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Lindsay Bell

I’m OK, You’re OK: Social Friendship and Gut Instincts

By: Lindsay Bell | June 5, 2013 | 
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Social InstinctsThose who know me, know I don’t get out much.

No, really.

In fact, as I said to Danny Brown on Saturday, “I’m *this* close to becoming agoraphobic!”

While I might be exaggerating a bit, I do tend to watch Hoarders with a tad more trepidation than I used to.

So, when Gini Dietrich asked me if I wanted to attend the Social Capital Conference in Ottawa with her, I jumped at the chance. I know. You’re scratching your head saying “Um, those two statements make no sense.” Hang tight, I’m getting there.

I’ve said before I’m an introvert – painfully so in fact. But I fight hard to hide that fact. I’m pretty good at working a room, get geeked out about job interviews, and am absolutely beyond fascinated by people and what makes them tick.

As you can see, I’m a jumble of inconsistencies and mixed messaging (and the odd mixed metaphor). Poor Gini deals with this everyday. God love her. But I digress. Back to people.

The Study of People

People are so interesting. You really never know for sure if what you see on the outside is actually what’s on the inside. It gets a bit easier as one *koff* matures, but still. Trust is a bizarre thing us humans do. You couldn’t be more vulnerable than when you place your trust in someone.

When I meet people, I usually instantly like them – or I don’t. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been duped. Call it survival instincts, whatever, I’m seriously good at pegging people.

Yet, online, every day, we trust people with ourselves. We build deep relationships – friendships even – with people we’ve (usually) never met in real life. We share our most intimate thoughts, our life events, our children’s names.

Marjorie Clayman wrote a thought provoking piece on the subject of social friendship, suggesting we’re all becoming simply robot friends with on/off switches. Maybe. I certainly don’t feel that way at the moment. However, it’s interesting how quickly we bond with those we can’t look directly in the eye.

Digital Humans

Many people crow social/digital/mobile media is destroying our ability to communicate clearly and really know people. Studies do indicate 93 percent of communication between humans is based on nonverbal body language (which we’re obviously not getting via most technology).

For example, it drives me batty when I can’t see someone’s eyes when I’m speaking with them (I will ask you to take your sunglasses off!). But the same discomfort and feeling of disconnect rarely comes up for me when chatting online.

Clearly we’re evolving. And fast. Some researchers feel humans, and our physiology, evolved at a ferocious rate over a scant three or four millennia – a time frame “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution,” as they say – and this because of technological advances.

Which brings us back to the conference. Yes I was nervous, and feeling out of sorts, but I put on my best “No, I’m actually an EXtrovert!” face on, stuck my hand out, and waded in. And I excitedly met some people I know online, in real life, for the first time. Guess what? My gut instincts didn’t fail me. Not once. The ones I was pretty sure I was going to like, I did. And those I kinda thought I might not – I didn’t.  

Boom! Instinct Wins Again!

Even with no eye contact, and hundreds of miles and machines between us, I have developed deep social friendships, and real connections to certain people in my social networks. And those same feelings were there when we met – and hugged – in Ottawa last week.

I think that says a lot about us and how we communicate and don’t communicate. Even without the magic (and pheromones!) of body language and face-to-face interaction – I still had a 100 percent return on my investments.

We should all stop worrying about this new digital world we’re living in and evolving beside. We’re all going to be just fine. And we’re going to have loads more friends to lean on than ever was possible before.

NOTE: I’m not sure what this all means, it’s just been jumbling around my head since the weekend and I had to get it on paper – I would LOVE your thoughts and feedback!

About Lindsay Bell


Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

79 comments
susansilver
susansilver

I have been pondering this Lindsay. I work as a community manager and I feel very close to the community that I have been part of and building since December. We have a history, just like relationships in real life. We can tell stories of what it was like, not just nostalgically around the magazine, but also as members of a special group of people that gather online. It is exciting to watch friendships bloom over status updates. 

I think the personality types most attracted to these types of jobs are a lot like you. They have an idea of who people are from the way they engage online. It is an extra level of perception that I think comes from having a strength based on empathy. Requires an intuition about why people behave the way they do online. 

Those are my thoughts at least. I am beginning to realize what a sort of wacky job I have that is still in the process of being defined. I think it is really important to discuss these issues. For support and to maintain a healthy perspective on what it all means. 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hi, Lindsay - fascinating story : )

We are creatures that live and breathe words. Words and conversations shape everything about who we are, who we become... If you really want to know who a person is, just listen carefully to every word they speak; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

When you connect with people in this fashion, it's literally a heart to heart connection. These are among the most real, impactful, and life-changing relationships you will have in your lifetime. 

