Monday, August 24, 2015

Awkward: Looking, Liking, and Lurking

The reality of our world today is that we live our lives online. Even the most conservative social media users still have an internet trail of some form or another. It’s almost an expectation that once you have someone’s first and last name you Google them to learn more. If it seems you’re likely to be connected in any way, then you usually connect on social media. The thing about social media is that it satisfies exhibitionist and voyeuristic needs. People like to share and over share. People also like to passively observe and people watch. Admittedly, if we’re honest we’ve been in both camps. So what do you do if you realize that you’re the creeper?

If you’re anything like me, then on a bored weekend night with nothing to do you surf. You frequent the same pages of people you follow. Perhaps it’s your hair crush and you follow for styling ideas. Maybe it’s that hot, fit friend who posts crazy workouts of the day. Maybe one day you'll be able to deadlift that much and do walking handstands. Maybe you follow someone you have feelings for and even though you notice and want to like everything they post within minutes of them posting it, you hold back to not not seem like you stalk their page 24/7. Meanwhile, you read each and every comment from their friends, visit their pages, and inadvertently gather personal information about their best friend’s partner’s cousin.

After an hour or so of mindlessly wandering from page to page, it dawns on you, can anyone see me? Is this one of those intrusive sites that obnoxiously informs the person who’s viewed their page, screenshot their posts, or how frequently they visit? If so, I need the earth to just open wide for me right now and swallow me whole because I’d be mortified. Can’t anyone lurk in blissful anonymity anymore?

If you’ve been there (and I think many of us have), then how do you handle it? I think it’s just important to remember that social media is made for engagement and ideally serves as an icebreaker for real life interaction. Therefore, don’t be afraid to interact with people. Don’t hesitate to like and comment on posts. Tell people how attractive their selfies are or how impressive their work out of the day is, or how you really appreciated the honesty of their caption. Jokingly but candidly share how much you admire them and have a big crush on them. If it’s delivered the right way, most people will be flattered. Authenticity has a powerful way of diffusing social awkwardness. Bottom line, don’t hide in the shadows and lurk. That’s weird and only fuels feelings of shame and isolation. Engage and relate. After all, isn’t that why you connected in the first place? Next, we will conclude the series with Awkward: Making Friends. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Awkward: Friend Requests

I avoided Facebook for the first ten years or so of its existence. I was wary of the idea of being connected to everyone I had ever known. I still am. Nevertheless, it’s been about a 1 ½ years since I’ve joined and I’m still navigating the awkward world of Facebook. There’s a lot of good to it. It’s great for networking and collaborating. But the other side is people who aren’t really close to you have a portal to your personal life. That seems to be especially true if you are visible or have any sort of professional or ministry platform. Then, even more people want to be connected to you. Therefore, here are some tips I was given that might help you to navigate the awkward world of friend requests.

As uncomfortable as it might be, you are always free to ignore or not accept a request. My personal rule is that if I don’t immediately know who you are or if I have to click on your image and see who we have in common, chances are I don’t really know you. So, as much as I don’t want people to feel rejected, I also don’t want a bunch of people creeping on my page that aren’t really a part of my life.
Let’s say you are somewhat acquainted. What if you have 40 mutual friends and chances are you’ll bump into this person? Then, if it would create more awkwardness to ignore their friend request, it might be best to go ahead and accept them. But what you can do is create different lists. Create an acquaintance list, family list, business contacts list, friends list, close friends list, etc. If you take the time to put people in categories on social media just as you would in real life, then you can eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of your distant church member seeing vacation pictures, or your friend’s mom seeing your silly post about that bad date.
Another option is to periodically clear out your contacts. Do you ever go through your phone and delete contacts that you never use? Do the same with Facebook. If it’s been six months and you haven’t interacted with this person at all…if they don’t like your posts and you don’t comment on theirs…if there’s been no interaction since the initial acceptance…if you’ve never had an actual conversation with this person or if their posts upset you… if you believe perhaps you’ve been blocked or deleted or if they inactivate their account, then go ahead and delete them. It’s not necessarily personal. It’s not about being mad at them or not liking them. It’s just about managing the connections that come into your life in a healthy way. If you don’t have a goal of collecting thousands of “friends,” then be strategic about who you allow to attach you. Don’t you do that in real life?

Admittedly, all of this is easier said than done. It can be very uncomfortable to interact online. If you delete someone on one site, but they follow you on another, that can get weird. If you send a request and someone ignores it that can be awkward. If you didn’t anticipate seeing someone in person and then you do, then that might be uncomfortable once again. But hey, it is what it is. Being protective of your social and emotional life doesn’t make you mean. It makes you wise. However, there’s always another side to things. So next up, we’ll talk about when you’re the creeper in Awkward: Looking, Liking, and Lurking.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Awkward: Texting

It's been said, "Texting is the best way to miscommunicate how you feel, and misinterpret what other people mean." Be that as it may, texting for many is the primary and preferred method of communication. People text everyone from best friends to relatives to casual acquaintances. It's become the norm and with it has come potential awkwardness.

