Putting the social in media
Or how twitter solved my social anxiety issues
Article: Jessica Bickford – Contributor
There was a time not too long ago that the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and knowing that I would have to interact with them filled me with the kind of dread usually reserved for basements when the power is out. I was petrified, frightened, nervous, and, frankly, sweaty about social interactions in which I was decidedly not the one in control. I’m sure many of you recognize this as a form of social anxiety, or as I refer to it, immense crippling shyness coupled ever-so-pleasantly with unresolved self-esteem issues.
But, I’m sure many of you also know that to get anywhere in this world, at some point, you are going to have to talk to, maybe even make a good impression on others. I mean in person. Face to face. A handshake might even be involved. If I could live my life entirely behind a screen, I’m fairly sure I would be happy and well-adjusted, but that is just not the way things work.
So, I dealt with it by joining Twitter. Not only joining but actively participating, sharing content, talking about my interests, linking to articles I liked, and joining in conversations. I worked at it and forged online connections with local people, and then I went to my first YQR tweetup (an in-person meetup of local Twitter users).
Your first tweetup will be exactly that horrifying situation of a big room full of strangers, with one notable difference: you have talked to some of these people before. You’ll put on your nametag with your Twitter handle and people will squint at your terrible handwriting before going, “Oh! It’s you!” with a thrill of recognition and suddenly you won’t be quite as nauseated about this whole situation. Some of these people already know your shameful secrets about eating nachos at 2am, and that you really are the world’s biggest nerd, and they are still happy to meet you.
You can also take comfort in the fact that many, certainly not all, but many other Twitter users possibly feel as socially awkward in person as you, and they’re making an effort too. You will make small talk, you will shake hands, it will be hard and sometimes you’ll stare at your shoes for a bit too long and make everyone slightly uncomfortable. This is okay, you’re trying, and soon, soon you’ll be having an animated conversation with a stranger about why Donna was clearly the best Doctor Who companion, like, ever, and you’ll forget to be awkward.
Twitter was a bit of a saviour for me. It helped me gain a lot of self-confidence and through the tweetups, a lot of practice meeting strangers and holding conversations. Unfortunately, if you want to get good at making first impressions, you have to practice and work at actually making first impressions. Do I still have anxiety? Absolutely! Do other people realize it now? Hell no. They think I’m a confident young woman who is utterly sure of herself, and I plan to keep it that way.