It’s usually this week between Christmas and New Year when people like to take stock of the year that is ending. I’ll use the occasion to do that. Only with a twist.
I started out the year fighting my own social anxiety. I’ve actually been actively fighting it for several years. But, it’s only been over the last two years, that I’ve actually discovered a light at the end of the tunnel. In January, the light was still very small. But now, in December, the light has gotten brighter. I still have a long way to go. And I doubt I’ll ever be truly comfortable in social situations. But, I never want to go back to where I was. Lonely and suicidal.
The internet has always been a great communication tool. In the old days, it was email and instant messaging that let everyone communicate both easily and on the cheap. No stamps or toll charges necessary. No wonder I gravitated toward it. No, doing it on the cheap isn’t why I was drawn to it. I was drawn to it, because I wanted to communicate with people. I just found it impossible to do so in the “real” world.
It wasn’t until I was 30 years old, mired in a break up with my now ex-girlfriend, did I discover the term social anxiety. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t even say a word in a social situation until I knew I was comfortable with everyone around me. Once I was comfortable and knew that no one would hurt me, I would open up like no other. You couldn’t shut me up. Until that happened, I was a nervous wreck. I even remember thinking in high school, that I might be crazy. It didn’t appear that anyone else was having such a hard time.
For a short period of time in junior high, I had to ride the school bus. One day, just before the bus reached my stop, it was involved in a fender bender. I don’t remember if it was rear ended. Or if it rear ended some one else. Never the less, each student had to speak with a paramedic before we were allowed to continue. I was sitting in the back of the bus. I remember the female paramedic asking me if I was alright. Over her shoulder, I could see many of my fellow classmates looking at me impatiently. I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. The paramedic, asked me again. Only this time, adding “Did you hit your head?” I didn’t hit my head. I was alright. It took all of my energy to get the words “I’m ok.” out of my mouth.
It was shortly after seeing a couples counselor, did I find out that this was all just a chemical problem in my mind. It took some time, but I finally found the right drug that helps both my social anxiety and depression. Zoloft.
I’m still awkward in social situations. But, I don’t fear them like I used to. Some of the help has come from medication and counseling. But, some of it has also come from the internet. You see, the internet has changed. Sure, you still have email and instant messaging. But, you also have this other thing called the social web. Websites like Twitter & Facebook come to mind. Twitter, in particular is the place I’ve found many friends. It’s dead simple. You get 140 characters to write something down. Whatever it is. I’ve been on the site since early 2008. Shortly after the @ symbol was made official. It was something that the community started so that people could talk back and forth with each other. It made the service social.
I’ve made many “friends” with twitter. Mostly local. But, some not. There are two women in Nottingham, England for example, who I might never meet face to face. But, it’s fun saying good morning to @libmil when I’m up late at night here in Colorado. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to take meeting people a step further. Some time back, twitter instituted lists. I created two lists. One is called “People I’d like to meet”. and the other is “Twitter peeps I’ve met”. When I meet someone, I move them from one list to the other. It’s been great going to things like Ignite Boulder with the goal of meeting just one new person. It makes me feel good just knowing that I accomplished something.
Here’s a very short list of people I’ve met thanks to Twitter:
@Tekee (Met at Ignite Boulder)
@tcabeen (Met At Ignite Boulder. Friendship almost lost before it began. He’s a Michael Jackson fan. I am not. 🙂
@SpacePirateRil (She and other online friends taught me how to play poker)
@Sprouticus (I finally met Lesley when I asked her to go out for a bike ride. She lives near me. We are both bike riders)
@Penguin (Jeremy helped me track down my stolen iPhone. I made it a special mission to shake his hand at an Ignite a couple of days later)
@Melsidwell (Ted @Tekee introduced us. I later found out, via Facebook, that she’s related to my mom’s second husband’s family)
@JennyJenJen (She gave me a tour of the CU Boulder campus. Although she has moved to San Diego, we still talk regularly over IM)
@Pugofwar (I gave Ef an old Macbook battery I had in exchange for lunch. I found out later it didn’t work for him. I owe him lunch)
And another very short list of people I hope to meet in the new year:
@jmesa (A very hippie chick. I love her style of eyewear and her love of baseball)
@Karoli (Although, we differ politically, I think she’s a great woman. Perhaps we’ll meet when I travel back to SoCal)
@AndrewHyde (May take awhile to meet Andrew. He’s on an around the world trip. I should have shook his hand when he organized Ignite Boulder)
@GreebleMonkey (Another Ignite alum. I want to pick her brain about photography)
@Bugfrog (Husband to @greeblemonkey and from his tweets, seems like a very cool guy)
@gpelz (A Denver local. I’d love to meet her over lunch. Or maybe we’ll meet at Ignite. I think she runs the @IgniteBoulder twitter account)
@KiltedAlex (A long time Twitter friend. We should have met when I was house sitting in Lonetree. One day, we’ll have to sit down with some beers)
@SecretAgentJo (It wasn’t until I found her on Twitter, that I found out she graduated from the same high school as me. Only a year ahead. I’m planning a trip
back to Socal for this summer. She’s high on my list to meet)
@hlane (Another liberal. But, sounds like a great woman to hang out with)
@LarkinBC (He found me in front of the last Ignite Boulder. He inspires me to approach life in new ways)
Others I’d like to meet if geography didn’t get in the way:
I look forward to the new year. If I only get to meet a fraction of these people, it will still be a great year.
Oh, if you feel I left you off my lists, I’m sorry. It was only because I didn’t want to make this the longest blog post in the history of mankind.