It's happened to all of us. You send a text and get no reply. It isn't urgent, of course, but you say something witty or even propose to hang out and it's nothing but crickets. You give it several hours. People are busy. Maybe it’s a network issue. Perhaps they have problems with their phone. It's certainly possible for people start to reply but then forget to press send. Right? But then 24 hours later, still no response. Did they not get your joke? Did you offend them? Should there have been an exclamation point instead of that period? Maybe you should’ve added an “LOL” or winking emoji to let them know you’re kidding. You get increasingly annoyed or anxious depending on what you wrote. Now, you have to decide your next move.

Generally, double texting or sending a text before someone responds to you is a social faux pas in this generation. It makes you seem desperate. You wonder if it’s okay to make an exception just in case they really didn’t get your text. You could be hurt for no reason. Isn’t it better to confirm that they’re a flake before writing them off completely? You also don’t want to seem over eager by doing too much. What is one to do?

It’s useful to realize that texting offers a glimpse into your feelings about the relationship. I know that when I text my family or my closest friends and they don’t respond, I typically don’t worry too much. I don’t over think the silence. I don’t assume the worst. I figure they’ll get back to me when they can. I might jokingly give them a hard time when we do connect, but it’s usually in good fun and I definitely don’t obsess about their non-response. But if I’m already a little anxious and insecure in the relationship, if it’s a newer friend or someone I want to impress, I’m much more in my head about the social interaction. I’m definitely more apt to read into what they say and what they don’t. But that’s not really fair. Doesn’t everyone deserve the benefit of a doubt? Can’t they be excused for being busy or absent minded or even a little self-focused sometimes? I say yes because we all are at times. So, just relax and breathe easy. Everything you need to know about that person will unfold in time and offline. Up next…Awkward: Friend Requests.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Periodically I’ll get midday calls or texts from my friend who lives in L.A. In her typical storytelling fashion, she’ll set up an entire scenario where she’s crossing a busy intersection full of people and she’ll suddenly trip for no reason. She’ll add a sound effect to her stumble and highlight how everyone saw because it was at a stoplight. I always ask her, “So, your face didn’t get hot and you didn’t feel totally embarrassed?” She’ll just respond, “No, not at all. It’s just kind of like. Oops. Dang, I tripped,” and she keeps on moving. She feels virtually no embarrassment at all about this. She just shares it with me because it makes for a laugh-out-loud story. This is a far cry from me who feels my face flush when I trip alone in my apartment. It made me think about the idea of awkward and embarrassing moments in our social lives how to navigate them.

While I think there are many people out there in the world just like my friend who can laugh at themselves and not take things to heart, there are just as many of us who die a little on the inside anytime there’s the hint of humiliation. Perhaps we tend toward social anxiety. Maybe we just want to be liked more than the average person. Whatever the reasons, I find myself awkwardly stumbling through at times as I attempt to make new friends and deepen connections with acquaintances. Therefore, I thought it was time for a series on the embarrassing highs and lows of social interaction. My hope is that by the end maybe we can all learn to go easy on ourselves. If not, maybe at the very least, we can normalize how weird it is for most of us and learn some strategies for dealing when things get awkward. Stay tuned for the next installment of Awkward: Texting.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I didn't want to share

It dawned on me that I haven’t posted in two weeks. I drafted a couple of different ideas, but I just wasn’t feeling them. They either weren’t fully developed or I just didn’t think they were worthy of posting. They were safe topics. I have no problem discussing the life lessons from my random Monday road trip. I can weave all kinds of connections between counseling, fitness, and this walk called life. But please God, nothing that requires actual disclosure or vulnerability.

I started thinking about my blog silence and what was really going into it. Sure, at times, life gets busy or you simply hit creative blocks. But that wasn’t what was happening. The last two weeks have been emotionally challenging, so I hid. I didn’t want to share that as soon as I posted on the courage to go solo I fell into hopelessness, wondering if I would always be alone. I didn’t want to share that each time that question emerges I’m taken right back to the pain of my relationship loss. I didn’t want to share that even though it’s been over three years and I “should” be over it, it still makes me cry…weep…especially when love hasn’t come back into my life yet. I didn’t want to share the irony of married clients seeking my help because I’ve never been married and at times wonder if I ever will be. I didn’t want to share that when single clients come I can reflect their pain perfectly because it’s something I carry on a daily basis. I didn’t want to share all the many times I was tempted to make foolish decisions despite knowing better, all because I wasn’t sure doing things “the right way” was getting me anywhere.
No, all of that is far too personal. I didn’t want to share any of that. Instead, I kept silent. The proverbial pen stopped moving and I went inside myself waiting for cheerier inspiration to hit me. But then I thought what if all the writers that I’ve come to love did that. What if Elizabeth Gilbert and Mandy Hale and Brene’ Brown stopped writing and sharing when their lives got complicated or their heart was hurting? Where would I be if they hadn’t taken the bold steps to be transparent? If they hadn’t shared their process, I wouldn’t be able to normalize mine. So, that’s what I hope to give you in some small way. As I share parts of my story, I hope you can see yours and be encouraged that however it unfolds, you’re not alone.