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My Antisocial Network

Carl Thress | Sunday, May 08, 2016

I lack social skills. Growing up, I was awkwardly shy. I still am. I’ve always felt much more comfortable writing than speaking. I hate talking on the phone. I’m dreadful at small talk. I’m scared to open up to people. I almost lost my wife just a couple months into dating her for that very reason. It was only thanks to a Christmas break, a very good friend, a tape recorder, and Billy Joel that I was able to finally open up — at least a bit — and let her in.

So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, thanks to computers, I have found a much more comfortable way to interact. But while that has its benefits, it also has its own pitfalls and perils. Primary among those is a false sense of security.

Online, I tend to let my guard down in ways I never would in person. I engage in debates over things I would never discuss face to face. I write things I never would say. I let anger and the heat of the moment get to me. I lash out. I piss people off. I hurt others. And none of that is okay.

Like I said before, I lack social skills. The online world has only amplified those shortcomings and made them more abundantly clear.

So what, if anything, am I planning to do about this? For starters, I’m taking a self-imposed hiatus from posting to Facebook. I’ll still like and comment on people’s personal posts. Just nothing political or controversial.

Facebook is where I do my online socializing, and it’s where I get myself in trouble. Instead of spending time on Facebook, I’ll be reading and writing more. These are both things I should be doing anyway.

When I do go online, I will severely limit my time reading political posts and will try to refrain from reposting things that make me mad. In the past, I’ve occasionally used the “only me” audience setting for those kinds of posts. I’ll try doing that again with more frequency this time.

I will also make a conscious effort to refrain from writing anything online that I wouldn’t say face to face — and from liking comments that attack other people or worldviews that differ from my own. If I wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, I shouldn’t “say” it to them through an on-screen keyboard either. It’s rude and disingenuous — and far too easy to start doing, when you don’t have to look a person in the eye.

I like to end my posts with some kind of lesson or takeaway. This post is different. There is no quick answer or eloquent anecdote. It’s more like cutting open a vein and bleeding onto the page, hoping to remove a poison that’s been eating away at my conscience and destroying relationships in my life.

Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar...

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