How to Introduce Yourself to Strangers (Hint: No, That’s NOT the Way)

My mother used to say I was a “weirdo magnet.” She also gave me a key ring, once, that said, “I like you – you’re weird.” I like to think that most of the “weird” people we meet in life are likeable (like me!) but now and then, even nice weirdos need a little coaching in how not to come across as merely creepy and “weird-in-a-bad-way.”

Google Hangouts

Yes, I have a nice smile and look “approachable.” But I’m still trying to figure out why any man (and a few women) would approach a random stranger on the Internet and, let’s face it, one who is literally old enough to be their mother, and start the conversation with some variant of the following:

“Hi.” No, really – that’s it. Just “hi.” Followed by a sucking void of nothing else. Give me something to work with.

“Where are you?” I’m pretty sure this info is in my profile. One of them. Somewhere. It’s out there, online. Really, if you are interested in the answer and not simply grasping at conversational straws, Google it before popping up on my monitor, unbidden.

“What do you do?” See “where are you?” above. If you have to ask, you obviously aren’t all that interested in the answer. If you must make small talk, why not open with something a bit less personal, like, “What’s your favorite color? Mine’s green, because it reminds me of newly mowed grass in summer. It seems so full of life!” Or, “I see you’re a race car driver. That’s so cool – I’m a used car salesman. I think I got one of  your old wrecks on my lot, last week.” In other words, volunteer the info you’re asking of the other person.  Are you thinking of making up a B.S. bio for this? Make my day. One of us knows how to use Google. If you’re going to try to B.S. your way into a conversation, at least make it intriguing enough to entertain me while I run a quick background check.

Video chat should be reserved for close friends, business associates, social groups of three or more, or long-time lovers. No, random dude from Lagos, I do not want you to see me in my jammies at 6:00 AM. Ever. Blocked!

Also, please do not compose extemporaneous poetry odes to my awesomeness, or ask for my mailing address so you can send me flowers. That is not as sweet, in reality, as it is in the fantasy in  your head. Look, I’m married. Not interested. And do not call me “honey,” “dear,” “sweetheart,” “love,” or any variation on that theme. I realize this is a cultural issue, in some cases – but where I grew up, that’s either a term of endearment from a loved one, or a smarmy and condescending greeting from a salesperson who deserves to be glared at. Don’t make up nicknames for me until we’ve known each other a good two years. Or more.

If you must send gifts, I’m sure the local Starbucks can find me.

LinkedIN

I have a paragraph on my LinkedIN profile, if you bothered to glance through it before sending your completely random request to connect, that says:

Advice for Contacting Holly

Do not send spam unless you send fresh pineapple to go with it. (Seriously, I will respond only to notes that indicate there’s some reason you are contacting me, personally, as opposed to the 100,000 other people that might be on your mailing list.)

Now, family, close personal friends, face-to-face colleagues, and a few people I’ve worked with – in some capacity – online, get a semi-automatic pass on this. People I don’t know, or people I only know because we’ve casually brushed elbows on some social media site do not.  Why? Because LinkedIN is supposed to be a “professional network.” With few exceptions, the folks I’m connected with, there, are people I can honestly say positive things about – in some work-related capacity – if asked. And those “few exceptions” made it to my connections by giving me a bit more than the canned “Because you are someone I trust, I’d like to add you to my network” thing from LinkedIN. This is not me being a snob – this is me, trying to use LinkedIN as it was originally designed to be used. I realize that LinkedIN is trying to reinvent itself as “just another social media site,” but until that happens, give me something more to work with, if you want to connect there.

Google+

If you see “has 457 people in her Circles” and think I’m a snob, it’s because I’m not showing off all my friends. Some of my Circles are private, to protect people who prefer not to be “harvested” as “peeps to follow” on Google+. I did unCircle a lot of people because I didn’t enjoy seeing what they were sharing publicly, and it was filling up my Home feed, obscuring the cool stuff I really did want to see. This isn’t middle school, though – don’t be offended if you Circle me and then somehow notice that I didn’t Circle you back. Only Circle me if you’re interested in what I post. That’s how it works.

Facebook

I’m pretty open to connecting with new people on Facebook. But here’s the thing: I won’t accept random Friend requests, anymore, or Friend requests from strangers who have “friends in common” with me. (I don’t suggest you do that, either – I like my Facebook friends, but please ASK me before trusting any of them who send you Friend requests, there. Liking and trusting are not always the same thing.) It’s unfortunate that messages from people we’re not connected with on Facebook now go into the “Other” bucket. No one I know looks at that, and most people aren’t even aware it exists. It seems to live on a plane somewhat lower, even, than the “Spam” bucket, and is mostly filled with mash notes from merchant marines and horny girls with webcams. (Tell me it’s not just mine that’s that way!)

