what is your methodology for finding someone weird since someone can fake that. (A lot of people pretend to be weird because it is cool).

olgakhazan9 karma

I answered this previously but I looked for people who were different from everyone else around them. Sometimes that means mentally ill, but all my interviewees were mentally healthy. So many people struggle with mental illness that it's honestly not that weird. I wouldn't want to stigmatize mental illness in that way.

runninginorbit5 karma

Hi Olga! I used to want to be a journalist, but it seemed like such a difficult job I went into something else instead. I don't regret it and I'm quite happy with my decision, and I still love to read all the news I possibly can every day.

However, what remains painful for me is to see so much criticism of the media. Having gone through training to be a journalist at some point, I feel like there's so much great work out there being done by journalists that is being disregarded as "the media trying to create controversy" when what I see is journalists asking the hard questions that require serious persistence, research, and a belief that the public needs to know about these issues.

That's not to say that this type of "news" doesn't exist — there is a lot of stuff out there that is click-baity/poorly researched/not fact-checked. But to criticize the media with such a broad brushstroke, especially when many journalists are putting their lives/careers on the line to get important information to the public, is something that is difficult for me to see.

So my question is: having done a lot of research on nonconformity and being a journalist yourself and knowing a great many other journalists, what are your thoughts on this type of "they just want controversy/views" criticism of the media?

Edit: Also, I just want to add that I've read a lot of your work in the Atlantic and am a huge fan!! Excited to see you here doing an AMA on Reddit!

olgakhazan7 karma

Thank you so much for reading! This is one of the oldest criticisms in the book. What I tell those folks is, look, the news is mostly about problems. If you don't like problems, don't read the news. Occasionally we break out into servicey or feel-good coverage, but there's a lot going on in the world we feel we need to keep you informed about.

Covfefetarian5 karma

I’m a psychologist and soon-to-be behavioural scientist and always wondered how one would get into writing from this point (books, that is, not articles for journals). Would you mind talking about how you made your way into the world of writing books? Thanks a lot, I appreciate you making this AMA post!

olgakhazan7 karma

Sure! The book came about after a lot of false starts after I had gotten a few years of reporting and journalism under my belt. It was a long-time goal for me, so I'm super happy and grateful to finally be able to get to do it.

Dr_HL4 karma

You know what's really crazy is /r/catsinsinks

Love that place. Lot of fun. Cool guy runs it.

Anyway what's your fav show right now?

olgakhazan7 karma

Dr_HL

Wow did a cat in a sink write this post?

DetectorReddit4 karma

Hi Olga. I was wondering your thoughts on the PRC's Sesame Credit System and how it enforces compliance through a credit system to remove non-conformist behaviors from Chinese society?

olgakhazan5 karma

Not super familiar with this but that seems like something a "tight" society -- one with lots of rules and norms -- would do, unfortunately

mymilkweedbringsallt4 karma

Do you talk at all in your book about weirdos in groups, aka evangelical Christians (speaking as someone whos been on the ins/outs of that community)? It seems to me that this group (and others like it) finds a lot of its identity in being “set apart”

olgakhazan8 karma

Yeah! I went to evangelical Christian youth group for a long time and being like, proud to be outcasts for how much we loved Jesus was a big part of it. But honestly, evangelical Christianity is such a big group in the U.S. that they really have a tenuous claim to "weirdo-hood," in my view. No one was actually razzing us for our beliefs, it was just something we said to feel cool.

MicrocultivationRegs4 karma

I was born a misanthropist. I fought it for 50 years; finally gave up. So my parting of the ways with humanity was mutual and being ostracized came naturally and comfortably -- I, in turn, ostracize society because I have found most people "not worthy". Nevertheless, I have a great deal of empathy for all animals, humans included. So while I fight for social, economic, and racial justice, I don't want to be around people and I'm not lonely. My question for you is, what percentage of weird people are "weird" simply because they reject, to varying degrees, the artificial roles and norms imposed by our culture? I would suspect, most. Looking forward to your book.

olgakhazan3 karma

Yes, this is a huge factor! Most of the people I interviewed were not like this (ie they don't avoid people), but I think to varying degrees they rejected whatever the culture expected of them, which is a form of what you're doing.

