Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Friday, May 25, 2018

"An introvert's guide to party season"/ "The virtual cold shoulder"

Dec. 5, 2016 "An introvert's guide to surviving the party season": Today I found this article by Wency Leung in the Globe and Mail:

My friend Michelle can strike up a conversation with anyone. I’ve often watched her in awe at parties as she flutters around the room, eagerly chatting with people from bigwigs to busboys.

My idea of a good time is staying in and opening a bag of ketchup chips. I recoil whenever “network” is used as a verb.

I’m not alone. Around 43 per cent of the population is shy, up from roughly 37 per cent in the 1970s, says Dr. Bernardo Carducci, a professor of psychology and director of the Indiana University Southeast Shyness Research Institute.

And at least half of us are introverts, according to Susan Cain’s 2012 bestseller Quiet: The
Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Being introverted isn’t the same thing as being shy, of course. Introverts are most comfortable with lower levels of stimulation, including social stimulation, while shy people fear how they’re perceived by others, according to Cain.

Whether introverted or shy, quiet types have become better appreciated in recent years, thanks to defenders such as Cain. At the same time, the need to get out there and socialize is arguably now greater than ever.

More than 66 per cent of Canadian postsecondary students reported feeling “very lonely” in the past year, according to a 2016 National College Health Assessment survey. A 2012 Statistics Canada report observed about 20 per cent of seniors feel lonely.

In an age when people are often more engaged with their smartphones than with others around them, many of us are losing spontaneous, in- person conversation skills, Carducci says. An increasing reliance on digital communication may be a relief to those who dread small talk, he says, but it comes at a cost.

“Online, it’s structured; you can calculate your response. Online, you can tailor your audience to people who are exactly like you,” he says. “So we’re losing that ability to talk to a wider range of people.”

» The good news is anyone can learn to schmooze successfully, Carducci says. It’s an acquired skill, he says, and one that gets better with practice.

So if I don’t want to wind up as a miserable Grinch, spending Christmas alone with red- stained fingertips, I’d better RSVP to some invitations. To help me break out of my shell, I sought the advice of experts and former small- talk shirkers on how to survive a party from start to finish.

Dare yourself out the door and set a time limit

The party starts in an hour, and I know what you’re thinking. Hanging out with your cat Fernando seems infinitely more enjoyable than surrounding yourself with a bunch of strangers. But get moving, and set yourself a minimum amount of time to stay at the party. Who knows? You may end up not wanting to leave.

For six years, Earla Dunbar avoided leaving the house, shut in by agoraphobia, a fear of stepping out in public. As a young adult, she had always relied on drugs or alcohol to get her through social engagements and, as she grew older, she simply declined invitations until she stopped getting them altogether.

After seeking help from a psychiatrist, the Toronto resident gradually emerged from her social isolation, working her way up to attending her first party, sober, in her adult life at around age 45.

What enabled her to accept and attend that party after a long period of social withdrawal was a change of perspective, says Dunbar, now 62. Sure, she was scared. But rather than dwelling on that fear, she approached the evening as a challenge. “I thought: ‘ Okay, here’s the time for me to … see how I do,’ ”

She promised herself to stay for three hours to prevent herself from retreating before she had a chance to settle in. “If I didn’t give myself a time limit, I might just say, ‘ Okay, I’m out of here in five minutes. I’ve got a headache. I’ve gotta go!’ ”

In the end, she was glad she went.

“Every time I even just talked to somebody, I felt so excited, so happy,” Dunbar says. “When I came home, I felt so good because I had accomplished something I’d probably never done in my life.”

Play to your strengths

So you’ve made it to the party. Congratulations! But let’s face it. You’re no Bill Clinton. The idea of working a room makes you want to curl into the fetal position.

Before you park yourself next to the crudités for the night, try striking up a conversation with just one person instead of inserting yourself in a group. Better yet, find someone who looks even more shy or introverted than you.

Introverts are typically good at having one- on- one conversations, says Michaela Chung, an introvert author and coach based in Nanaimo, B. C. She advises focusing on having a meaningful conversation with one or two people, rather than painfully go through meet- and- greets around the room.

“Focus on quality rather than quantity,” she says. “One meaningful connection is worth way more than just kind of saying ‘ hello’ to a bunch of acquaintances. And that one person is going to remember, whereas the 10 other people you just mindlessly talk to, they might not remember you at all.”

Don’t be afraid of using standard openers, such as “How was your week?” says Chung, author of The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World.

There’s good reason they’re standard, she says: They take the pressure off you to come up with some clever line ( which you may then feel forced to follow with further witticisms).

Don’t panic over awkward lulls

You’ve covered the weather. You’ve talked about hobbies, work, the Leafs. Now what? If your conversation has stalled, stay cool, advises Uluc Ulgen.

