Tag Archives: sociology

Facebook: A New Frontier in Social Awkwardness

10 Aug

Facebook is getting so awkward, isn’t it?

Personally, I can’t take the pressure.   It was bad enough when our parents, aunts, and uncles began to join.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still manage to forget they’re in my contacts and I say something wildly inappropriate only to be scolded seconds later.  Then all these apps and games and silly questionnaires came through and all the sudden I’m forced to virtually break up with my friend because she won’t stop telling me to water her virtual crops.  Sure, I could just weed through my privacy settings and try to block app invites, but if my friend is the kind of person that constantly bugs me to water her fake crops, do I really want to be her friend anymore?

These are the sorts of hard-hitting questions I’m faced with every time Facebook ‘upgrades’.

Things got even more intense when Facebook leveled-up to real-time updates so that when you stare at your mini-feed you can actually see someone’s comment post at the very moment they do it.   And now, the ultimate mega stresser: Facebook chat.

It could be the super awkward hermit in me, but the chat is where I draw the line.  The beauty of Facebook used to be that it was casual and cool.   People could post on each other’s walls at their leisure.   In a world where the weight of a cell phone text or an email is so heavy that people expect a response immediately, Facebook was the one place I could still go if I wanted to socialize at a relaxed pace.

Facebook relaxation is now dead to me.

When I log on, I have updates that need tended to.  I have people commenting on pictures or saying hello or writing on my wall to ask me to hang out that same day.  I have messages from friends who haven’t caught up in a while and think email is too impersonal.  And sometimes while I’m tending to those things, someone is online at the very same moment and responds immediately.  Immediately! Then there’s all this pressure.  Do I have to follow up? Can I go log off?  They’re on.  They see me.  They know I updated only 5 seconds ago; it’s stamped right there in cold, gray text. I can’t possibly just leave – I have to finish the conversation.

I also have to manage my status updates.  Because if I tell a friend I’m too busy to hang out one night but I update my status at 8:35pm saying how much I love Arrested Development, it’s voluntary incrimination.   It doesn’t matter if it’s on in the background while I’m working.  It doesn’t matter if I thought of a funny episode and it wasn’t even on television.  That friendship is doomed.  


Don’t even get me started on birthdays and engagements.  Talk about stress! Seriously?! Every year on my birthday I have to be wished a happy birthday by hundreds of people I haven’t talked to in ages.  On one hand, it’s nice to feel loved.  On the other, you know that if any of those people really cared about your birthday they’d have called.  Or written.  Or emailed.  And now I feel inclined to follow up with them to see how they are, but I don’t know if they were really reaching out or if they just wanted to hop on the birthday bandwagon.

I don’t even recognize some of their names.

I’m not the only one who feels this pressure.  I know it.  Because not long ago, some dear friends of mine got engaged.  And while I was relishing in the happy moment with them, they admitted that they were quite exhausted because they had to be sure to call every single person that was even remotely close to them to let them know they were engaged before those people saw it on Facebook and got offended that they found out online and not from them.

You see? What are we doing to ourselves?!

So no, Facebook, I will not be utilizing your ‘Facebook Chat’.  The last thing I need in this too-accessible age is to log on and be immediately available to a thousand people, try to figure out how to end conversations with everyone because I don’t want to deal with them, and then worry about what to update my status to that will be amusing but also not indicate that I was having too much ‘not-too-busy-to-chat’ fun.

Lord help us; Facebook will be the end of us all. 


The Death of Molly Pleasantville

8 Aug

Yesterday marked the hundredth time someone in an establishment has asked me if I work there when, in fact, I don’t.

I haven’t been keeping hash marks or anything but one hundred seems right.

I’m not sure what it is about me that makes people assume I’m working for the place they’re patronizing.  I’d like to think it’s a pleasant disposition coupled with a comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.  Maybe I look like I know things.  You know.  Like, maybe I look smart and stuff.  Maybe when the guy at Starbucks last week saw me standing in line with all the other people who were waiting for their beverages, he asked me where the bathroom key was because he really thought I looked like I knew.    

Maybe I appear to be all-knowing.

I could just be wearing the wrong thing.  Like when the elderly lady pulled me aside in the paper towel section of the grocery store yesterday, maybe she was blinded by my bright orange cardigan.   Or maybe she was a little hunched over and could only see my feet.  I’ll bet it was the sensible flats.  She’d have never stopped me if I were wearing slut shoes.

What I’m really afraid of is that it’s none of these things.  I’m afraid that there is no pleasant disposition or appearance of comfort.   Rather, I look like a pushover.  Like a do-gooder.  A doormat.

What if this is evidence of my day job affecting my life in ways other than monumental stress and sudden, spastic bouts of depression?  What if in addition to biting off all my fingernails, feeling ill the Sunday night before a work week, and possessing dull, vacant eyes, I’ve also acquired an aura of ‘what-can-I-do-for-you”?

