I had a realisation recently. I constantly find myself striking up conversations with near or total strangers on Instagram, and it’s literally only just occurred to me that this might be a weird habit.
Post a photo of a particularly delicious ice cream? I’ll tell you it looks tasty. A new hiking trail? I’ll ask where that is. I’m not even remotely exaggerating about those possibilities either. I recently shared a joke with a girl I’ve met only once in my life about the fact that my Instagram following keeps getting stuck at 666. I frequently chat with a girl I’ve never met in NSW about how online dating sucks ass. Not half an hour ago, I commented to another girl living in Canberra that the view out of her window looks pretty.
Does anyone else do this or am I just slightly unhinged?
I had this sudden premonition that perhaps I’m the Instagram equivalent of that weirdo at the party who latches onto random groups and butts their way into conversation with all the subtlety of a brick to the face. To be completely fair, I kind of AM that person whether online or in the real world anyway. I’d like to claim that it’s all part of my charm, but I’m not sure anyone has ever considered a complete lack of social awareness charming. Let’s just roll with it.
So is this weird? And is it a bad thing?
Actually I’m inclined to argue that this is something more people should do. For one, it’s meant that at blogging events I can often find people I’ve at least had some semblance of a conversation with before so it’s not quite so difficult to break the ice. It’s also meant that I’ve even gained some actual friends along the way. At least two people I’ve chatted with this way have ended up friends I catch up with outside of my phone screen. It’s also improved my real life social skills so I’m better at finding things to talk about when I’m inevitably thrown on the singles table with a bunch of strangers at friends’ weddings.
So why the taboo? Why do I constantly feel like these people must just be rolling their eyes at the screen and muttering “oh no not this weirdo again”?
I guess it’s all about context. For many bloggers, these interactions are part of their business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as clinical as that, but part of the process of blogging is chatting with your readers and getting to know them. If you know your audience then you’re going to know more about what they like and be able to alter your content appropriately. The times you can get yourself into trouble is when you apply this same approach to people who aren’t necessarily in the same game as you. For example, I met a guy in real life once and based on the conversation we had I found him on Instagram pretty easily. Only after I’d followed him and liked a few of his photos did it occur to me that my actions might come across as seriously stalkerish. I certainly didn’t mean it that way (though I won’t pretend the guy wasn’t cute), it’s just that social media is part of my bread and butter and I tend to assume that anything that’s not set to private is intended to be shared and discussed among a wider audience. I wasn’t creeping on your life – you just have a cute puppy. Seriously.
Really, the moral of the story is that you should never be afraid to chat and interact with blogs you follow or Instagram accounts you’re mildly obsessed with. Worst-case scenario? They might think you’re a bit weird (and most people think that of me anyway) and back away slowly if you happen to run into them in the real world. Best case? You might gain an awesome new friend who shares your interests. To me, the rewards well outweigh the risks there.
What about you? Do you tend to interact with the people you follow or not? Would you be weirded out if a stranger started a conversation over one of your posts or stories?