Take responsibility for social slip-ups

Call me a hipster, elitist or whatever you may, but fads have never been my thing: shopping at Lululemon, obsessing over cats or considering Beyonce to be a supreme being. Not that I’d judge anyone who does. The current trend that irks me the most, however, is the intentional use, or rather misuse, of the word “awkward.”

While discussing our hobbies, a guy trying to pick me up at a party put on his best show of Don Juan-ism: “I’ve never met a black surfer before,” he told me, as he smiled and hoped that he had won my approval.

Realizing his faux pas, he quickly followed with, “I’m sorry. I’m awkward sometimes.” He then continued the conversation as if he hadn’t just uttered a statement that displayed ignorance and failed to illicit a proper response on my behalf.

It’s common to make excuses for uncomfortable situations, or unforeseen behavior; however, overusing the phrase “I’m awkward” doesn’t let us learn from our own mistakes.

In popular culture, “awkwardism” is a prevalent force that has become acceptable. There are movies (anything with Michael Cera) and TV shows (“Awkward,” “New Girl,” “Big Bang Theory”) about socially inept people who reduce their odd actions – which really aren’t acceptable or favored in the real world – to a matter of entertainment and play them off as “quirky.”

This also pervades in daily life. People often describe themselves as socially awkward, or deem situations where they have acted strangely as “awkward.”

Certainly there are times when we don’t know how to handle ourselves, and I know that I’ve said it as well. But why must someone choose to put himself or herself down constantly, using an empty phrase to produce a seemingly valid reason for acting out of place?

Claiming to be socially awkward or saying, “I’m just an awkward person” really implies: “I don’t know how to hold a normal and satisfactory human conversation” when, in fact, most of us are perfectly capable of doing so.

If anything, the phrase subtly condones abnormal behavior that isn’t even productive in the workplace, dating or life in general. Quite frankly, it’s a cop out for acting like a fool.

I refuse to let an unjustifiable phrase, nervousness, lack of awareness – or some combination of the three – be the death of basic human interaction and our own self-worth.

We should stop using these excuses and instead move toward practicing the confidence to handle any encounter that we may have.

It’s as easy as actually listening to what someone has to say, tolerating the social mishaps of others, and avoiding uttering anything that would portray ourselves in a bad light.


Lauren Goode is a sophomore majoring in biology.

March 30, 2014


Lauren Goode

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