Anyway, I won’t send you to Facebook jail by saying, “Hell no, I have no idea who that person is! Make them watch the Facebook Re-Education Video and prevent their having any new friends for a week!” But I may ignore requests that come from people I don’t know and have never even exchanged a random “Hi” with in GTalk.

If I don’t know who you are, and your About page tells me nothing, I probably won’t accept your request. I will look at your Facebook page and if I see nothing but hateful rhetoric, racist jokes, misogyny, or spam, I will not accept your request. If I accept your request and can now see all of the above, because it was posted to “Friends Only,” I will unfriend and possibly block you. Nothing personal.

— oh, wait, yeah, it is.

Geez, You’re Picky…

By now you’re probably not even sure it’s worth the effort. “Well, you’ve told me all the ways not to talk to you…” Here are some suggestions (not just for talking to me, but for meeting new people online):

– Get to know what a cursory Google search or a glance at the person’s About page on their blog would tell you, if you want to know things like “where are you” and “what do you do.” Unless you’re wearing Google Glass, this is not an option at a face-to-face cocktail party; however, this is not a face-to-face cocktail party, and one can make too much small talk.

– Start all asynchronous and spontaneous conversations with more than “Hi.” Introduce yourself and explain why you just popped up in IM – in other words, why did you suddenly have an urge to chat with that particular person, and what was it you wanted to chat about? That person may not be online or may not be able to respond immediately, so leave an email address or something.

– Comment on the person’s Google+ profile, blog, or email, FIRST. Don’t just put them on the spot with a spontaneous  “chat demand.”

All friendships start somewhere. Just don’t let social media completely redefine friendship into something meaningless and weird-in-a-creepy-sort-of-way.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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23 thoughts on “How to Introduce Yourself to Strangers (Hint: No, That’s NOT the Way)”

  1. Funny thing, I operate similar to how Holly operates, but with far less expertise. Her advice and policies on social media make sense to me. But then I am on the paranoid and careful side. And over 20. I think we come from a different world.

    I’m no expert on doing background checks. But Anne Mitchell demonstrated a bit of that on Internet Patrol, recently. I guess this old dog learned something. Then there is the stuff I learned from Holly and co. And from my friend Wendy.

    The only place where I disagree with Holly, is that spam should come with pineapple:
    Spam should come with the whole darned Pizza! Crust, sauce, double cheese, heavy onions, a ton of tomatoes, enough ham to scare Miss Piggy, and enough pineapple to cause a crisis in Hawaii.

    You wanna spam me, you pay the price! Sadly, few do pay the price, cheapskates! Instead, they want to sell me cheap drugs, sex videos, webcam chats (Why talk to a stranger I do not know?) , other stuff, and something about my grandfather who ran a diamond mine in Africa… Hah! My grandpa never left Ontario and Quebec. And his hobby was running into trains.

    Of course, Holly probably wants a pizza from me. Well, I’m on the overworked and underpaid side, and by the time a pizza got to, um, wherever, Texas, I think, the TSA or NSA would have eaten half. Holly would be in high dudgeon. We don’t want her getting in a dudgeon (which sounds like a badly made French car), so I will send no pizza. And sorry, as a Tim Horton’s loving Canadian, I will have no truck with Starbucks.

    But, Holly, I think you are right and make good points. Now how the heck, we made contact, I’m sorry, but do not recall. I know I came out a head on the deal. So far, anyway!

    Yes, I ticked the not spammer box. Each time I laugh hilariously. I think I am beginning to be too easily entertained in my old age. I do not feel senile yet. But I do see a pyramid over there. There must be a river nearby.

  2. Wow Holly, after reading that, I am amazed that such a contrarian old guy like me made the cut and managed to get accepted on at least a couple of your social media accounts.

    I can only assume that I first contacted you in moments of weakness, perhaps when your powers of discernment were diluted by important issues like finding names for new cars or similar weighty issues.

    Or perhaps it was when we were both negotiating a certain avenue in the old Empire and needed numbers.

    Seriously though, I agree with you completely, I rarely request to connect on any platform now, vet new requests to me critically, restrict skype chat to family, close friends and clients.

    I also ignore requests to recommend, endorse or similar from people on Linked In whom I do not know nor have any idea of their competence.

    Despite all those barriers, my list of contacts, circle inclusions, friends and connections still creeps inexorably upward.
    Peter Wright recently posted…Don’t let Social Media Phobia Stop YouMy Profile

    1. I like contrarian old guys, Peter. 😉 Especially when they’ve led interesting lives, blog intelligently, give me a healthy mix of conversation I can debate and agree with… it’s a lost art, that “conversation.”