Girl_on_a_bicycle4 karma

I love your articles, and particularly your insight into toddler milk! Any advice for a doctor who would like to do more writing? Also, is anyone else at the Atlantic particularly weird (in a good way)?

olgakhazan5 karma

Pitch some articles to websites and papers! We (and others) accept freelance submissions

standswithpencil3 karma

Did having the first name "Olga" give you a headstart on being weird?

Seriously, my name is a strange spelling of a common name and my parents did it because I was a "surprise" baby. Surprise to my dad, but not to my mom ;)

olgakhazan8 karma

Ha. I hated my name my whole life because I was the only "Olga" in Texas. But now I kind of like it. :)

newaccount473 karma

As a man, what is one of the most important things I can do to improve the lives and health of women?

olgakhazan3 karma

Vote!

ParticularAmbition3 karma

Love your work Olga! What are some of your favorite authors or books? Have you been reading more now that we’re in quarantine?

olgakhazan2 karma

I love memoirs!!! Meghan Daum, Ariel Levy, Gary Shteyngart, Julie Klausner's memoir was really good, PRIESTDADDY x100

tcbceng3 karma

Olga,

I actually knew you from West Texas growing up and have enjoyed following your career with The Atlantic. We don't always see eye to eye on some things, but I can appreciate your thoroughness in research and writing. Will your book be available in paperback? Wish you the best with the book and will continue to follow.

olgakhazan3 karma

Yes, hopefully! Until then, you can buy it on Kindle for instant delivery on April 7.

Robert_Cannelin3 karma

Are there qualities productive, efficient weirdos have that purely self-defeating weirdos lack?

olgakhazan4 karma

Yes, anticipating that people will like them. It's self-defeating to go into social experiences expecting the worst. Learned that from an expert :)

redblack523 karma

Hi Olga,

I'm transgender (and a bit of a weirdo) and I'd agree that my experience confers some unique strengths, or, at least, has taught me a lot. No regrets.

Being transgender has also absolutely, undoubtedly, tanked my career. (There are examples, but I'll get to the point). I'm 34, I have a master's, and I've never cleared more than ~$25k in income in a single year.

What would you say to those of us who, despite any wisdom gained, clearly pay a significant price for our differences?

olgakhazan4 karma

Man, I totally hear that and this is a real penalty. I think it's an example of how people who are non-traditional are judged in workplaces super harshly and often face obstacles to advancement. I don't have a psychological trick that will magic this away ... all I can say is that your experience is valid, and that sometimes the exact dollar amount we make a year isn't a measure of our self-worth or self-actualization. But I know that doesn't make it any easier when the rent comes due. Stay healthy.

Misplacedmypenis3 karma

Hi Olga, interested to hear your thoughts on nonconformists who end up following a prescriptive path of nonconformity and in essence become conformists themselves, just on a different side of the equation. Do you think there is still a positive life increase or do you think that they tend to suffer from the same pitfalls as your run of the mill conformist?

olgakhazan9 karma

This is totally a thing! I think this is how a lot of cults get started, actually. "Oh, we're not like other people, we're doing our own thing." And suddenly the new thing is super circumscribed. And yeah, unfortunately I think they fall pray to the same things conformists do.

olgakhazan2 karma

Answered this elsewhere but good q!

dillbizzle3 karma

Hey Olga:)

Any favorite Russian/Eastern European stores around DC? I'm really missing that чёрный хлеб nowadays...

olgakhazan3 karma

Rus-Uz?

kingsalm0n3 karma

How do you define who’s weird and who’s normal (or whatever the synonym of weird is)? How much agency does an individual have in the making of this distinction?

olgakhazan9 karma

People who are different from everyone around them -- so the only x in a y. The only liberal in a conservative environment, the only female in a male-dominated profession, the only ex-Amish girl in her area, etc. Yes, they could probably go do or live somewhere else, but that's not what they want to be doing.

