Faking It On Facebook

I am socially awkward.  Socially I’m somewhere between Rain Man and someone just a hair less socially awkward than Rain Man. Okay, I’m not actually that socially awkward – I mean, not in the way I come off to other people.  But most social situations for me are painful.  Sometimes people say, “How can you be a preacher and feel that way?”  The answer?  I read from a manuscript.  I write down every single word I’m going to say and by the time I say those words I have thought about them for days.  I have had plenty of time to make sure I won’t say anything stupid.  This means I only feel stupid about some of what I say instead of most of what I say.  It may not show, but if I bump into you on the street corner, or after church, and we’re doing the “small talk” thing, I’m sweating it out.

Terry Scott Taylor, a brilliant songwriter and lyricist, writes of all those times he lays in bed with what he should have said.

With what I should have said I would know in advance
I’m the master of banter the King of Romance
the guy in the center whose leading the dance,
not the kid in the corner with the big pair of pants
And now I’m in bed with what I should have said

Source: Terry Scott Taylor, With What I Should Have Said

This is why I dig blogging.  And Facebook.   And email.  They are writing mediums, and as such, I am easily able to fake it.  This new world that is increasingly connected by means of the written word – that world, dear reader, is my oyster.  I can be the guy who says clever things and knows what’s up.  I can be the one who writes about stuff like marriage and parenting and living in truth, and seem like I really have it together.  I get to live out this mythology of competence and expertise.  I can take on only those topics where I am confident I can look as good as I want to look.

What is real life?  In real life I’m the gomer who doesn’t really know how to talk to people about the weather, and sports, and the traffic on I-69 this morning, and how they’re doing in their jobs.  I’m the nutty professor – the guy who can think constantly about abstract and lofty concepts and dizzy you with words and ideas.  But I suck at small talk and everyday social life is, for me, constant second-guessing and embarrassment.  But there’s a bottom line here.  If I am going to convey to people that I care about them (which I do – very deeply), I simply must keep learning how to connect with them, even if I never become comfortable with much of what is required.  As much as I’d love to text message people I’m standing directly in front of, it’s probably not a strategy for healthy relationships.  Or for avoiding getting punched in the face.

So how do you compensate?  How do you set up your life so as to avoid discomfort?  How do you insulate yourself from your fear of looking or feeling stupid?  Is there a chance you need to expose yourself a little bit more often to the very things that scare you?  Remember that it’s okay to drift toward your “sweet spot,” but it’s important to move out of your comfort zone sometimes and engage other people in ways that matter to them. This will keep your relationships strong, and strong relationships make for a happy life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Janinne Garrett

    I found out some yrs ago that others were not wording and re-wording each sentence before they spoke it out loud. No wonder I couldn’t participate in conversations – by the time I figured out how to say what I wanted to say, the conversation had moved on. It was just too hard so I finally stopped trying altgether. I discoverd some years ago, as I got to know God better (or some would say – at all), that I put way to much importance on what other people thought of me. Thus part of my difficulty. For a very brief peiod, I overcame it (mostly) and felt so confident and good about myself. Brad and I went to a formal Army thing and I had a great time, a first at that kind of thing. I actually worked the room! It was awesome! Then we moved again (which always means church shopping) and I know that the problem was the distance that I let happen between God and I. And for a naturally shy person who is totally out of any comfort zone with any kind of person any break in that relationhip means right back to feeling less worthy and more shy. I have to keep reminding myself that God made me this way on purpose for a purpose. As hard as it is to be okay with that, if I could get okay with it – wow imagine how nice that would be! You do hide it really well Dave and as someone who’s known you for a really long time I’m impressed with your ability to keep it under wraps!

    • Great comments, Janinne. I have had moments also like the one you describe, where I seem to almost completely shed the introversion for a time. I am increasingly convinced that ultimate happiness for us in this life is found in resting in God. Not in going to church, reading our Bibles, attending a small group, or kicking our bad habits, but learning to rest in this immense, unfathomable, completely unconditional love. I was astonished last weekend when I read in Hebrews that there is a rest for the people of God, so let us make every effort to enter this rest. So the only efforts we need to be making are whatever efforts are required (and they can be considerable) to simply get quiet and learn to just BE. Sometimes the thought of breaking away from work to pray seems ridiculous and unbearable, but the thought of stopping my work to just sit and be quiet — that’s not half bad. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the person who cannot be happy alone will never be happy in community. Thanks again for your great thoughts that have stimulated my own thinking even more.

  • Bryan

    Great blog, Dave.

    I have been thinking about this for the past few days, and wonder if some of the “social awkwardness” that you (and I) experience could be generational. The “Generation X’ers” (or whatever we are referred to as now) are sort of a “bridge” generation, born into a more simpler analogue world and transitioning into the digital age we are currently in.

    In the 1970s we had two married parents at home, very few electronic gadgets, no helmets, no guns in school, no Ritalin, skinned knees from playing outdoors, and close relationships with our neighbors. We slowly watched all of this give way to divorce or 2 income households, microwaves, metal detectors at school, the internet, cell phones, GPS systems, satellite TV/radio, a 24 hours news cycle (in other words, a lot of opportunities for isolation and detachment).

    Most people older than us never embraced the digital age. Most people younger have no concept of (and therefore no longing for) our simple analogue existence. Caught in the middle, we embraced both worlds as best we could, but perhaps never found a real comfort zone. I have serious misgivings about a society where people will sit at a dinner table together yet carry on conversations or texting others on their cells, spend hours chatting with people around the world on the internet but do not know their neighbor’s kids names, or will spend hours gaming inside on a warm summer day. And yet I am guilty of all of the above!

    I think our generation is a mixture of all of the good and bad of the two, and it has lead to serious social awkwardness and anxiety in many.

    • Interesting ideas, Bryan. Maybe that’s it for some people. For me it’s just a shyness that has dogged me all my life. It springs directly from my temperament. It’s a pain, but the way I think and write spring from my temperament as well, so I guess I’ll take it. Again, thanks for your thoughts and for taking the time to comment.

  • Jack Conway

    Being in sales really inoculates me from that feeling of awkwardness around strangers, etc. But of course there are times where I don’t want to be around anyone. Having said that, I’ve found that I can seem very interesting to someone only when I’m interested in what they have to say. Dale Carnegie wrote the book on this stuff decades ago. Oh, the other thing that might help is I doubt anyone remembers what I said to them 30-60 minutes after I’ve made small talk with them…hopefully they just remember that I was polite and was engaged.

    • Totally nailed it with the Carnegie reference, Jack. That book and its principles will rule forever.

  • Erin

    When I saw the title of this blog I thought it might be about “the faking it on facebook” I always think of…are people as happy as they look in their pictures, feel loved by the people that stay “socially connected” and write on their walls, and read about everyone because they truly care? Or do they use facebook to merely feel important and reach out for some interaction because we all are hiding behind our keyboards? It’s good to know I am not the only one who fakes it on facebook.

    • I think the nature of us as people is that we’ll pretty much fake it wherever we are. We only come out when we are certain it is very safe to do so, and then cautiously, and for very short periods of time. We are elusive, like snipes. 🙂 Thank you for reading, Erin, but even more for commenting.