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Social Anxieties in the Virtual World


Guys. GUYS. I so wish I had your phone numbers sometimes so I could text you when I’m having my anxiety episodes since SO MANY of you guys do the same thing. Instead, I suffer/panic on my own and save it all up for a blog entry where we can all laugh at each other after the fact.

(True Story: I typed “after the face” originally which made me giggle.)

Okay. So I talk about our We Run Huntsville group around here all the time. It’s basically a simple Facebook Community started by the same person who takes all the genius race photos I post here. But it has grown SO MUCH over the last few years. It’s kinda huge now. And everyone around here uses it, including all of the super-intimidating runners. So, by default, I find the place super-intimidating.

You know when you have social anxieties it makes attending social gatherings where you may not know everyone – a HUGE strain?

Well…this Facebook group is the SAME WAY.

It’s no big deal as a virtual spectator…just reading the posts…but when I want/need to post something in there? It’s like I immediately need a Xanax.


(You get it, I know you do. That’s why we are friends.)

A few weeks ago some friends of mine decided we’d post our training run on the group page to invite others. We’re training for an upcoming trail run and the trails are tricky, and the course has a lot of turns, so it’s hard to train on your own if you’re a newbie. There is another group that meets, but we thought we’d post ours as a “No Runner Left Behind” type of run to encourage people concerned about people being slow or getting lost.

I posted it and y’all? That first week? We had like 20 people. IT WAS INSANE.

Since then we’ve had some weeks around 10, but other weeks around 20 again. And it’s hysterical, last week? The last two in the group? The Runners Not Being Left Behind? Were me and one of other organizers. The “newbies” are all faster than us and we’ve had several fast/veterans join because we do it on Sunday and if their Saturday is busy it’s nice to have a Sunday group to run with.

Either way! PEOPLE ARE RUNNING WITH OUR GROUP! And it’s me posting on that scary FB page where all of the intimidating runners post too.

Every time I have to post for the group runs? I get freaked out. I monitor it super-closely and proof-read it a million times. Every time someone likes it or comments on the post I check to make sure they’re not pointing out a mistake I missed.

And then…yesterday…after debating for WAY TOO LONG…I posted something else in the group. I posted an elevation comparison from a GPS between two local races. AND I WAS SO TERRIFIED.

What in the hell was I thinking would happen? People would point and laugh? Block me from the group?

I don’t know. Those of us who suffer from social anxieties know LOGICALLY that the worse-case scenario probably won’t happen, but it doesn’t stop us from fearing it anyway.

Well…turns out GPS data doesn’t report elevation super-accurately. And when this was first pointed out? I panicked. I even thought about taken the post down. I was like, “THE DATA IS WRONG! PEOPLE ARE ANGRY! THEY’RE GOING TO HATE ME!!!”

So. Dumb.

First? Data wasn’t wrong, just not accurate. The general comparison was still enough to give you a good idea of the two races together. The profile? Still useful. Turns out the elevation changes were actually more similar than my data, which I wasn’t expecting because I finished one SO MUCH FASTER than the other. Either way – no one was telling me the graphic was wrong – lots of people liked it. They were just discussing more ACCURATE numbers for comparison, and it was mainly some elite runners.

BUT STILL. I was having a full-blown anxiety attack over that stupid graphic.

BUT STILL. I did it.

So, while I’m embarrassed I react that way…panic at the FIRST hint that something I do might not be appreciated…I’m still proud I did it in the first place. I mean, that’s why Facebook helps people with social anxieties, we can ease into social situations virtually. If those same runners all had a gathering to discuss the elevation between the two races? No way I’d go. But doing it online? I’m totally fine.

Well…obviously not TOTALLY fine. But you get my point.

This is the same reason why I tend NOT to comment on blogs, or on other people’s Facebook posts, or respond on Twitter. I’ll “Like” things or “Favorite” things, but if I have to put my OWN words on someone else’s space? I panic. I’ll type and re-type and edit and erase and then never submit. It happens a million times a day.

I blabber non-stop on my OWN Facebook page, and on my OWN blog. But give me a text box to enter in words on someone else’s page? And I freak out.

Even on Twitter! A twitter user mentioned yesterday that she’s not a fan of a phrase I use all the time. And it fascinated me! I responded to her about it and asked twitter about it but all night I worried. Did my focus make her mad? Because I worried she didn’t think I understood what she meant. And I did! I wanted to email her and be like, “I get it! You don’t mind that I use it in my home! You just don’t use it because of your connotations and I get it!” Because I was all freaked out that maybe some of my responses made it look like I didn’t get it, and I was really just fascinated that she didn’t use it at all. Even in her own home. And it turns out a lot of people don’t use it, even with their own families, so I was fascinated! AND I WANTED TO EXPLAIN MYSELF BETTER.

Y’all. I fretted about this ALL DAMN NIGHT. SO DUMB.

Anyway…sometimes social anxieties manifest themselves in expected ways. Declining party invitations. Attending parties, but hiding in the corner coming off as rude and snobby. (And then the best part? Is that you KNOW you’re coming off as rude and snobby and this upsets you but you CAN NOT LEAVE YOUR CORNER.)

But other times? Social anxieties show up in weird ways. Like in Facebook groups or Twitter conversations. Where you find yourself fretting over the stupidest stuff that no one probably talks about EVER but you build up these huge scenarios like you’re being banned from social circles FOREVER just because your GPS data is a little off.

So…I tell you guys about it because I know you all totally commiserate. We bond over this stuff often. BECAUSE THIS IS A SAFE PLACE. Where no one has to second guess their responses because we ALL know we are ALL second guessing our responses.

And there is safety in group crazy.

7 thoughts on “Social Anxieties in the Virtual World”

  1. I completely understand! I edit or erase comments all the time. I don’t do it because I think you will judge me; it’s just because I judge myself and my social anxiety takes over and I can’t stand it. This is why I don’t have my own blog.

  2. You would not believe how many times I’ve started to comment on blog posts and then just deleted it because “it sounded stupid”. And in the real world – that’s even worse! At the risk of sounding like a crazy stalker, I know that you and I are going to be at the same race in April and I’d love to introduce myself if we run into each other but that would require walking up to a stranger and that gives me heart palpitations 🙂

  3. OH MY GOD, this is me… I have read your blog for YEARS (since I started at the beginning it’s hard to say how long now) and have commented MAYBE once because, obviously. I felt like I needed to thank you for writing it down and allowing me to be apart of group crazy. Now to get other people to understand…

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