Breaking the Ice
I’m suddenly one of those not-so-mysterious transfer students in school now. With new students come new relationships, but you can’t be friends with somebody you don’t know. So, the school organizes mandatory social welcoming events.
Think back to the first day of high school. You might’ve known a dozen people from your elementary if you came to high school together. You might’ve known nobody if you were attending a special program. Regardless, there are new people to meet, and the duration of September seemed like the essence of awkwardness.
But was it really?
I shrug these icebreaking events off as cheesy and forced. We spent full yesterday outside meeting new people (it should’ve been a three-day camp, but in today’s economy…), and I was unimpressed at first. Arriving at school forty minutes early to… play a game of chain tag? Run around poking people’s backs? I didn’t know anyone, and was loathe to link faces to names – it took me fifteen months to memorize az’s full name, and after five years, I still don’t know hourai’s.
Yet, at the end, it somehow worked out. Despite forgetting names, I knew they were friendly. Comrades, if you will, comrades in the fight towards university. The awkwardness was dispelled not by the activities’ amusement, but by the activities’ stupidity and our shared contempt of those puerile events. By late afternoon, we were united not by fun, but by groans of disdain. A collective dejected sigh was unceasing during the events.
What about you guys? How do you break the ice with others? Do you go straight up handshake-style and introduce yourself to random strangers in the halls? Do you sit back and wait for people to talk to you (hah, not likely)? Do you just only hang out with people you already know?
The difference between real life introductions and Internet introductions is also interesting, although similarities exist, such as my shouting in all caps and being extremely obnoxious. What do you guys think of that (of the difference, not of my obnoxiousness)?
I guess I’ll bite.
I’d say what makes internet communication so open is the strange level of anonymity and leisure which cannot be found anywhere else. While we may often think of these as a negative, there’s a sort of magic in casually interacting with a person you cannot see or even hear, whether it be through letters, Twitter, or my anonymous group sex orgies. While I see a person who I don’t know, I always pass them a simple “hi,” or “good morning/afternoon,” but I hardly ever stop and start a lengthy conversation with them because I’m always on the go, seeking to do more, some of which’s necessary. It’s harder to find the time to interact, especially when modern day life is built on speed, not leisure.
Though I always prefer physical and vocal communication between friends, teachers, and family since it’s far more expressive than over the internet, I’m more defensive when it comes to meeting strangers because there’s always that fear in being evaluated poorly (although I’ve lately learned to enjoy being judged). by another individual who knows your face, your name, and your personality, all three of which are important to one’s identity (from least significant to most). Although the body is a powerful tool in communication, with the most notable appendages being the eyes, hands, mouth, and the face, nothing is more powerful than dialogue itself. And the internet is just that.
In distance and anonymity there exists proximity.
Since this is running long, I’ll just wrap this up with some of my faux-philosophical bullshit. Rarely ever have I regretted accommodating others, but often I have I regretted refusing to reach out and interact with someone. Hell, not once have I ever seen such “defensiveness” inspire respect in the eyes of others. It’s always outreaching to others and understanding, not attacking and viciously ripping others apart (don’t worry, being obnoxious and typing in all caps aren’t the same thing), which brings respect and good relationships. In martial arts, victory is hardly ever achieved without the use of a backwards step; in the arts of communicating, this equals accommodation. As the Chinese book of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching states, “yielding is the way.”
If working with the homeless a year back has taught me anything, it’s that a lukewarm encounter can be a wonderful thing. Share your words with friends.
2012/09/12 at 02:42
I think there is something special about doing stupid terrible things that are forced. Nothing quite brings people together like a common enemy, even when the common enemy is something like being forced to perform silly actions in some boring game. The real question for me is: do the teachers/event holders actually realize this (evil genius)? Or do they actually think they are creating fun (old fogies)?
2012/09/12 at 04:14
Jeez, your comment is like an entire post, complete with those maxim-things that people always use to break lines with :P
Right, a part of Internet communication (specifically twitter) is that you can go back and read people at your leisure, and words are never jumbled up. Furthermore, you can participate in many discussions concurrently, and still be aware of other interesting things. A twitter equivalent of real-life would be pretty shitty, really.
Dialogue on its own is certainly… different from body communication. I guess it helps with the whole don’t judge a book by its cover thing, but many things are lost too (except for sarcasm, everybody knows sarcasm when they see it).
Finally, yeah, reaching out is definitely a positive trait… that I don’t have. I’ll ‘work hard’ to try to reach out more, though… probably not gonna be successful…
2012/09/12 at 06:06
I’m pretty sure they realize this, if the groans were any indication. Then again, maybe they’ve become desensitized to them from repeated experiences and it gets drowned out as pink noise?