EdTech313 karma

Given the virus, what advice would you give to a newly pregnant woman right now (in their first trimester)?

olgakhazan8 karma

The virus doesn't appear to pose much of a risk to babies or to younger (under 40) women, so I think you're in a better spot than many. I would just wash your hands, practice social distancing, all that good stuff. That said, I'm not a doctor so be in touch with yours if you have any special concerns.

ducks_mclucks3 karma

Hey Olga, I'm a big fan of theories like this one because I'm also a first-generation American who grew up being a giant outlier in the South. Most of who I am today and my successes can all be attributed to the outsider perspective I've enjoyed. Because the source of my identity and success is also the source of my loneliness and misery, I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and it strikes me that what you want, both as an individual and as a society, is actually a balance between nonconformity and conformity.

Have you explored the fulcrum of this balance? This isn't really a targeted question and might be a lot of the content of the book but I'd love to get at whatever brain dump you have time to spare :)

olgakhazan3 karma

OMG yes. I try to walk that line but it is tough ... I do think a balance between the two is the best way for us weirdos to proceed though. Either that or go to Burning Man, lol

Handboard2 karma

Is it unreasonable to believe I had the virus in the very first week of January? I believe it was here in December, maybe earlier.

How does one get tested for antibodies? I live near the CDC.

olgakhazan5 karma

It's possible! There appears to have been community spread detected in February (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/us/coronavirus-testing-delays.html), and we don't know about earlier than that because we didn't test for it.

MakesTypos2 karma

[deleted]

olgakhazan6 karma

I would argue that conspiracy theorists actually want to be part of a group ... they want to not be weird, they want to be part of an exclusive group of "truth-seekers"

Daerice2 karma

I'm curious if your book is referencing the research from Heinrich and Heine, here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20550733 And, are you addressing the critique of leftist morality by Haidt in his book "The Righteous Mind"? Curious, because I have been thinking about and writing various rebuttals to him for years. I consider myself WEIRD and I am proud of it. Your book looks like it is right up my alley!

olgakhazan4 karma

I don't talk about the WEIRD countries problem (western, etc), but that's an interesting line of research!

Faykenews2 karma

What's your favorite animal and why?

olgakhazan4 karma

Sea turtles. I like how they go with the flow :)

theresalalala2 karma

Hi Olga! I love following you on twitter - thanks for brightening up my time with great and also insightful commentary! What is your best advice for finding mentors; especially in health and science communications & have you ever received any advice that was odd (weird? if we are keeping in the theme of this post) at the time but made sense later on?

Thanks!!!

PS Were you able to incorporate anything from Austin, aka their unofficial motto of "keep austin weird" in this book?

olgakhazan3 karma

Great question, thank you for reading! I don't have a ton of mentors, but I usually go with people who don't mind having a lot of random interaction with me. My crises tend to be kind of unpredictable, so just getting coffee every quarter or whatever is not really a mentor relationship that would be super fruitful for me. But everyone's different. One mentor told me not to listen to what "the market" wants, but to what I want, which seemed impossible in 2009, but seems more and more true every day. And yes! I talk about the origin of that motto in the book :)

willgiffotron1 karma

What do you think about how conformity and non conformity to groups in teenagers affects their mental growth?

olgakhazan1 karma

There was a study on this a few years ago that found that the "geeks" of high school end up more successful than the popular kids. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/not-a-cool-kid-in-high-school-study-says-you-should-probably-be-relieved.html Some solace for us wallflowers :)

LGuappo1 karma

The concept speaks to me :). Will there be an audiobook?

olgakhazan3 karma

Yes, it's in the works

flugenblar1 karma

Does your book talk about narcissism and how the disorder drives people to not be seen or behave the same as everyone else, IOW to be special?

