LinkedIn Connection Accidentally Becomes In-person Connection…Almost.
I could talk to a wall. I probably have. And likely not under the influence.
It’s part of my “most-excitable-person-you’re-likely-to-meet” charm. Former roommates will recall my nauseatingly chipper early morning greetings.
Me: “Hi.” (approaching frequency range exclusive to dogs)
Me: “How are you?” (smiles wide-eyed and earnestly)
Roommate: “Fine.” (averts eyes)
Me: “Big day?”
Roommate: “I don’t know.” (contemplates face punch)
After briefly humoring my questions, we get on with our respective days.
“Strangers are just friends I haven’t yet met.” – me (literary brag but I probs plagiarized someone)
I’ve said this countless times. And it’s been true for 37 years.
Until this past Tuesday.
There I was, diligently taking notes at a digital health conference when a tall man with smart glasses sat two chairs away from me. I just missed making eye contact with him but caught his general likeness and thought to myself: “He looks familiar.” One chin scratch later, I placed him: "We’re connected on LinkedIn. But we’ve never met in person."
This man was an anomaly. I don’t accept LinkedIn invitations from people I’ve never met (unless they email with a reason).
I can’t recall why but he’d slipped through my digital fortress a couple years ago. Which I suppose is now more of a patio since I have a blog. (Where’s the grill?)
I spent the next few minutes half-focused on the speaker, half-contemplating how to bridge the digital divide (which is usually a 10-second conversation with myself).
Me 1: "What’s his name again?"
Me 2: "Tim."
Me 1: "Why’d we connect in the first place?"
Me 2: "Who knows? You probably thought he was attractive."
Me 1: "Will he recognize me?"
Me 2: "Duh, no. You pick only the photos with the best angles to use online."
Me 1: "Would he even care to meet me?"
Me 2: "Only one way to find out."
Me 1: "Why is my self-talk laced with doubt?"
Me 2: "Good point. Also: get over yourself."
The speaker finished and I looked over to find him in conversation with colleagues. Instead of waiting to introduce myself, I bolted to the next session. But I kept seeing him from afar throughout the day (you know how it is). And then—like climate change, the crack-baring effects of low-rise jeans, and Bill Cosby’s legacy—it felt past the point of no return.
Self-muzzling is a new (and not necessarily bad) concept for me. But I wondered why I didn’t just approach him with my time-tested Goof-meets-Aplomb™ method.
Are social media and technology making me (us) socially awkward? What have I (we) wrought?
Because I care, I’m sharing the quick and dirty on the research: emoji cannot save us from the benefits of practicing in-person social-emotional learning.
When virtual reality clouds my judgment of in-person reality, I know it’s time to just acknowledge the potential awkwardness and politely introduce myself. On the bright side: I'll always have that wall.