Ulgen, 27, says he was shy even as a child, and always felt self- conscious. Born in Turkey and raised in Minnesota, he learned to adopt different personas to try to fit in. But three years ago, tired of keeping up a façade, the New York resident reached a breaking point.

“You kind of reach this breakdown where you ask yourself, ‘ Who am I?’ I was confused about how to conduct myself around people.”

Ulgen embarked on a soulsearching hitchhiking trip in his native Turkey, where he found himself constantly greeted, welcomed and hosted by strangers. The experience inspired him to launch an experimental new podcast called murmur, in which he invites strangers to his apartment to record spontaneous one- on- one conversations. His guests have ranged from homeless people to doctors and musicians.

Their chats don’t always flow easily, Ulgen says, adding that, in the beginning, he’d spend hours editing each conversation to make it sound coherent. He realized he often scrambled to fill lulls in the conversation with nervous, meaningless chatter. “You just start saying things that you don’t necessarily mean, but just saying things just for the sake of having something to say,” he says.

He’s since learned to stop trying to avoid silence. “Embrace the weirdness. Embrace the awkwardness,” he says. “The moment you stop being nervous about it, and you’re able to embrace it, it kind of opens up an entirely new dimension in terms of how you can connect with the person across from you and how you can bond with them.”

Getting comfortable with strangers has involved shifting his attention away from himself and onto his guest.

“Don’t even make the conversation about you. The only reason why … we as shy people get so anxious in those moments is because we make the moment about ourselves. We think, ‘ What do I have to say? What does this person think about me?’ ” he says. “Don’t make it about you. Engage them.”

Paradoxically, by focusing on his guests, he’s finally become comfortable in his own skin.

Make a graceful exit

The night is winding down, and you’re pooped. No, you can’t just moonwalk out mid- conversation. An abrupt, “Okay, bye- ee!” is not going to cut it either. A proper termination is a critical step to a successful chat, says Carducci, the Indiana University psychology professor.

He has been studying shyness and social connections for close to 40 years. Small talk, he has found, actually follows a very predictable structure, which he methodically outlines in his book, The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything.

In a nutshell, it involves five steps:

opening with a simple comment about your setting or environment;

introducing yourself and offering some detail about yourself that the other person can latch onto and ask more about;

throwing out topics for possible discussion;

expanding on the conversation by relating what you were saying to other topics; and, finally, terminating the conversation.

“If it’s a good conversation … you want to let people know, ‘ I had a really good time and maybe we could talk again in the future.’ So you want to end this thing in a way that maximizes that probability.”

Whether you’re extricating yourself from a good or bad conversation, you should first warn the person you need to go soon, signalling they should wind up their story, Carducci says.

Then, let them know you’ve appreciated the conversation, and point out something you heard or learned so they know you’ve actually been listening.

And should you want it, Carducci says, create the opportunity for future contact by asking for their number or mentioning an occasion where you may meet again.

Once you’ve wrapped up, you’re now free to make your retreat. Well done! You’ve made it! Now go on home.

"Come together": I found this article by Zosia Bielski in the Globe and Mail today.  I can't access it.  It's about meeting people on the internet like Meetup to find people with the same interests and like-minded like you.  It talks about being parrot- lovers, having the same hair color.  It is a good jumping off point to deepen a relationship.

Jan. 13, 2017 "The virtual cold shoulder": Today I found this article by Josh O' Kane in the Globe and Mail:

Being left out of social media communities is a new form of ostracism – one that hurts just as much as physical exclusion.

Dinner plans, life updates and inside jokes: It’s all increasingly happening via group messaging apps. Being left out of socialmedia communities is a new form of ostracism – one that hurts just as much as physical exclusion.

In October, two of my good friends broke up. Everyone who knew the couple – who I’ll call Blair and Nelle – was baffled. Publicly at least, they were the perfect couple.

I tried not to take sides: Even though I let Blair crash on my couch for a while, I vowed to stay friends with Nelle, too. Most of our friends did. But the Saturday after the breakup, as a few of us sat around over drinks, my pal Tom quietly did the unthinkable.

He kicked Nelle out of our 20member Facebook Messenger chat.

The room went silent. One friend lifted his phone up and pointed the screen at Tom, agasp. “I’m just trying to be a friend to Blair,” Tom said. For him, this meant cutting Nelle off from the place where we’ve made plans for three years – where it was always possible to find someone willing to meet up for beers, brunch or both.

The breakup was already a shock. This was excommunication.

My friends and I, all approaching 30 or cowering just on the other side of it, organize most of our social lives with group chats. They’re deeply convenient gathering places – to make plans, to confess news, to distract from work – and just a smartphone check away.

But with ever-present, realtime conversations increasingly dictating our social lives, awkward questions arise: Who gets to be a part? And what happens when you’re left out?