olgakhazan3 karma

Huh! No but that's super interesting, great point. I actually think a lot of narcissists do act in typical ways ... it's just whatever will help them get ahead. Here's an article I wrote about narcissists way back: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/10/self-esteem-narcissism/599836/

enzomilano1 karma

What treatments or exercises have you found to be effective for anxiety? Without the need for prescriptions and doctor visits.

olgakhazan2 karma

I really liked Joyable! It's an online app that helps with social anxiety, which is one of my main manifestations.

nylonstring1 karma

Hello Olga,

I am unfamiliar with your work but have a general question about weirdness. My question is regarding whistleblowers. As a whistleblower myself and a weirdo at times I find it hard to deal with the pushback even when I know I am right. Have you heard these type of experiences before? What would be a good strategy to both get the issue taken seriously while not rocking the boat so much one is thrown overboard? Thanks!

olgakhazan7 karma

LOVE this question. I talk about whistleblowers, aka "principled deviants," in my book. One strategy that might work well for you is to go along to get along for a while -- just conform on small stuff -- and save your big, norm-busting asks for things that really matter. Show that you can be a "team player" (I know -- gag) so that you'll be better accepted when you have an unorthodox idea. This is a tactic called "idosyncrasy credits."

specialsnowflaker1 karma

So I'm trans, and that naturally puts me as different from everyone in my life & career. The only other trans people I know are from communities I actively seek out. I've felt deeply disgusted by myself my whole life until I finally accepted the truth last year, and it's been a journey of self-acceptance ever since, and in doing so I've learned a lot about gender & what it means to be human.

My biggest fear (and I have nightmares about it) is when I come out fully, will it ruin my career ambitions, or will it help them? I'm hoping it will help them but terrified it will destroy my dreams. I've had my dreams crushed before, so I guess I can handle it, but this time will be very different.

What kind of insights do you have about this?

olgakhazan3 karma

Wow. Well, congrats to you for discovering your truth! That's a big step. I totally hear you on career fears and nightmares, though I'm cis so I admit I can't speak to all the sensitivities here. I can only imagine the difficulty of trying to navigate a transition while navigating work stuff, which tends to be so tricky anyway.

I don't have insight into what industry you're in or what part of the country you live in, but would a trans support group be helpful in this regard? They might have resources for people looking to come out at work -- like, here's a script of what to say, here's what the law protects you from, etc.

Just off the cuff, would you really want to work for a place that didn't accept you for your true gender? It doesn't sound so dreamy to me to have to stay in the closet for 9 hours a day. But I get that it's nuanced and difficult. Hang in there and best of luck!

olgakhazan1 karma

Thanks for the questions y'all! I have to do some work now but I'm going to try to answer some more tonight

the70sdiscoking1 karma

Hi Olga! Congrats on finishing your project. I think I'm in your book and I completely forgot about this until now. Where can i find a copy of it?

edit: duh, there's a link on amazon.

I'm going to get a copy for sure. Question though: during the time of your research, did you find that anyone's stories, experiences, or perspectives influenced you to make any immediate changes in your own behavior? How do you view your own spirituality differently since conducting your interviews? Also, do you have any more projects, personal or business, along this same topic?

-Take care!

olgakhazan1 karma

Ha! Oh wow, I think I know who you are too :) And yes, meeting Deana, one of the people in the book, made me a lot more grateful for the way my early life went, even though that's one of the things I've always been the most insecure about.

StickTogetherMD0 karma

I love your perspective! Keep up the awesome work.

What first led you into health and science journalism? What are your thoughts on the landscape of journalism and the direction it's headed? What advice do you have for someone with medical industry experience who is interested in doing what you do? (Imagine a not-as-smart wannabe James Hamblin who thinks there should be more James Hamblins)

olgakhazan1 karma

I was always interested in health and science, and I had a health scare in college that sort of pushed me in this direction, if I had to pinpoint it. I'm scared for journalism because of the new recession coming on -- I'm so grateful for all our subscribers right now. I definitely think there's a role for experts and docs in writing ... I would say keep reading and keep pitching. It's a very different style of communication than medicine.