Why I Joined Mensa

Note: this is my personal rambling and has nothing to do with entrepreneurship.

Some weeks ago I chanced upon this article Talk Nerdy to Me: My Year in Mensa, where the author lambasted Mensans for playing games and puzzles instead of saving the world. Go on take a look, it is a fun read. But most importantly, read the comments posted by Mensans at the end of the article. Here I take liberty to quote some which I find are closest to my own experience in Mensa.

“I’ve been a member of Mensa for five years. In my first year, I met some great friends, went dancing for the first time, enjoyed a great Annual Gathering, learned all kinds of new things, had all kinds of fun, laughed with other nerdy types, had fascinating discussions and oh…saw a few weirdos.” – thatwave

“To me it’s no surprise that somebody asked the author whether she would like to play cryptograms. I think a lot of Mensans know what it’s like to be the one sitting by themselves at a table. Still, in this case they could have just kept playing instead of inviting a stranger into their midst. I must say that I am proud to be a member of a group where this kind of thing happens.” – Knight in not-so-shining armor

“There is something of an assumed sense of closeness that took me an event or two to work past; for someone who isn’t expecting it, perhaps it could take them off guard and make them inexplicably uncomfortable.” – Aly Woolfrey

“For every person you may find annoying, we have many, many more who would make you cry from laughing and are good for a fascinating factoid or random chat over a cup of bad coffee. We may have our drama and internal squabbles like any large organization, but we also have thousands of volunteers doing great things for their fellow members and the community.” – Michelle

People join Mensa for a variety of reasons. Some join to contribute to the society. That is great. Some join to boost up resume or for boasting right. Some join for self pat on the back. Some join for special privileges. Some join to play games and puzzles. Those are OK too. But really if those are your reasons for joining Mensa then you are missing the biggest piece of the puzzle: having a community of like-minded people. And in fact, that is one of the stated goals of Mensa: to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members.

So if you happen to be one of the people who wonder why are we playing games instead of using our intelligence for more worthy causes such as saving the world, here is the hard truth. Just like everyone else, we the ‘smart people’ need social interaction too, and Mensa is our social club. And just like you can’t expect everyone who join a badminton club to be suddenly eager to coach badminton champion-wannabes in far flung villages, you can’t expect Mensans to suddenly aim for Nobel Peace Prize. (Analogy borrowed from @ValAditya )

It is well-known that social interaction is not the forte of many high-IQ owners. Some are struggling to hold small talk with people. For those who are more socially-adept, they frequently have to content with either forever being perceived as the smartest one in the room or having to consistently dumb down their conversations to blend in with others. It is in Mensa that we can be ourselves, where we can talk to anyone and that person can probably match our topic, where awkwardness is acceptable, where we can meet equally curious people, where we don’t have to explain our overly-complicated jokes, and where admission of weaknesses does not equal inferiority.

Outsiders tend to think of Mensans as serious, aloof, or elitist, or consciously try not to look dumb in a room full of Mensans. The fact is, we love to have fun as much as others, though often in different ways. And Mensans are mostly very open-minded people, probably due to the virtue of growing up fully aware of different capabilities among people. It would be hard to find a Mensan who look down on others simply because he/she feels smarter.

Of course, this is a wide generalization, and I’m probably speaking for myself. In a community as diverse as Mensa, there are probably more types of people than you can imagine. So how do you know if Mensa is right for you? Try to join in as much as possible. Try different gatherings. In Mensa Indonesia there are many Special Interest Groups, including Investment Club, OpenMind, Young Mensa, MAGe (Movies And Games), Make-Up, Book Readers, and Culinary. Meetup with the groups a few times, and find the one where you feel right in. Or join the mailing lists for stimulating discussions.

When you finally find the right group it would feel just like a family you have been longing for, for a long long time. And all the time and efforts would be more than worth it.

More note: By writing and posting this, I risk being labelled as insufferable snobbish elitist. I hope this is helpful for you, especially if you are considering to join Mensa or have recently joined.

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