Cheers, miss! : )

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

I love how you are able to write about the things that make you uncomfortable!  I think that's why so many of us respond to you & adore you!  Introvert, schmintrovert! :)

Latest blog post: Musings: Cars and Theatre

sherrilynne
sherrilynne

I really do hope I ended up on the right list Lindsay. It was great meeting you. :-)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I think you're more an ambivert than introvert. You're very, very good at making your way through a crowd, meeting new people, and having conversations. You don't give yourself enough credit. Sure, you need your bedtime early and you need to read (i.e. be alone) to wind down from the day, but I've never seen you act like an introvert in a social situation.

jasondyk
jasondyk

Amazing how well our instincts can be sharpened isn't it? It was great seeing you this weekend and FINALLY having a chance to chat in person! 

rodmarqc02
rodmarqc02

Very interesting article. I'm now learning from social instincts in the world of social media. 

suzemuse
suzemuse

I think that "introverted extrovert" is something a lot of people in our circles have in common. I know I'm certainly one of them and I can peg several others too. I think that's part of what makes us all click so well - the fact that we GET each other on a pretty deep level, because we share a lot of the same personality traits.

I loved the conference, and I loved seeing you, and Gini, and everyone else. But boy did I like not having to talk to anyone on Sunday. :)

Communic8nHowe
Communic8nHowe

Lindsay, I'm sorry we didn't connect at Social Capital. Then again two introverts who don't know each other yet can make roe an awkward conversation.

I hate being in situations where I'm expected to engage in conversation or even worse small talk with people that I don't know. I gravitate to people that I already know and stick with them or circle the room looking busy. (Did I just say that in front of 18 people listening?)

But I love social media because I can make connections with people easier--and then when I go to an event like Social Capital I already have a good base of people that I know or that know enough about me that they want to talk to me. Even in my non-professional life it has helped me to break out of my safe zone.

I still believe though that meeting someone in person is important if there's a chance to fully realize the potential in a relationship. And that's why it'd been nice if we could have connected when at the same place. It's a principle that I believed when I was online dating and met my wife and I find it's true of social media too. And come to think of it, I find that nearly all the time the people that I like online I also like in the real world.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

You have to like me...you really don't have much of a choice ;) Hahaha!!!

Kidding, kidding...great post LB, love love love. And I love what @AmyMccTobin said...the real person comes out even in type. So true.

hessiej
hessiej

Aww Lindsay!! You're OK!!

Kato42
Kato42

I love this article (introverts unite!). I think if you've got a well-tuned bull***t detector, it will serve you well no matter what the form of communication.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

ahhh.....man, I love every little bit of this article. So interesting on several levels for me.

As an extrovert I also adore the online world because it gives me an even bigger sphere to meet and learn about people. Honestly before online communication became to norm I was so desperate for more interaction that I would literally go to grocery stores or book stores simply to make more friends. I think I drove people crazy but I was just sooooo in need of more people to connect with I had no choice. Many people still call me the 'mayor' because I tend to pick up random people everywhere I go (like really everywhere). 

The online world has caused me to simmer down quite a bit because I have a whole group of buddies on demand. It is fantabulous! I also have had a good amount of luck in the friendship converting from online to real life. I've made it a mission to meet many of the people I've developed my closest ties to (again as an extrovert this is a pretty intense need for me, I like communicating with people, but I really need to be with people, in real life) and with the exception of a few outright bombtastic bombs, it has been just like we've been friends for years....because we have!

The fact remains that online or offline scam artists are scam artists. Some people just suck and they can only hide that for so long, even online. We have passed the point of it being just a one dimensional part of our lives and now is an integrated, 3D part of all we do. You just can't hide your inner f$%*tard for too long. 

I'll be the first to say that online communications has destroyed many things about communication. But like everything, it has also brought us many opportunities, this is a great example as that. That's the nature of innovation in general though. There is always going to be pros and cons and a period of shakiness as we learn to make this new fangled stuff a useful part of our existence.  One can only hope that as it continues to evolve with us, it will also continue to improve how we live, work and support each other as social creatures.