2012/09/12 at 06:08
White noise, I think you mean. Unless of course you are just saying they are evil sadists, and your groans reach their ears as a nice pure sound.
2012/09/13 at 01:19
White noise is pretty hard to filter out :z
2012/09/13 at 03:54
Reaching out is hard at first, but you get used to it surprisingly quickly. Don’t even think about it – just a “hi” will suffice. Even the biggest oaks used to be small seeds right?
Regardless, I would love Twitter in real life just to be a dick to everyone, for shits and giggles. Yelling at random people on the street about how fucking awesome axolotls are or how great my shitty lunch is would be pretty damn great.
2012/09/13 at 06:59
I’d rather keep to myself in almost all circumstances, but as I get older and grow more mature (I hope), I try to push myself out of my comfort zone on almost any occasion, especially those where I get to meet new people. But I think it really depends on the situation – I still isolate myself when I’m in line at a store, or on an airplane, or in other situations where I’m not likely to make an important connection. At work or at a seminar or at church, I’ll seek out people and introduce myself and chat.
2012/09/13 at 13:24
The great thing about Twitter is when you do that, people don’t think you’re a dick… I hope :z
2012/09/14 at 00:01
Yeah, maybe that’s something I’m missing. I hardly ever try to go outside my comfort zone, and so everything is awkward around me. Like you said, it depends on the situation too!
2012/09/14 at 00:02
Noise-cancelling headphones called. They beg to differ. They also want your spare change.
2012/09/15 at 03:49
I mean it’s easy to ignore pink noise, but it’s much harder to ignore white noise, so when they ignore our wails of anguish, it’s because they’re treating the wails as pink noise (easy to ignore) and not white noise (hard to ignore).
2012/09/15 at 04:53
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I”m the type who waits for people to talk to me and only hangs out with the people I already know. However, my job as a peer tutor has made that not an issue. The people I tutor are, no duh, other students at the college. We see each other in the hallways all the time. By mere virtue of having been in proximity with them, not a day goes by that I don’t see someone (who’s not in my classes) that I know walking in the halls. The ice is already broken, because we know each other from when I helped them, and while we may not be outright friends, there’s no awkwardness. Of course, as far breaking the ice with them when they first walk into the tutoring center goes, that’s a whole other story, but there are numerous extenuating circumstances due to the environment we’re meeting in.
As for online. . .to break the ice, I step on it. If I decide there are sharks under the ice, I back off, and otherwise I come back and step on it again until it breaks. It took me something like 3 months to come back and start reading O-NEW regularly after I first found it, 4 or 5 months before I felt comfortable (at home, sort of?) commenting, 7 or so months before I started following you on Twitter? It’s a slow process (didn’t help that my initial impression of you was somehow that you were a 19 year old college student who was a total troll – don’t worry, such false beliefs have since been quelled), but one that lets me expand my comfort zone easily. If I’ve learned one thing about the blogosphere, it’s that there are a ton of great people here, and so I like to go out and find them, even if I do it slowly.
Offline, I have the luck of having already broken the ice, and online, I have the opportunity to take things at my own crawling pace. In both of these cases, however, I found that all it really takes for me to get “comfortable” around someone is proximity and time. The more time you spend near them, and how near to them you are, affects how easy it is to just start a conversation with them. For instance, last semester, there was this one guy who sat next to me in class. We spoke probably fewer than 15 words to each other over the course of the whole 15 weeks. But simply because we were sitting next to each other for one semester, whenever we see each other at school we can always say hi and talk without a shred of awkwardness. It’s weird, but true. I still can’t remember his name, but I know, more or less, who he is and what he’s like. Once you get a handle on someone’s presence, actually starting a dialogue is easy (I think it’s true of most people that they’re looking, or at least open, to new connections, so people tend to be pretty open to it. . .).
2012/10/16 at 13:11
Yeah, I see people I know in the halls literally all the time (although high schools are a bit different from colleges). Maybe it’d be better if I actually said hi to people, or something.
It’s funny; if your online behaviour is stepping on the ice, then my behaviour must be like cannonballing into it from a 100m-tall diving board. I think I first got redball involved in O-New when I plaintively begged for a new aniblog tourney banner, and to spite my whining, he came up with… an abomination not to be mentioned.
Perhaps you’re right about being comfortable with people. Somewhat related: I always find myself uncomfortable when I initiate conversations with people I’m not (surprise!) comfortable with, but when they initiate conversations with me, I don’t mind too much.
P.S. Thinking back… hmm, I don’t actually know the name of the guy sitting next to me in strings class…
2012/10/17 at 01:55