…I’m just afraid of opening up to them.
I’m one of those unfortunate creatures who come off as snobbish upon the first meeting, particularly because I don’t talk much. Basically I wait for people to start doing the talking, and if they don’t, we just stare at each other until I get so uncomfortable I excuse myself and take my leave. If I’m lucky, there’s a second meeting and I open up more. It’s usually at that point when the acquaintance tells me about my ice-queen first impression, and how wrong it was.
When strangers meet, their primary concern is to reduce uncertainty about the other person and their relationship. As verbal output, nonverbal warmth, self-disclosure, similarity, and shared communication networks increase, uncertainty goes down, and vice versa. — source
Of course, all this time I’ve been talking about meetings in real life/meatspace. In cyberspace, however, I seem to be more open about myself. Faceless strangers used to hit me up on my AIM account when I ran my tennis blog, and I would chat with them for a long time about shared interests, tennis or otherwise. I can stay for hours on end on bulletin boards, trading wit and wisdom with people living on the other side of the world. Even this online journal you’re reading now in which I reveal precious little about me is more of an open book than the me you might meet offline.
Maintaining a closed boundary can lead to greater autonomy and safety, whereas opening the boundary can promote greater intimacy and sharing, at the cost of personal vulnerability. — Littlejohn, S. (2002). Theories of Human Communication, p. 251.
Maybe it’s because I feel less vulnerable online. The computer screen effectively does screen how much I reveal about myself; I am in control. I can think first about what I’m about to say before hitting the “Post” button, in stark contrast to the verbal diarrhea I tend toward when speaking with people. Visual cues I give off in face-to-face conversations are almost completely absent in my text-based interactions online, so I can bluff my way through tough situations and can always be on my guard.
I know that my days of timidity and passivity are slowly fading away from my being. Such attitudes don’t really enrich life. In fact, they detract from it and cause you to wonder why you’re such a coward. And they make you wonder if you’re ever going to get to the point where you actually live… I’m talking about interacting with people for the mere sake of it and not being worried about the results. — Lee Warren
So, you know, protecting myself is fine. It just doesn’t bode well for the development of good relationships, or even just for the broadening of my perspective on life.
A few months ago I realized what a small circle of friends I had: a smattering of friends from high school, college, and Bible study, but no one beyond that. I had only just decided to be a teensy bit more open about talking to new people when God plopped three such ones into my life. Since then, God has been placing me in situations where I meet people from various backgrounds — and then he allows me to muddle it out and figure how much to open up to them. I think it’s a big desensitization project (my stage fright is a related neurosis), and it’s helped me realize how much more interesting and rewarding life can be when you share it with people.