An Awkward Introduction

I have fully embraced all things Twitter. It has been a fun way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues and it has been a fabulous networking tool. For those not familiar with the technology, I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s posts, 12 Reasons to Start Twittering and The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter. He shares the basics on why and how to get started.

But, there is one aspect of Twitter that I really struggle with – the awkward introduction…

An Awkward Introduction

An Awkward Introduction

Let me explain, currently I am “following” 906 and have 848 “followers.” I would estimate that I only have had face-to-face interaction with 5% of each group. The other 95% are strangers in almost every sense of the word. But they are strangers who are constantly updating me on their day-to-day activities, their businesses, and their families. And conversely, they are strangers who know what I am reading and what I ate for dinner. They are strangers, yet both friends and confidantes.

So what happens when these strange friends walk into your life off-line? Earlier this week, I attended Catalyst One Day in Atlanta and met face-to-face several folks I follow on Twitter, including Tony Morgan, Kendra Fleming, and Ben Arment. And I was awkward!

I am not a shy person, but there is something just plain odd about meeting someone for the first time, when you already feel connected to them. What social rules apply in this situation?

So fellow-twitterers who have more social grace than I…how do you handle these awkward introductions?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jessica

    Hmmm, well, I didnt do so good with this on Sat. as I met the “one” we taked about… There is a comfort behind the twitter that we get to hide behind… Im not sure how we get past that. Hope you had a great weekend and it was great to hang out with you. See you again soon.

  • this is so true!!! it is a little awkward at times!!! i love the new blog by the way! i’m adding you to my blog roll!

  • I haven’t been in this situation yet. Not sure what I’d do if/when.

    • lindseyreadenobles

      Daniel, I agree. It helps me just to know that I am not alone in feeling awkward.

  • Richard Muske

    What I find most awkward is that I can be much wittier and articulate on twitter. I have time to think about my updates before submitting. Time to find the right words and phrases to catch the moment perfectly. Not so much in real life. When face to face with someone there is very little time to think through what you want to say. I often blurt about something ridiculous without the luxury of a backspace key.

  • Kendra

    @lnobles I think it’s funny that I’ve met you in person and followed you for a while but just today realized your first name was Lindsey! I saw you as @lnobles until I met you! It was kinda awkward – but I think twitter has allowed me to meet some pretty great people that I would have never met otherwise! And if you meet someone that’s a little too weird “in person”, than when you get home just UNFOLLOW! Next time you, Jenni, and Jessica are in ATL maybe we can go do something fun! It was great to meet you!

  • While recently visiting friends in another state I met someone who’s name sounded vaguely familiar. 30 seconds into our conversation all polite formalities went out the window as I enthusiastically (maybe too) started asking him if he had a daughter who had been ill recently. I was certain that the emergency prayer requests that had flooded Twitter the previous week were for his daughter. I had even taken a moment to pray for his daughter…he was a little dazed and confused but affirmed all the details I knew, including her name and symptoms of illness. The friend who introduced us said quite succintly, “that’s the power of social networking.” The person I met signed up for a Twitter account within hours of our conversation, having previously been a little skeptical of Twitter. I’m sure I overwhelmed him quite a bit. All that to say, yes, it can be awkward, and yes, we do arm our followers with so much personal info that it’s up to them and us to use discretion and basic etiquette when meeting followers for the first time. Use what you know about the person as social context, not false intimacy/friendship.

  • lindsey, it was great meeting you.

    @tonymorganlive

  • I guess I’ve gotten used to the idea of an “awkward meeting” in my line of work over the years, so I hadn’t really thought about it in regard to Twitter until you brought it up.

    It’s very similar for some in my business (those on the air, I mean), or for musicians whose music is well known, etcetera.

    Listeners feel they know you from having invited you into their cars, homes and lives. Sure, you occasionally interact with them via e-mail or on the phone (and now Twitter). But obviously you’re not getting to know them as well as they feel they know you. It can be awkward for both parties upon first meeting. However, it usually ends up being one party or the other, not both at the same time. Here’s what I mean:

    Often times, they’re a normal, every-day person who’s just excited to meet you. And, while excited, they’re very self-conscious and don’t want to come off as some weirdo fan. You can ease any self-consciousness very quickly by just extending your hand and offering a warm welcome. They’ll leave having felt good about the opportunity they had to meet you and they’ll tell their friends what a friendly and approachable person you are.

