Here’s something I tried out last night as an experiment. I logged into Chatroulette and Omegle to gauge if it would work well as a “laboratory” for improving my social anxiety. My conclusion is: Yes! But I believe there are some caveats that need to be worked through and I need to set the correct expectations.
First, my experience at actually connection with people was mediocre at best. I believe that 99.9% of everyone using this websites is seeking to only chat with the gender of their interest, (I am the .1%). Because of this, I was Nexted by nearly everyone. The gender ratio is easily comparable to my college computer science classes (over 90% male). The only people I talked to were a couple clearly underage girls (who I politely nexted myself) and a homosexual man from Brazil. I probably talked to that last guy for 15 minutes, but he also wasn’t interested in a straight man like me. There were probably a bunch of dicks in there too but because I do not look like a woman I suspect most of them Nexted me before I noticed.
While this experience was a failure at finding people I might be interested in to talk to, it was a resounding success at triggering my social anxiety. I think that’s the most important part. I am not going to find a long term partner, or even a friend, on Chatroulette or Omegle. Yet still my mind freezes up and I feel terrible talking to these strangers. The way I see it, if I can relax doing this than I can relax in just about any social setting.
I believe in some degree this is even more beneficial to me since I almost always prefer face to face interactions over phone calls, and I’m not sure why. Something about there being a person there, but not really there bothers me. Maybe it’s the separation? A person close to me is unlikely to criticize me, but someone far away could without repercussions. I’ll think about this more.
But back to why this random video chat feature is so effective. It really pushes all my social buttons. I get anxiety before I connect, and during! I am constantly being rejected, even criticized! Hours after a chat is over I wonder how I could have improved my conversation skills: I should have mentioned this, or asked about that. It’s absolutely brilliant that something so pointless, with people I will never meet or see again, can affect my anxiety in such a profound way. I thought at first that it would be too easy, and I’d have to move onto real life face to face interactions to improve, but I think the opposite is true. These impersonal interactions are some of the hardest for me to do, and if I can improve with these then I believe real life interactions will be even easier.
Improvement for me would not to be to be a better conversationalist, but to be able to bring my guard down when talking to these people. Nothing I say to them matters, it doesn’t matter how I present myself. Once I can relax I know I will be as witty and intelligent as I really am. All I need to do is get out of my shell. Either they will like me, or more likely next me because I am not an attractive woman. And there’s nothing I can do about that.
For now I’m video chatting with my fluffy tailed friend, I think it makes me feel a little better with him there both because I am not alone and people will be distracted by the little asshole and not focus their attention on me. Maybe I get more people to stick around and talk to me as well. In time I hope to be able to do it on my own and I will see if there is a difference. I will keep trying with this and report changes/epiphanies here.