Author: Ashly Burch
I am awkward. I accept this as a consistent aspect of my personality. It has followed me these 18 years through highs and lows, loves and losses as a constant facet of my character. You may find me half-heartedly bouncing my head at a local concert, averting your gaze in the hallway, or tripping on the “watch your step” staircase leading up past Sycamore Glen. Suffice it to say, I have mastered the art of self-consciousness.
Being the awkward person that I am, I have the tendency to be overly-analytical about social interactions. Although this is unfortunate for me, my somewhat crazed nature puts me in a unique position: I can sniff out the sources of awkwardness. It is with that in mind that I wish to caution our technologically savvy generation with what I feel is an increasing trend toward weird social interaction – the prevalence of Internet bonding.
I’ve had this conversation with several peers on more than one occasion, which is why I feel it warrants discussion. It seems that a new form of leisure for our age group is what might be deemed “Facebook stalking” – finding people on Facebook and learning things about them that you would otherwise need to discover through actual conversation. This can be a harmless pursuit, but it walks a very fine line between curiosity and creepiness.
Say you see a cute guy at a party, and you somehow find out his name and look him up on Facebook. If you ever actually converse with said cute guy, how easy will it be for you to feign complete ignorance about him when in reality you know his relationship status, political and religious affiliations, favorite bands and the fact that he frequently posts on the Oxy Yoga Club group? And what if, God forbid, you let something slip? Accidentally mentioning that you know that his favorite movie is The Big Lebowski before he tells you that his favorite movie is The Big Lebowski is an immediate red flag. Describing this scenario as awkward does not even scratch the surface.
Taking this beyond the world of Facebook, awkwardness still exists through Internet interaction. Say, for example, you’re one of the three people in the world that still use AIM. For ease of explanation, we’ll stick with the romantic context. You secure your crush’s screen name and the two of you end up having an incredible conversation. You talk about everything from ice cream to Stalin. You laugh, she laughs, everything is great. Except you’ve never spoken more than two words to her in person before. What do you do when you see her the next day? Do you approach her? Does an in-depth conversation in an impersonal medium translate into immediate, face-to-face interaction? Or is something lost in between? Working the kinks out of this awkward transition is almost comparable to an embarrassing, drunken hook-up – you’re not entirely sure where you stand the next day.
This isn’t to say that the Internet isn’t a great way to get to know and interact with people. Facebook allows me to keep in touch with friends from back home with greater ease than any other form of communication. Even Internet dating is becoming increasingly more common. But everyone, especially those of our age bracket, need to recognize the flaws in using the medium as a means of building relationships.
The concept of communicating over the Internet is still somewhat in its infancy, and, like an awkward teenager, is trying to find its footing. Facebook could probably stand to not tell us every move our friends make, and we could probably commit to making more of an effort to learn things about our friends from our friends – not their profile pages.
Ashly Burch is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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