Other articles from “Get a Social Life From Scratch” series.
Alright, you’ve spent more of your time outside your home. You’ve visited various events and public places than you have ever. That’s wonderful! Really, it’s really great! You’ve made a giant leap forward, and I am so happy for you.
Now is the time to connect with folks. At least, it’s time to start making attempts without focusing on results. You just need to act. How do you do it? The trick? It’s to become visible to folks.
To use the analogy from computer-related field:
Every element of every application installed at your computer (like the button “Refresh” of your browser or its address bar) has the property of visibility.
When a programmer creates an application’s form, he/she decides whether the element is visible to a user (you and me) or not. Of course, the visibility can be changed throughout the application’s operational process (runtime). The algorithm of the program toggles the visibility on and off when needed.
I have used the same approach when building my social life. And now, it’s your turn to switch the visibility of the element “You” on.
Here are some of the methods I applied back in the day:
1 – Online
If you’re going to become visible, you need to find ways in which to show yourself to other folks; they need to know you exist. Technology is making that happen more and more. With a vast array in technological choices, you can let people know about you really fast.
Yes, I am talking about the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You might have some negative opinions about Facebook – waste of time, useless and more. Well, it can be like this.
The goal is to become more sociable, overcome social anxiety and build a social life. You need to consider all opportunities that will help you do this, regardless of how you personally feel.
Like the old saying says, “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”. If you use Facebook for business purposes only, and your business is to get a social life, and not as a distraction from your work, study or other activities, then it becomes another helpful tool on your path toward the goal.
You can reduce the use of Facebook or abandon it later. But for right now, you’ve got to use every single opportunity you can. Consider getting a Facebook or other social media account to get connected with other folks.
When I was in the process of getting a social life, Facebook wasn’t that well-known. In fact, Livejournal.com was where people were interacting – at least in my region they were. I was hesitant to create an account and, after a bit of time, I broke down and created it. (Read Devirtualization to learn what benefits this brought.)
Perhaps you feel alright about creating a social media account now; but, you don’t really want to be like other folks. But, you need to remember your goal. I didn’t really want to create an account withwww.livejournal.com but I did it because I wanted to get in the crowd. Of course, I thought about what a smart person would do – if it helps you reach your goal faster – then do it!
The question isn’t whether you’re like everyone else or not. The actual question is how smart are you to take social media and make it work for you. You’re no doubt smart enough to make things work for you. Yes, it’ll require some self-discipline not to become addicted and waste time on it… but you can handle it.
2 – Devirtualization
The main goal of building online contacts is to one day move it offline (to the real world). Convert online communication to face-to-face communication. Simply put: devirtualization.
What is devirtualization? The Urban Dictionary defines it as the following:
It is the act or process of meeting someone, with whom one has previously only had contact with on the Internet, in real life for the first time.
Devirtualization has to be your primary goal and focus when using social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or any other online discussion board).
If you’ve met someone online and have talked to them by message for quite some time and it seems like both of you could get along in person, you might want to consider meeting them. Ask them if they’d like to hang out – go to the movies, have a drink, etc. Do something that both of you have interests in. If there’s a social event – concert, event or something of that nature – consider asking them to join you. This would help to learn more about folks and make friends with many of them.
Consider my situation:
Remember, when Livejournal was all the rage, I had an account. I set it up but had no “real-life” friends to add. So, I just added a couple of folks from the online discussion board where I spent my time. As I commented on other people’s comments and posts, my friends’ list increased. These folks added me to their friends list as well and, before I knew it, I had 30 virtual friends.
We had meetings of virtual friends from the Livejournal community. People would get together at a local park or café to devirtualize and learn more about each other. So, I placed my focus supporting my online connections with my virtual friends and waited for the next meeting to take place. When that happened, I made the decision to go.
I took the train to the city where the meeting was being held. The host of the meeting met me at the train station and took me to the meeting place. It was breakthrough! I got in touch with some unknown folks and had some great conversations with them! The folks were friendly; the atmosphere was warm and I was enjoying the day. It would definitely be something I’d remember.
Let me reiterate this one more time: the goal of online communication is to devirtualize it. The longer you take to do this, the higher the possibility of you becoming a social networking junkie with no friends in real life with thousands of friends online. You don’t want that to happen to you, do you?
3 – Offline
Now that you’ve grasped the main idea of how to get your social life built with online tools, it’s time to figure out how to become visible to folks in the “real” world. I have two pieces of advice to help you do this:
– Offering help
– Asking for help
To apply the first approach, focus on helping folks – relatives, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. It could be as simple as driving them somewhere or, a more tedious task, helping them with computer issues. Anything you feel you can handle, you should try. These people will know that you can help them and you’ll be visible to them. They may even spread the word so more folks will seek your audience.
On the second approach, be visible to more folks by asking them for help. If you need a problem solved and you know someone who can do it for you, ask him/her to help you.
For instance, if I needed study material or to print a couple of documents, I would have called a person I knew could help me. While waiting on the pages to print, we’d have a small talk at his/her place.
One Last Thought
The focus of this step is to remind folks more often that you do exist.
Are you afraid that you’ll be annoying? Don’t be! Just use your common sense. Yes, you should never call someone 10 times an hour, asking them the same question repeatedly. And, you’re not likely to do that. It’s unlikely you’re going to bother someone to the point they don’t want to deal with you anymore.
You’re, no doubt, a great person but unless people see it, they don’t know about it. The reason you have a bad social life is NOT because you’re terrible at socializing. Potential friends have no knowledge about you and they don’t know that you exist.
It’s similar to a business creating a product and telling no one about it and expecting the sales to grow. It’s not going to happen. The same thing applies to socializing. People are not given information about you. You have to provide them that information.
June 16th, 2012. Revised: October 18th, 2012