      I connected with a lot of neighbors on a certain avenue long before I realized it helped anyone to score points – so don’t imagine for a second that’s why you “made the cut.” I actually thought those folks were interested in getting to know more people with similar interests – until the day I realized that the person atop the “Writing Index” admitted, publicly, that she “hated to write.” I started to consider those Friend requests much more carefully. It was naive of me to have assumed it was anything more than a score, and I have pruned those back slowly, quietly, and largely unnoticed. I figure if we have “120 Friends in Common” and I don’t remember who the heck you are or why we connected in the first place, it was just a game. And that’s cool – I don’t mind, since very few of those folks are “creepers.” And more than a few are interesting, intelligent, and have become – well, if not friends, at least friendly acquaintances. 🙂 But it’s never been about the points, and the social aspects of that place have nearly evaporated.

      Naah, you “made the cut” because what you had to say interested me, Peter. No regrets in connecting with you, at all.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…How to Introduce Yourself to Strangers (Hint: No, That’s NOT the Way)My Profile

    1. Because I pique your curiosity, stretch your English skills, and drive you to care enough to look things up? 😉 Because I don’t just say “That’s nice” and “thank you for commenting” and “have a nice day”?

      I have missed you, Neeraj. How are things going for you, these days?

      You may be thrilled to know that I am not participating in any contests, at the moment, and have no plans to do so…
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Sleepy Slate 7My Profile

  3. I also don’t say or comment like this rather I don’t like to comment just for the sake of commenting, hope you have noticed by now.

    My funda is either comment properly or don’t comment without reading the things properly, so I was not into the scenario.

    Things are a bit normal, still busy with few courses. Not working anywhere so get a lil time to check my mails and follow up comments lol.

    You say how are you and the life there? I am shocked to know this, wot happened that you are not taking part in the contest. What happened to the October 2012 contest? May be too late to ask but that was the one, I was familiar with. After that I was almost missing from the scenario.
    Neeraj Rawat recently posted…Configure Your Gmail Inbox For Better Management Of EmailsMy Profile

    1. Well, you know me – the real “prize” in those contests, for me, is meeting people like you, Hajra, Abhi – supporting fellow contestants (getting to know the ones who play a generous and fun game of it, and helping them to succeed, too. I enjoy the conversations,and it disappoints me to see many comments that add nothing to it – I write in the hopes that what I write will be interesting or pleasant for others to read, and will make them think of something more to say than, “That’s nice.”

      You must congratulate DragonBlogger – Justin – for winning the final round, last year. He was simply impossible to beat! 🙂

      At any rate, I find that with these intense contests, and all the effort that goes into them, I have little interest or energy left over for my own writing. Friends who don’t blog are bemused by the flurry of pointless activity. And I find myself wondering why I’m working harder to promote someone else’s blog and writing than I am at creating something new.

      Sometimes, I even begin to wish that I were Amish – for whom modern technology is forbidden. (I quickly remind myself of the pleasures of reading books after dark, by electric lights – or the onerous chore that laundry would be without a washer and dryer – and I come back from the brink soon enough.) I did spend this weekend practicing crochet, and even finished up my first real project – a crocheted scarf. It was like meditating. And I had to learn patience, since I’m not very good at it yet. I had to rip out rows and rows and do them over. I find that I don’t like going back to being a novice at things, but I do very much like the sense of accomplishment it gives me when I’ve mastered something. (I have, by no means, mastered crochet. Just two stitches and a scarf – but it’s a good start.)

      What courses are you taking? I do remember you mentioning an ailing laptop, and hoped that it was only the laptop that was ailing – not you. I’ve been remiss not to drop by your blog more often.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Do You Name Your Cars?My Profile

  4. I understand how it feels when you write long posts for people and get tiny replies as if few bots were crawling the page. I remember Hajra ( have read few posts on her blog ) and ofcourse Abhi ( he was doing good and then I lost the interest in his blog once I read few guests posts which were not upto the mark as he used to write though I am still a subscriber ).

    Good to know that Justin aka DragonBlogger won the final round. I remember that he also hosted a giveaway on his blog for ios devices, right?

    I also wanted to take part in those blogging contests as I had few wonderful topics that I don’t remember now :)but I dint want to post it on EG to distract my readers from the tech stuff and I did not start my other blog because of the hosting issues. Whenever I will buy hosting for WP ( may be next year now and not sooner than that ), I will take part at least once in the contest.