Oh dear.

It’s like people can feel it.  It hangs in the air around me.  They know I reheat lunches and answer phones.  They know I edit PowerPoints and get drinks for visitors.  They can smell bitch work on me from a mile away.

So they take advantage of me.  They ask me where the paper towels are when they’re staring right at them.  They ask me for the bathroom key when they know I’m not wearing a barista apron.  They mock me with their inquisitiveness. 

The other night at the supermarket, the cashier didn’t bag a single one of my groceries.  I kid you not – not one single item did that man place in an Earth-killing plastic carrier for me.  I did them all.  

What’s sad is I didn’t even realize it until now.

Maybe I’ll start dressing goth when I go out in public.  I imagine goth dressers don’t get asked a lot of customer service questions.   Maybe I could carry the persona over to the workplace and avoid the robotic good-mornings and how-was-your-weekends and the-temperature-is/will be/was-such-and-such-today. 

This is obviously the answer to all my problems.  I don’t know why I didn’t think about this earlier.  I could have avoided human contact my entire life if I would have just dressed up as someone people don’t want to have human contact with.   But no – I’ve been wearing cardigans in the summer time and pairing them with sensible shoes like Molly Pleasantville.  That’s it.  No more Molly Pleasantville – she’s dead to me.

I’m going to need to get some more eyeliner.

And spiky bracelets.  Definitely spikey bracelets.

"Excuse me, do you work here?"

Elevator Tetris

6 Jan

Had I not gotten a degree in theater, I’d have aggressively pursued sociology.  …Well, the fun parts of it anyway. 

I’m a people-watcher.   I love to study them, the way they move, their quirky, inexplicable habits.  Trying to capture these details with my own body is my way of immersing myself in the study of people and of society and is one of my favorite parts of being an actor.  And it is for these reasons that I just adore watching office folk.

I have an office job by day because I need something to help feed my theater habit at night.  It’s a cruel, addictive cycle.  In my time amongst cubicles, elevators, and important titles, I am continually amused by the society that has been created there.  I am an outsider – a Jane Goodall, throwing herself into a world to live amongst these creatures and to study their interactions.

One of my favorite parts of the office is Elevator Space Relations.  This is true in any elevator scenario with more than one person, but I find it particularly interesting at the office. 

I was heading down from the top floor today and joined the 5pm elevator party just after a particularly high-level executive. 

Before we got on, however, he did me the good service of pretending to be interested in how I was today and I did the same for him.  I told him I was good and he told me he was good.  This is another fun one for me…because let’s face it: when anyone asks that question who isn’t your best friend or family member, they don’t really want an honest answer.  I totally felt like junk today.  I came in to the office to see how long I could make it because I’m a moron.  When he asked how I was, an honest answer would have been something like, “Oh, I’ve been better.   My head was a giant, disgusting hot air balloon filled with evil pixies smacking their wands on my frontal lobe and making it through this day was no small feat but I was too afraid to call off and look like a flake.”

Something told me that would have made the last 10 floors even more awkward. 

And so we stood in silence…the entire time from the top of the building to the bottom.   There’s only so long one can stare at the blinking number at the top of an elevator before they feel like an idiot.

It’s like we all got together one day and decided that there wasn’t enough time between point A and point B on an elevator and that since no one knows how many people may join on the way up or down, there is little possibility for discussion outside of the weather and the number of days ’til Friday.  So we just stopped talking altogether. 

My next favorite thing is how beautifully people will align themselves in an elevator.  It’s like one big spatial relations puzzle.  Every time someone new enters the picture, people in the elevator, without talking or making eye contact, will naturally work together to adjust themselves so that they leave as much room for a personal bubble as possible for everyone involved.

 It’s like the bathroom stall game, where if there are three and the nearest one has someone in it, you go to the far one.  Who made up these rules? 

I’ll admit, I like to rebel.  Sometimes when someone asks me how I am, I actually tell them.  And sometimes, I actually follow-up when they lie and tell me they’re good just to see if I can shake a human answer out of them.    Furthermore, I sometimes make people uncomfortable by choosing the stall directly beside them

I get myself through my day job with these little games.  I’ll admit that just a few days ago there were 3 people joining me on an elevator ride and I didn’t move from my space.  Yes, I felt the air thick with anticipation.  I felt their discomfort with the fact that there was not even spacing between the 3rd and 4th temporary members of the steel ride society but I was comfortable and deemed that everyone had an adequate amount of room.  And then an amazing thing happened: everyone else adjusted to me. 

I felt powerful.  I felt like an elevator goddess, directing human traffic with my mind.  I was the awkward T shaped tetris piece and everyone had to start a new row to adjust for my addition to the stack.  It was glorious.

I think I’ll start to use these powers for my rise in human society.  I will be the immovable force around which others must accordingly adjust themselves.   And slowly but surely, I will make my way to the top of the corporate world.  One awkward elevator ride at a time.♣


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