I recently attended SMCSYD and prior to that I have attended several other “social media” orientated conferences and functions and the one thing I am always blown away by is the amount of people who are heavy social network users that are completely and utterly useless in real life social interactions. At first this always surprises me and I am a little shocked at how it is possible that people who are so good at interacting online can be so bad at interacting in the real world. Then it hits me, the reason these kids are so excellent at interacting online is because that is where they have always spent all their time and while communicating behind a screen they are given a long list of benefits one doesn’t get when in a face to face conversation.
1) Time – When you’re behind a screen you have much more time to think about things to say and if you don’t have anything of value to contribute it is easy to leave.
2) Contact – In the real world physical contact plays a major role in how we communicate, a handshake hello, a gentle brush of the hand when flirting, these are all familiar to people who have always been active in the real world but for people whose primary contact is online these norms may not be so comfortable. Which leads to…
3) Body language – I personally believe this to be the most important of the traits that influences this social awkwardness. Eye contact, facial gestures, the movement and positioning of the arms and torso, these all have a major impact on how we connect with people.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that if I am in a bad mood, or have had a shit day I’m not the most friendly of folk, but I will still make eye contact when talking to a person, shake their hand when I meet them and smile at their jokes (though I am guilty of crossing my arms when annoyed).
With that said its not all bad, I have also met loads friendly and fun people, many of whom I now catch up with regularly for coffee and booze (not at the same time, I’m a drunk but I’m not that bad).
How have your experiences been?
Have you experienced this socially awkward situation?