We know the stereotype: nerds and geeks lack social skills. There is some truth in this, and the nearly ubiquitous online culture exacerbates this at times– there is a new avenue in which to communicate, but when it comes time for face-to-face interaction, many continue to struggle.
But for those attending this year’s ConnectiCon, what might not come naturally was possible to learn. One panel, titled “Talking to girls (or boys) is an art: so let me teach you how to paint,” intended to help conventiongoers learn how to enter into conversation with individuals who have gotten their attention.
For individuals who deal with issues more complicated than mere social awkwardness, panels were offered to help them to deal with social anxiety and the depression that sets in post-convention.
About thirty people participated in the social anxiety panel, with most appearing to be under 25. The moderator asked audience members to identify physical feelings associated with panic attacks and social anxiety. Heads nodded in recognition while multiple scenarios that triggered such experiences were described: meeting someone for the first time, being in groups where no shared interest was apparent, calling people, ordering food, and trying to take part in a group conversation.
After identifying the triggers, participants were given some ideas for coping skills and techniques, like disrupting negative thoughts, engaging in exercise, and enlisting help from a friend when navigating situations that have proven stressful. Those having long-term problems with anxiety were encouraged to talk to someone. All of this advice, rather than handed down from an outsider, was delivered by a peer able to speak geek and be respected for “getting it.”
All problems resolved? No. But with a weekend jam-packed with face-to-face socializing, it was a start.