No introduction necessary
Knowing others before they know you
As anyone who has spent more than 14 seconds with me can attest to, I am rather famous for my awkward encounters. In the collection of embarrassing situations I typically refer to as “my life,” my unfortunate mantra has quickly become, “That awkward moment when…” College has been the ultimate breeding ground for these moments — especially when I am first meeting people.
As you may have gathered, first impressions are not my strong suit. If I don’t flail one of my extremities and accidentally hit the person in the face or inadvertently insult everything he or she stands for before we’ve even exchanged names — this has happened in real life, people — I consider the interaction a success.
I set the standards pretty low and try to keep initial conversations as basic as possible. Hi, how are you? What’s your name? Where are you from?
Admittedly, my strategy is generic and boring, but it hits all the basics. The problem then arises when I already know all of the answers to my questions. I am sad to report this has recently been the case — on multiple occasions.
Predictably, I fault Facebook. Whenever I need an easy escape from a situation or require a convenient distraction from my work, which seems to have to actually pile up before I am physically capable of doing it, Facebook comes to my rescue. I scroll through my newsfeed, finding everything from adorable dog vines to horrifying middle school pictures — and, when the desperation really sets in, I resort to Facebook creeping.
I would rank myself as the “hovering mother” variety of Facebook creepers. I only stalk the people I care about and all of their close/semi-close friends, acquaintances and the person they met once at a party. I will concede the scope of who I care about notoriously grows larger as exams get closer.
I did not realize just how many people my stalking criteria encompasses until coming here. It seems everyone I meet is somehow connected to a person who falls under the category of people I care about. So, I ended up in quite the predicament.
How do you tell someone, “You really don’t need to introduce yourself, because I already know your name, where you went for your ninth grade homecoming dinner and what you were wearing on July 7, 2011 at 4:32 p.m.”? I have yet to give it a try, but I’m under the impression it would not go over well.
Instead of keeping my mouth shut, like a rational person, I tend to opt for another strategy. Though it is awkward and uncomfortable every single time, I — for some reason — continue to use it. First, I establish the connection. In those strange first five minutes of the relationship, I say every name I know, with the vested hope our cumulative knowledge of northern Virginia and Hampton Roads residents makes for some common ground.
Miraculously, I am almost always able to get a hit. From there, conversation is able to flow more organically. After all, if you’re a friend of a friend’s distant cousin’s girlfriend, then we must have a lot in common. It is usually around this time I will realize I have seen this person before.
Discomfort sets in. “Play it cool,” I tell myself. “You can do this.” I try to continue the conversation, but out of fear of grazing a topic I already know about, I venture into the obscure. “So, zebras … are they black with white stripes or white with black stripes?” Taken aback, my partner in conversation replies graciously only to humor me.
We continue the pleasantries as she tries to get the conversation back on track. Eventually, tired of being the weirdo and running low on my ammo of trivia questions, I succumb. It is not long before the inevitable happens and I mention something I wasn’t supposed to know.
Her eyes grow wide. “Did I tell you that?” she inquires politely, though she knows the answer is a resounding “no.” I shift back and forth, trying to determine the best course of action. Do I lie? No, I can’t. Honor code. Do I truth? I must.
I confess I have seen her face on my newsfeed and have probably gone so far as to click on her profile. I hang my head in shame. “Oh,” she mutters. “Hahahaha. It’s totally okay.” She looks out of the corner of her eye for the nearest exit. I think it’s safe to say it didn’t go well.
I refuse to be torn down, though. I will stand as an emblem for Facebook stalkers everywhere. And if you ever see me and know personal details about me, feel free to share. I will appreciate you.
Sumedha’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.