    The other scenario is the the person who isn’t afraid of anything and either tells you what they think of your work and how much more room you still have to improve (that’s putting it nicely) or they talk about you in terms normally reserved for royalty. There’s really no way for you to leave feeling comfortable about either.

    What have I learned? I’ve learned there will be plenty of opportunities for you to make someone else’s day. It’s really easy to be friendly (But would you believe I’ve actually seen some personalities over the years seemingly take pleasure in watching a fan squirm uncomfortably? Talk about lasting memories – all the wrong ones.)

    I’ve also learned there will be a few moments when you will just have to suck it up and make the best of it (and maybe call security). Just one of the hazards, I guess, of this transparent world in which we live.

  • You make a valid point Lindsey. In many ways, we know much more about the people we follow on Twitter than the people who work down the hall or live next door. Social Scientists call this phenomenon “ambient awareness” as a way to explain the connection.

    Many of the same rules apply when meeting folks for the first time, whether you’ve “met” on social networks or not. Be yourself. Be interesting/interested. The difference is that with social network friends, you already have a foundation of shared experiences. You can build on those exchanges (tweets/posts, etc) to grow an acquaintance.

    And of course, “don’t be that guy” and “watch out for the creep factor” apply as well. As with anything, the more you have opportunity to meet people in real life, the easier it will get.

    Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of thought. Will look forward to hearing more.

  • As my southern-born mother taught me, “Be warm, gracious and hospitable. Treat others as you prefer to be treated.”

  • That’s why I think it’s important to say things on twitter that you would only say to someone face-to-face. Personally, I would like to meet people on my Twitter on a professional level and in a professional manner. I’m just not sure how to do that and I’m still not sure how all this networking helps me with my photography and writing biz. Someone clue me in!

  • I’ve met some people offline that I originally connected with online as well. In most cases it wasn’t awkward at all but in some cases it was (a little). The reality for me in those awkward moments, if I am brutally honest with myself, is that the awkwardness came when I got a little self conscious. When I became nervous that my online persona might not match up with my in-person reality. The awkwardness slipped in for a moment when I worried that my first in-person impression might not measure up to who they “thought” I was.

    Maybe I’m alone in that thought but I doubt it.

    Now let me wrap back around on that… This doesn’t happen often for me at all. I’m a pretty self confident person but sometimes in those quick moments of unexpected vulnerability, such as meeting for the first time, it can.

    How I handle it? I just try to be myself no matter what and in that moment of awkwardness I remind myself that most likely the other person is feeling a little awkward too (and it’s okay).

  • The awkward twittering meetings seem to happen more and more frequently as the twitter world expands. I totally understand and relate to the weirdness of it. It seems to help me if I just acknowledge it.

    I had so much fun hanging out at the conference with you!

  • John Ireland

    hmmm…reckon i’ll be able to tell you in a couple of weeks, after my wife and i visit nashville for anne j.’s book signing at davis-kidd. 🙂

  • Wow, yeah, it’s awkward. Marina put it well – twitter (and other online tools) provide plenty of social context, but leave a lot of ground to be covered once you finally meet people in person.

    I also tend to forget that there are a couple of dozen people who I follow on Twitter who don’t follow me back. I assume that they’re just like my other Twitter “friends”, they just never respond to me. It takes me down a notch to realize they’re not following me. 🙂

    So, that all being said, hi! We haven’t met. I complained about something related to the BRB program at Thomas Nelson on Twitter one day and you got stuck with helping resolve it for me. I hit the follow button almost automatically and here we are. It’s refreshing to just have some normal people using Twitter to talk about mundane things in the twitter feed. Even if I haven’t met them.

    [Now, then, that wasn’t too painfully awkward, was it?]

    @cjhubbs

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  • Kurt Willems

    You know, I have often wondered about this myself. I have not had as awkward of an intro as you mention, but wonder: "how much does this person really care about her or his twitt friends?" I would hate to be excited and let it show if it really is no big deal to the person on the other side 🙂