Over the past almost-decade, group chats on Facebook, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts have become woven into our social fabric. A recent Facebook survey of 12,500 people found that 59 per cent of people use its message service, an increase from two years ago, with 65 per cent of participants saying that “messaging has made group communication easier.”

Neither Facebook nor Google were willing to reveal the quantity of group chats they currently host, but in 2014, when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, a spokesperson said the messaging program had already hosted a billion group chats.

Research firm eMarketer doesn’t have groupchat-specific data either, but projects that 173 million Americans will use mobile messaging apps by 2020 – more than double the amount that did in 2014.

“One thing that platforms like group chats facilitate is a more public, more apparent and more interactive ability to leave out folks,” says Rebecca Hayes, an assistant professor of communication at Illinois State University who studies social-media interactions.
Yes, it has always hurt to realize you’re no longer a member of a certain friend group, or that people you introduced now prefer each other’s company to yours. But omnipresent digital conversations, Hayes says, “take processes that have existed since the beginning of time and amplify them in a way that might have a more enduring psychological impact.”

There aren’t a lot of data specifically on group chats, but there is some research delving into the implications of unrequited online messages. This includes a 2015 study out of Germany’s University of Mannheim that looked at unanswered Facebook messages with a read receipt – that is, messages that were marked as having been read, but not responded to. For participants with a strong social need to belong, these loose ends were correlated with more intense negative emotions.

And that’s just one-on-one communication: Research has only skimmed the surface of the power for group rejection that stem from chats. “Its impacts haven’t even begun to be explored,” Hayes says.

She recently conducted focus groups intended to study ostracism on public social media. Subjects kept shifting the focus to more private exclusion: specifically, being left out of group chats.

“Participants were basically telling me I was asking the wrong questions,” says Hayes, who is now building on her exploratory research to learn more about how group chats affect interpersonal processes.

The aforementioned chat is among a few I check every day. Some days my phone buzzes with messages from four or more groups, including one that was ostensibly set up to plan an annual guys’ trip, but is mostly used for bad jokes – even though there’s another group with the exact same members dedicated purely to goofing off.

I wasn’t invited into that last one until a few months ago, but I knew about it from my friends’ in-person allusions and in-jokes, and I harboured a simmering resentment at being left out. Hayes says I’m not alone.

“Especially among younger women, if they perceive they’re being excluded from an online or mobile conversation, their interpersonal, in-person interactions are impacted because they’re questioning their own social standing within the group,” she says. Being digitally ostracized, then, can very well lead to reallife avoidance.

Kipling Williams, author of Ostracism: The Power of Silence and a psychology professor at Indiana’s Purdue University, says even fleeting episodes of rejection by strangers – not having a glance returned, for example – can throw us off. Unsurprisingly, the negative spinoffs can get progressively worse the closer you are with the excluding parties.

Williams hasn’t investigated group chats specifically, but in 2004, he co-published a study on text-message exclusion that has some similarities. Participants were brought into a group text conversation that suddenly stopped, and “your imagination was allowing you to [believe] other people were continuing to include each other, but not you,” he says.

“Even though they didn’t have concrete evidence that the other people were continuing to engage with each other, they thought that was occurring,” Williams continues. Participants felt basic social needs were threatened.

“The need to belong, the need to have a reasonably high self-esteem, the need to feel like you have control over the situation and the need to feel that you’re worthy of attention – those four were substantially threatened by this text-message method.”

In outlining my group chats here, I’m certain I’ve angered people I consider good friends – because they now know that, in a small but deliberate way, I’ve personally exempted them from a version of my social circle. A relative of mine once told me he had two primary chats: one with supposedly all of his friends and another with the same friends minus one, who they secretly wanted to avoid.

In less-than-academic terms, this new social dynamic has made all of us inadvertent jerks.

It gets worse when you realize that ostracism comes with trickle-down effects beyond the psychological. Other research has found the region of the brain that detects pain can be activated upon social rejection. “It’s a very real thing that our brain interprets the same way as if it touches fire,” Williams says.

Even if someone doesn’t want to banish a friend from a situation such as a group chat, Williams says, “people are afraid that if they include [the excluded] person, they’ll get ostracized too.” Which explains why no one has invited Nelle back into our main group chat.
Hearing all of this, I reached out to her about what Tom did.

“If he at least had the decency to send me a message to say ‘Hey, I think it’s in the best interest to remove you from the group chat,’ I’d probably understand,” Nelle told me. “He just did it in a shady way.”

This new form of social exclusion, it turns out, looks a lot like the old. Ostracism now just takes a click, but it still burns.

If they perceive they’re being excluded from an online or mobile conversation, their interpersonal, in-person interactions are impacted because they’re questioning their own social standing within the group. Rebecca Hayes Assistant professor of communication at Illinois State University


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home