Baby stepping back into social interaction while the world is still on fire.

My friend Rob put himself out there and shared his anxiety regarding in-person human interaction in our constantly chaotic world:

With relaxed caution comes increased socialization, and my post-pandemic [sic] interactions are routinely followed by a new neurosis, a persistent second-guessing of my conversation skills. Whether I’ve been with strangers or close friends, and whether or not my participation seems to have been appreciated, later reflection inevitably convinces me that my conversational contributions were long-winded, self-absorbed, boorish, and vacuous. It’s like a social imposter syndrome, and it makes me wish I had either stayed home or just kept my mouth shut, as if subjecting other people to myself were damaging to us both, tantamount to an addict relapsing. I’ve never been without insecurities, so this isn’t an entirely new thing, but it’s definitely more pronounced than it’s been before. Is it all in my head, or is my self-awareness acquiescing to a dismaying reality, or is it somewhere in between? Do the lingering effects of the world turning upside down play a part?

If I were still using Twitter, I’d probably ask if anyone else were experiencing this, but I’m not. While I’m not keen to replace Twitter, and I love my website, this is one of those moments when writing into the void feels pretty lonely. So hey, if you’re feeling a similar uptick in social anxiety and would like to share, please do.

Rob, I’m right next to you on all of this. Like, a little too close for comfort close. Enough that you might feel inclined to ask me what I want for Christmas.

Especially when you wonder if your participation is appreciated—that is a feeling I know and feel all too well. And it’s not a feeling dedicated to in-person interactions. Sometimes I get off a video call and wonder if anything I said resonated or were the other participants just being polite. Did I just come across as Captain Obvious, but nobody felt comfortable to make the joke (which would be unfortunate because I like a good joke even at my own expense).

Our time away from human interaction, combined with the instinct to protect ourselves from harm, makes everything harder than any of us could have imagined prior to 2020. Add to that the constant presence of threats entirely outside of our control, especially in the last seven years—yeah, it’s all had an impact on our social interactions. Like a night out with friends. But please don’t let that stop you or deter you (and I speak to everyone here) because you’re not alone. I have had the fortune of hanging out with friends a bit more than I think you have (based on what I infer from your post), and I can tell you that it gets better and starts to feel more comforting than it does now.