    Its good that you started something new and a start is crucial rest you will master it with time. I know how much things are in my to do list just because of a missing start and sometimes I think that I need to build a cyber team to perform the work on all my purchased domains but again its hard to find the talent as per ones requirement moreover someone who can think creatively instead of making fast money.

    Last year, I joined a company and was working for Acronis with little net availability so could not come online that much. Moreover all my computers got a hardware fault and I did not get enough time to get them repaired. Later on I left the company because of health issues ( yes I was ailing too )and then rebuilt my computers + got a smartphone via which I got my social rather net life back.

    I am pursuing basic IT admin certifications like MCITP, Exchange Server, Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) & CCNA. I got bored with troubleshooting the home computers and all these courses were in my to do list and finally I started them. Initially because of job then health issues and now these certifications I rarely get time to post on my blog though I have so many drafts in my mind + once I get hands on experience on servers I will also start a blog on servers so that my home readers do not feel disturbed.
    Neeraj Rawat recently posted…Configure Your Gmail Inbox For Better Management Of EmailsMy Profile

    1. Sometimes life forces us to take a break, reassess, and make a start on all those things we didn’t have time for, before. I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling better and finding time to pursue those certifications, Neeraj. And I’m glad you were able to fix your computers and get your “social net life” back.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Consider the SourceMy Profile

  5. First, I’ve saved this link in my email since August, meaning to get to it much sooner than now; talk about weirdos! lol

    Second, I’m pretty much like you when it comes to adding people back. I go a step further in hiding what I like on YouTube; I just don’t need everyone knowing what I’m looking at, no matter how innocuous it is. I also have lots more people with me in their G+ circle than I have because as you said, it’s just too hard to take in lots of information as it is without adding people who are sharing stuff you don’t care to share.

    As for LinkedIn, well, I’ve modified myself just a bit lately. I’m not holding everyone to the standard of having to send me an original message because, strangely enough, there’s still a lot of people who just don’t get the online stuff who are around our age (sigh…). But if there’s no picture & I don’t know them and they’re not local… nope, not even bothering.

    1. So, I should save this comment till February, just so you don’t feel like such a weirdo?

      Hiding what you like on YouTube? LOL – well, I can see hiding what you WATCH, but if you like a thing, why wouldn’t you want others to know? On the other hand, I’m not much influenced by what anyone “Likes” online. It’s become such a little “social courtesy” as to be meaningless, in many cases. On Facebook, you have to “Like” even the most reprehensible page (or politician) to leave a comment on it. So while Facebook thinks it’s redefined the word “Like,” all it’s done is dilute the meaning (and also the meaning of “Friend”) to the point where it means next to nothing.

      As for LinkedIN, I only require an original message from people I don’t know or have no reason to connect with, professionally. Maybe they can make a compelling case to change my mind, eh? They never do, though. They never even try. (Though a couple have tried the “I see you’re in the same group as me, and I’d like to show you how I got rich in my bare feet – mostly while sleeping!” approach. ::yawn::
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Healthcare: A Human RightMy Profile

      1. Nah, you didn’t have to wait that long; I already knew you were a weirdo. lol

        The thing is that I get notifications all the time telling me what people I’m connected to in some fashion have liked and a lot of it, well, I don’t want to see, and I’m figuring those folks really don’t want to see all the goofy stuff I might like either. For instance, I watch lots of documentaries, including stuff about serial killers and true crime, and I don’t want anyone thinking I have some nefarious plans going on. And, well, it’s just not my thing anyway.
        Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Are Unique And Being The Best Antithetical?My Profile

  6. Oh, good. You checked out the ‘get rich’ schemes for us, and I don’t have to.

    I like to read people’s blogs. Bloggers tell you a lot about themselves – not necessarily personal details, but how they think and put words together – where you can observe as a new visitor and listen first (read=listen).

    If you like what you see, you can start with a few comments – some bloggers comment back, but many don’t. I’m sometimes looking for magazine-like information posts, but not usually. There are real magazines and we get plenty of those.

    I like chatting with people about subjects we have in common. It’s that easy – and far less exhausting than having to get dressed and go somewhere in between my bouts of writing my books.

    I don’t feel so disconnected this way.
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…I can prove I talk too muchMy Profile

    1. I always try to comment back, unless it’s the end of a conversation or the original comment doesn’t give me anything to work with. 😉 “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “Seriously, this was great.” “Thank you.” No, no, I’m not going to do that… but THANK YOU if you’re reading this. That’s always appreciated, even if I won’t indulge in 20 comments that all say that. Alicia, I used to be the undisputed comment queen – we’ve had competitions to see who could get the most REAL engagement on a post, and I’ve had over 750 comments on some of mine. It is FUN, when they’re real. And yes, it’s hard to feel “disconnected” when you have that.

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