Over the years I have to come to accept the fact that I am sometimes lacking in the social grace department. In fact,I have to admit that socially I’m a bit of a geek. I really struggle at social gatherings. Sometimes I smile too much, or forget to blink, or go in for a hug realizing too late that a handshake was clearly what was expected. My conversations are often punctuated by uncomfortable silences usually because I am pulling my foot out of my mouth. Needless to say, my face is perpetually flushed bright red and I often retreat to the back of the room.

That’s why I was excited when I was first introduced to social media. I thought I would be a rock star on Facebook, posting interesting articles and amusing memes that my friends would look forward to commenting on. I imagined endless witty tweets that would leave my twitter followers begging for more and my Instagram posts would be much anticipated events. After all, putting fingers to the keyboard is supposed to be my area of expertise –  using the written word to communicate is my forte. This was my chance to put myself out there and show everyone the real me, sans my usual maladroit persona.

I figured that the absence of face to face contact and the response time delay inherent in social media would help me to avoid making my usual social gaffes. What I didn’t count on is the fluidity and speed of social media. Posts are shared and tweets are retweeted at lightening speed. The online community is a large and unforgiving beast. Your one social solecism could go viral in an instant. It turns out writing a post on Facebook or sending out a tweet is not the same as writing a line in an article or creative piece. There is a certain nuance to getting the wording just right especially if you are limited to 140 characters. It requires a certain panache to choose the correct emoji to convey the appropriate meaning. I’ve realized that a lack of likes or retweets is equivalent to awkward silences in real life and I’m still experiencing plenty of those.

Despite my initial high hopes for social competence, in the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter I find myself falling short. My problem is more than just plain internet etiquette,  I know how to navigate the sites and use hashtags correctly, the rub is more about style and social competence. While it’s hard to decipher tone and meanings in person it’s even more difficult to figure these things out on social media. Was that person being sarcastic or serious? My social  ineptitude in person is magnified online.

I’ve decided that I have to face the fact that I am not cool or hip in real life and it turns out I am even less so online. I can understand why my kids don’t want me anywhere near their cyber- stomping grounds. This realization is just fine by me. While I still use social media, I stick to in- person conversations for the important stuff. I prefer a real hug, intended or not, over a well chosen emoji anyday. I may be a bit gauche face to face but at least my faux pas are not documented for everyone to see, share, send, and store for years to come.

Dr. Jennifer Pinto

Jennifer Pinto is an avid reader, writer, psychologist and mom to a daughter(20) and two sons (16 & 14). She has been married to her husband for 21 years. She is currently writing a young adult novel and has a psychology-themed blog called "Off the Couch..." She enjoys drinking coffee at all hours of the day, cooking Indian food and being the team mom for her son's tennis & football teams.