I am a software developer and an introvert. I am two years into my first job after college. The reviews of my work have been good. But I'm facing a lot of anxiety these days because of the environment in my workplace.
It's a big team of around 30 people, though my work requires me to interact with only 3 or 4 of them. I find it very unsettling when people gather in groups and start making small talk (Picture the usual raucous laughter, loud compliments, teasing and birthday celebrations). It feels as though they are inviting me to join in but in my heart I know I'm not one of them.
My real distress began when a couple of people from the team asked me if anything was wrong with me as I don't interact with others as much as I should. They seemed to think that I ought to say something to them when meeting them at the lift/pantry etc. I tried explaining to them as politely as I could that I'm just quiet by nature and not being an asshole if I don't say "Hi/Hello/How was your weekend?" to them at the water cooler. They went on to lecture me that if I was to survive in this industry, I better improve myself.
I found that very disturbing. What does that have to do with my work? With the utmost humility I want to state that I am very sincere, intelligent and do my work (which mainly involves working with computers not people) to the best of my ability. The very reason I chose computers over, say, an MBA in HR is to make a career in doing what I'm good at. I wish I was judged only on the basis of the quality of my code and not on how many people I wish a good morning to while walking through the corridors. This makes me feel that I'm not being a good team player.
I have no (very little?) problems communicating with people when it's related to work. This is the reason that I've swiftly cracked interviews ever since I can remember. But I get cold feet when I'm expected to join in these social activities which normal people find so natural. I know myself very well and trying to act like them won't help. It's just not in my nature and people see through it immediately (I know this from past experiences). And if I'm honest with myself, I am a very private person. I rarely talk about my family or any personal details with colleagues (which they do all the time). Don't get me wrong, I'm not antisocial. I have a few close friends. But it takes me an inordinate amount of time to form meaningful relationships with people.
How do I deal with this? Is it obligatory to make small talk with your colleagues?
I would like to make it clear that I don't disrespect my colleagues. They have their own point of view. The conflict arises when they go out of their way to advice me to change myself. And I'm wondering if there is any substance in their claims.
Believe me, I would sincerely ask each member of my team about their weekends, but it just doesn't come naturally to me. And I choose to keep quiet over feigning it.
IMPORTANT EDIT : I have read a lot of your answers & comments. The general opinion seems to be that it is impolite & downright disrespectful to not greet your colleagues. I realise now that I need to provide a bit more context. I'm actually sorry I didn't add this earlier. I should have, in the original post.
For the better part of the last decade, I've been pretty much a nihilist. The reason for this has to do with my history and the way I've been brought up. I come from a dysfunctional family. An abusive father, emotionally weak mother (I still love her). A sibling from whom I've endured nothing but scorn my entire life. I know this is not a psychology or personal relations forum. So I'll leave it at that. The point I'm trying to make is that I never understood any benefits of casual conversations with people. I've heard people mock me behind my back about my quietness. That did little to improve the situation. In fact, I've come to believe that small talk is ultimately meaningless. What does it matter to me how my colleagues' vacation to Havaii was? I hope it was enjoyable to him, for I respect him in my heart as a fellow human being, but I'm gaining nothing of import by spending 5 minutes of my time in asking him about it. I'd rather read couple of pages of a good book. I know this perspective will seem horrible to most people.
In the end I just want to say, I thank each one of you for your valuable suggestions. I will certainly try harder to be more forthcoming at the workplace. Cheers!