Awkward AF: Do You Actually Approach Your Friends And Followers In Person?

October 7, 2018  |  

approaching friends and followers in public

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I’m an older millennial, and I say that in the least elitist way possible. But for very good reason we like to to distinguish ourselves from the labels and behaviors most people associate with millennials. I can barely get to third syllable of the “M” word before my parents start throwing out adjectives like, “Lazy entitled, narcissists who walk around with their heads in their phones and are totally detached from reality.” By those standards who would actually WANT to be a millennial? I appreciate that I grew up making friends the old-fashioned way: Being invited to join a random game of double-dutch because the girls that were present were turning “flickted” (Which if you don’t know, means off-rhythm which could mess up a jumper’s ability to jump for a long period of time). However, I’m young enough to see the benefits of social media and not think it will be the downfall of civilization. I got a Facebook account in college and never looked back until I got to Snapchat. That was the final Super Mario boss that forced me to stay in my old ass lane.

Having been on social media for over 10 years now, I can attest to how complex and multi-layered Mark Zuckerberg has made the concept of friendship. First of all, your “friends” can include anyone from your bestie from undergrad that you regularly indulge in “Taco Tuesdays” with to that guy you let borrow that gel pen you never got back freshman year of high school. In addition, you can cleverly customize your profile so that the gel pen thief can see you looking like a snack in your Fashion Nova dress for your birthday, but never sets sights on your trip to the aquarium with your baby niece. Social media has allowed us to witness some of the most personal moments of people’s lives one scroll at a time, so much that it feels like you could actually be BFF’s with someone you have literally never spoken to without an emoji option. So does that explain why it’s so damn awkward when you run into one of your friends or followers in real life?

I’ll never forget the time a reader once tweeted me that she thought she saw me leaving work one day and wanted to approach me, but also didn’t want to me to karate chop her throat for approaching me. While commuting in these Philadelphia streets I definitely rock a mean ass resting b**ch face that’s definitely a departure from my writing in which I’m pouring my soul on the page for the world to read. I don’t have any issue with sharing parts of personal life to friends and followers alike, especially if I think it’s beneficial to their own growth. But being approached in public is still a foreign concept for me. Much respect to Michael B. Jordan who will happily leave a plate of fried rice to post up with a fan and make her whole year even if he doesn’t know her from Adam.

Total strangers are one thing, but what about that awkward in between space where friends that you haven’t spoken to since Dru Hill was still four members live? You know, the friends who you regularly applaud getting that MSW, buying their first home or getting engaged but the last time you same them in person you were rocking butterfly clips and body glitter? This was my situation as I waited for the train last Friday. I was ready to get home and leave the work week behind me when I spotted a short light-skinned young lady with locs that I instantly recognized as my assigned “Little Sister” from high school. During the first few weeks of the late nineties when I was feeling my brand new sophomore status, I had helped this young lady navigate classes, shared my locker with her, and advised her on what guys were genuinely nice and what guys spent more time in the fire tower with coed butt cheeks in their hands than books. We were fairly close that school year until she found her rhythm with a small group of freshman friends. Since then she made random appearances on my timeline promoting poetry workshops and spoken word gatherings but other than that, we didn’t really interact digitally or otherwise.

But last week, I couldn’t imagine approaching her without feeling like a complete lame. It was then I recognized a few things: A) Social media has us way too concerned with how we appear and everyone has become terrified of negative reactions and afraid to run the slightest risk of making a fool of themselves. B) Social media has created this weird space where we all know about everyone’s business, without really knowing anyone. C) We all think what we post has more of an impact on others’ lives than it really does.

Social media has a way of making us feel connected when we’re double tapping our glass screens but often that connection doesn’t translate when we’re actually face to face. In real life there’s no taking back your smiley face when you meant to comment with sad face at someone’s upcoming back surgery. There’s no deleting a comment when you realized there’s no sense in arguing with your old bus driver about Kanye West’s antics. There’s no unfollowing that friend that posts seven stories a day of them styling their hair seven different ways so they can’t tell that you secretly wished they’d get a job or another hobby because you can hide behind the guise of “friends”. Real life interactions are awkward AF, but they’re a reminder in this digital age that the only people you probably know know, are the people you can call up or bump into at the bus stop without having a five minute inner dialogue debating how they might respond if you do.

Like Ludacris once reminded us, “Get back. You don’t know me like that.” Just because you know my relationship status, my kid’s birthday party theme or even my thoughts on pregnancy sex with my husband, doesn’t mean we’re cool enough for you to infringe on my personal space when I’m logged off. So when it comes to approaching your friends and followers in public, proceed with caution. The totality of a person can’t always be defined by what they post on social media.

How do you feel about friends and followers you don’t know personally approaching you in public?

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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