I’m pretty shy, to be honest with you. I’m not good at going out of my way to talk to people, especially people I don’t know. I often struggle to make conversation, and one of my least favorite things is when strangers try to interact with me in public (unless that stranger is Alice Cooper, but that is a story for another day).
This usually works for me. I find a number of close friends that I feel comfortable around, and I am free to be my wacky (not to mention charming and witty, right friends?) self around them. It’s cool, all those handsome strangers can stay on their side of the subway, and I’ll stay on mine. They are probably (handsome) serial killers with lice or something, anyway. This whole introverted thing works for me, up until a point.
There comes a particular point when as a fan of “something” — in this case, a band — one wants to interact with that object of admiration. As a devotee, you find yourself constantly the consumer, the recipient of their art, and eventually one wants to reciprocate and display gratitude. Or maybe you just think the band members are awesome people, and you in turn want to prove how interesting and clever you also are by talking to them after a show. It’s a very natural tendency as a fan of anything, really.
So how do I reconcile my conversationally passive tendencies with a desire to interact with a band that I love when the opportunity is placed before me? For example, I’ve just attended a concert, after which the members of the band emerge from their backstage kingdom to mingle with the faithful. I see band members making undoubtedly hilarious conversation with fans far more confident than myself, and I fall back. Face red, mind blank, feet out the door. I’ll definitely see them again, and maybe next time I’ll come prepared with a clever quip or insightful remark or at least something for them to sign. Maybe this is just me, but many times I have completely frozen in the face of an artist that I admire. I become intimidated by their “cool factor” and let myself linger in the back of the room instead of trying to say hello.
Thankfully, I have the internet.
The internet: a gift to the awkward, the introverted, and the painfully shy everywhere. Eschew face-to-face contact, and replace it with wordy emails and thoroughly calculated blog posts. Charm others with your Tweets, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally misusing a word or the fact that you sometimes spit when you talk, right? Right. Good.
So being a fan on the internet, in theory, should be great. You can comment on their Facebook posts! You can Tweet at them! You can comment on their blogs! Yes, your voice will get lost in the mix. No, you don’t get the (terrifying) satisfaction of actually SEEING that band that you love, but you still have the opportunity to show them you care. I’d like to share with you an anecdote in which the introverted fan interacts with her heroes, the punk band. Maybe she emerges a changed woman, learning something about herself and the world around her. Maybe.
I have a Twitter account and I follow a number of bands I love. One such band is Titus Andronicus, an indie/punk outfit from New Jersey whose Twitter-voice, Patrick Stickles, is as raucous and prolific as any I’ve experienced before. A few nights ago, he began to post a phone number to the account with invitations for fans to call and chat or #JustTextTitus. This was my chance. It was the ideal intersection of real-world fan interaction and internet protective cover. I could send a text message, anonymously, knowing it would go straight to the source. I had one shot, once chance to endear myself as an A+, #1 fan.
I pull out my phone. I put it back — no, I don’t need to do this. Wait, yes I do. I take it out a again. For a visual, this cell phone, on the technology spectrum, is just about as far from a smart phone as one could venture without it actually being attached to the wall.
What do I say to them? A joke. A joke will be perfect. Everyone loves jokes: punk rockers, teachers, zookeepers, toddlers, everyone. The people love jokes; the best fans tell the best jokes. But which joke? One of MY jokes, obviously — I sometimes write jokes. Puns really. I contain multitudes. It will not just be any joke. It will be my favorite.
Me: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Titus!”
I am friendly. I’m aware of what day it is. I don’t use their full name; I am colloquial.)
“Can I tell you a joke?”
Into the ether I send the message. My hands shake, and my face burns. What am I doing? I’m texting essentially a stranger to fulfill some sort of inability to approach people that I respect and admire? My phone lights up.
Titus: “You can”
JUBILATION. Here it goes.
Me: “What do you call a black and white bear that caters to or profits from the vices of others? A pander bear.”
Boom. Interaction. As little as it might have been, it was validating. Did he ever respond to that second text? No, not yet anyway. To be honest, he’s probably still laughing at my joke. Or maybe he and his band mates were so taken aback by my wit that he dropped the phone, and it broke (not being of the cockroach variety, like mine). Maybe they are still sharing my joke with all of their family and friends.
Did I learn a lesson from yesterday’s little experiment? Not really, except that maybe I need to work on my social skills, or maybe I should learn to write better jokes, or maybe my heroes aren’t as intimidating as I make them in my mind, provided I have the power of technology on my side.
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