belllindsay
belllindsay

@susansilver Love your comment Susan, and 100% agree - those of us who love to communicate every day seem to make wonderful little nests here online! And while empathy and intuition play a hard role in what we do, as you said, having a 'history' with someone is vitally important - even if you haven't met IRL - we are hardwired to be tribal, and in today's crazy world we've all seem to have lost our tribes. :)

belllindsay
belllindsay

@AmyVernon We should start the weird minds club. LOL Also, probably why you make me laugh *out loud* at everything you say on Facebook. ;) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@Mark_Harai You make a very good point Mark - and what is interesting is people often share MORE - faster - online, than they would if you met IRL as strangers. So, one can usually get a pretty good feel for someone in the digital space fairly quickly. 

belllindsay
belllindsay

 LOL That's funny, I hadn't thought of it that way. :) I guess I'm also not that high on myself and pretty OK with people knowing the real me, flaws and all (as @ginidietrich  well knows!) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@sherrilynne Oh yes, but the difference is I had no preconceived expectations with you - since I was meeting you for the first time ever! Same with Mary Pretotto - just an instant like, in some ways easier than having built a 'relationship' online first. Hey, that's a thought. I wonder if the 'online knowing' skews the IRL meeting (I mean, beyond what I discussed above), compared to when you meet a total 100% stranger. Sigh. Why does my brain make me think things like this. ;) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@ginidietrich I hide it SO WELL even you don't notice. I was a wreck at the Tweet-Up on Friday night. ;) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@jasondyk Me too Jason! Actually, I think it was that conversation with you that sparked this whole thought process. ;) 

Lara Wellman
Lara Wellman

@suzemuse I slept the ENTIRE day on Sunday. SO done.  :) I definitely fall in the extroverted introvert box.  I'm also quite shy in many situations, which others have a hard time believing :)

belllindsay
belllindsay

@suzemuse And I LOVED your hair!! In fact, I didn't recognize you for a minute when we arrived at dinner that night (idiot). :D 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@Communic8nHowe "I gravitate to people that I already know and stick with them or circle the room looking busy." HAHAHA! You just described me to a TEE! I'm sure the day will come when we will meet. Sometimes it's all about timing! :D 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@Kato42 Very true - a good BS detector is an important tool to have! :) 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@LauraPetrolino Thanks Laura - although I will admit, reading about how sociable and extroverted you are in real life almost gave me hives. ;) I still find it fascinating how much we can determine about people - correctly usually -  using digital communication alone. I mean, we are programmed to decipher people face to face - twitches, scents, eye movements, body language. If I were smarter I'd write a book about this subject. 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@LauraPetrolino This line should win the Pulitzer or something- "You just can't hide your inner f$%*tard for too long. " Yeah I find I get duper more in "real life" than in social. The social gives me a pretty good glimpse in to people, in real life, I'm not so good at that. 

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@belllindsay first let me say that I probably say at least once a week "if I were smarter, I'd write a book about this subject', haha! So instead I'm just filled with a collection of halfway useful theories and facts through my academic googling :)

But I think what you said above about us evolving to the world we live in is sooooo interesting and makes sense. Had our ancestors encountered the world we are in today, communication and society would shut down completely. Also, look at the way animals have adapted their natural instincts to evolve for the new environment they are in. Dogs waiting at cross walks for the walk light, elks using heat from man made plants to keep warm, migration pattern changes, etc. If they can do it, one would hope we'd at least be halfway smart enough to do that same.

My hope is that we are evolving in a way that encourages greater good, but with all good comes bad and I think it is important that as part of our 'social digitalization' we account for that, or at least be aware of it. It will be tricky.

And thinking about extroverts should give you hives because we are all totally bipolar. I give myself hives half the time ;)

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@RebeccaTodd Hehe...yeah, I have to admit I was pretty proud of that after I wrote it! It might be the title of one of the many books I'd like to write :)

But agreed. I love people watching, I could do it all day. I watch and try to figure people out and extrapolate about their lives and feelings and personalities. Social gives you a supersized people watching experience. Like people watching on steroids, and that is very powerful.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@RebeccaTodd @belllindsay Hahaha! Awww shucks you guys. See that's why I love you all, you appreciated my crazycake perspective on the world (or at least you just play along nicely.....either way works for me)

belllindsay
belllindsay

@LauraPetrolino HA! You are hilarious. I'm not convinced that *all* evolution is a good thing, but I like what you're saying here - at least it happens - for the good and continuation of the species. 

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  1. [...] Friendship and Gut instincts I was thrilled to meet up with a bunch of friends at the Social Capital Conference in Ottawa last weekend. My good buddy Lindsay Bell-Wheeler makes some great thought provoking points about her experience at the conference in this article; meeting people in person for the first time, being an extroverted introvert (cheers to that!) and going with your gut instincts on people. [...]

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