I know I’m not alone when I say I feel socially awkward. I should be well past this stage, but I look around and as we grow older, do we ever really change inside at our core?
I’m not the person wearing a Hawaiian print mumu to a black-tie dinner or a formal dress to a dive bar. I don’t wear rollers in my hair to the grocery store with my housedress in my underwear mumbling to myself about the ridiculously high price of canned meat. But, I am far more articulate and comfortable “interacting” with people from the safety of my computer than I am one-on-one.
When “my generation” and the previous ones were growing up, we were forced to interact, we had to do so face-to-face with real people. Or we used the phone (without knowing who was calling). There was no email, snapchat, texting. If we wanted to have friends or talk to someone, we had to interact with a warm body in one way or another. None of this cold, impersonal behavior where we didn’t even open our mouths.
(Yes, I know I sound like our grandparents and I’m okay with that.)
I have always been one to “circle the wagons around myself” for protection when I’m going through something uncomfortable or difficult. I close myself off. It’s so much easier now to close myself off, yet not be a complete Unibomber hermit. (NOT that I am here writing a manifesto.) I can sit in the comfort of my own home, rock in the corner while the air depletes under the bell jar and still make it seem like I’m a perfectly social person.
Yet, put me in a group of people in a business networking situation. Panic hits. I will cling like a poly dress to pantyhose to whomever I know best. Bars are awful. I will find a comfy seat near my friends and stay there.
The wonderful creation of social media (to which I am addicted) has allowed me a social life from the comfort of my own home. I can sit on my couch, eating ice cream and have hilarious “conversations” in real time wearing track pants and t-shirts. I don’t even have to leave my house. How fantastic! And how terribly lonely.
As an intellectual, I can lose hours looking at various things on the internet and learning about things for which I truly have no use (unless I find myself in a conversation about the Franciscan ministry tomorrow, for example). But truly, this is only making me more socially awkward.
Now, I know I’m more social than I’m making myself seem, but don’t you wonder who you are actually talking to on the other end of the conversation? What are they doing? What are they wearing? Anyone can be whomever they want when you can’t actually see them or hear their voice. If you actually ever meet that person will you have anything to talk about? Or will there be terrible moments of awkward silence when you wish you could have a computer between you with which to communicate?