Dear Papa Bear,
Um, well, I guess I'll open with my question how do you make friends in this community? As in the furry community. I've been on FurAffinity for a while now, but I'm still at a loss on what to do. I have no idea how to approach people online, get to know them, and all that stuff
I have met a few people, but that’s because they approached talked to me first, and when I talk to them, I feel like I'm boring them. Mainly because I can't seem to get a good conversation going. I can do it in real life but that's because I feel like I can get to know the person easier. And that says a lot because I'm a very shy person and I have a hard time approaching people in real life as it is. Even when I try to get a conversation going the other person doesn't seem to try and keep it going. they always seem like they're half there. They're a good person and considerate, but I just feel like a burden. I feel like I'm just the one asking the questions, trying to get to know them, even though I don't know what to ask, and they don't really ask me much. When I tell them that I feel like I'm doing all the talking they tell me I'm wrong and I shouldn't worry. I'm at a complete loss as to what to do.
As for meeting furries in real life through my local group, I'm scared to do so. The FA page they have isn't very active and what I've seen of the people there, they all seem to be 19 and up already. No one really around my age. Furcons are out of the question because I don't have anyone who I would feel comfortable asking to take me.
I have no clue what I should do anymore. I feel like I'm just screwing everything up. For a fandom that's supposed to be so friendly and inviting, I feel so alone, like an outsider. Not just here but everywhere. I'm sick and tired of feeling alone. I just wanna feel like I belong to something. I hope this wasn't too all over the place
Thank you for your time.
Thomas (age 16)
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Greetings Fellow Southern Californian :-3
Yours is a pretty common problem; many furries are very shy people. One reason they become furries, I believe, is because they have a hard time with mundanes and can relate a bit better to the furry community. Of course, being shy makes it more difficult to find friends, so here’s what you do.
The first part of your letter is about having trouble initiating and maintaining a conversation. The trouble here is that you are trying to have a dialogue spontaneously generate out of the ether of the Internet. Some people are actually good at this, but when that doesn’t work for you, what you need to do is start a joint activity. Gaming is one popular way to do this. When you get involved in a multiplayer game, for example, teaming up with people to fight a digitized foe, you will actually have to talk to them about the game, strategy, etc. This becomes your seed of conversation because you have something in common to talk about, especially after playing a few games together.
Another strategy is to join an online forum about a topic that interests you. While the conversation isn’t in real time, often you will come across people whose comments you find interesting, and then you might contact them in an IM and strike up a further conversation.
I actually met one of my dearest, best friends online while talking about the bear community and about coming out gay in midlife. This lead to private online conversations, then phone calls, and finally to in-person meetings.
And, I agree, in-person interactions are best. But if you’re shy and afraid...?
Shyness is a learned habit. It’s what happens when, for some reason, we become insecure about ourselves and try to hide from interactions in order not to get hurt. One reason this can happen to us is when, as a child, our family moves to another neighborhood and we have to go to a new school. The friends and social structures that were once familiar to us in our early childhood (when people tend to be fearless) are gone and suddenly we are unsure how to start over. That lack of confidence makes it more likely we will be socially awkward and make a mistake that can be embarrassing. Then, to avoid that happening again, we retreat into ourselves and a pattern emerges. Other types of life changes can lead to this pattern, too, such as an illness, disability, or death in the family. For instance, people with a stuttering problem can be very shy; even people with, say, a severe acne problem or who are not good at sports. Sometimes, people who lose their parents or whose parents divorce become very unshy because their lives have been turned upside down. That sort of thing.
An internal voice begins to emerge where we start to put ourselves down in our minds: “I’m stupid,” “I’m not attractive,” “I’m awkward,” “I’m boring,” etc. etc.
What you must do is break this negative-reinforcement pattern. You have to learn to love yourself. Here is a wonderful article from my favorite spiritual site about that: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/21-tips-to-release-self-neglect-and-love-yourself-in-action/.
Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. I’m still working on that myself :-P Sometimes the progress can be slow, but keep at it.
Remember, you have to meet people halfway and not expect them to do all the work. To imply that the fandom is not as friendly because you have a problem approaching people to make friends really isn’t fair, is it? I mean, turn the situation around. If you were at a furmeet and someone was hiding in a corner not talking to others, wouldn’t you have a hard time making friends with that person? You would probably assume he or she wanted to be left alone. In another scenario, someone approaching you who is an extremely awkward conversationalist tends to make one uncomfortable. (Actually, another strategy, if you are up for it, is to deliberately approach furries you see are shy and awkward and try to make them feel more welcome).
That said, some words of advice on interacting with people at a party or other social function. 1) Smile; 2) Be aware of your body language (http://www.study-body-language.com/Positive-body-language.html); 3) Don’t think you have to do all the talking; being a good listener is very appealing to other people; 4) Related to #3, listen carefully to what others say and then, without interrupting them, react and ask them questions; this is a great way to initiate conversations; don’t worry about talking about yourself, especially when you are first meeting someone; if they ask you, then answer, but otherwise lean in and show interest in their stories.
Finally, don’t worry about being an “outsider.” Until very recently, I tried like the devil to be “part of a group,” but I’ve been unsuccessful, even with furries and local bears. But I have been quite successful with being friends with others on an individual basis, and that is actually better than being part of a group or clique. Slowly, over the years, I have built up a surrogate family of furries and bears whom I would not trade for the world.
Hope this helps! Stay Furry!
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