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How to engage deeper with the fandom in spite of social anxiety?

Coda

Member
I've been a part of the fandom for about 6 years now and while I don't mind being a spectator it gets a little lonely not having furry friends. I can deal with posting on forums like this or furry subreddits but I have difficulty handling VRChat and Discord and other, more direct groupings.

Any tips for biting the bullet and putting myself out there? I feel like a lot of furs are of the extroverted (or otherwise internet friendly type) variety so it's kinda intimidating to talk to new people but I'm sick of my anxiety preventing me from engaging with the fandom and the folks in it on a deeper level.
 

Keket

Member
I've been a part of the fandom for about 6 years now and while I don't mind being a spectator it gets a little lonely not having furry friends. I can deal with posting on forums like this or furry subreddits but I have difficulty handling VRChat and Discord and other, more direct groupings.

Any tips for biting the bullet and putting myself out there? I feel like a lot of furs are of the extroverted (or otherwise internet friendly type) variety so it's kinda intimidating to talk to new people but I'm sick of my anxiety preventing me from engaging with the fandom and the folks in it on a deeper level.
I feel you; I have struggled a bit with this myself in the past. I think it's not just about looking at the end goal - but making smaller goals that will lead you to the end result.

For example, if you are in VRChat it would be pretty difficult to just jump into a public world and go up to people and start talking. However, doing so with a friend - or maybe attempting to make friends with people who go into VR elsewhere (through forums etc.) can be useful. I love VRChat and would be down to meet up there if you feel like this approach would be helpful. Buddy system lol. :cool:

Another useful tip for VR in particular is joining the worlds that have more activities. That way you aren't just standing around thinking about how to strike up conversation. The first friend I made in VR was because they hopped onto my rocket ship, and I got stuck in it. The whole situation was so funny we just kind of ending up hanging out for hours after that.

The best advice is to really just make a plan and be kind with yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day. It is scary when you have anxiety, and it can feel hard to speak. Ease yourself in. Give yourself credit for the small steps you do take. Sometimes I too need to remind myself - "This is VR! If it becomes too much, I change worlds, hop of the game, etc."
 

lolox

Well-Known Member
I was never able to figure it out myself. Interactions with strangers in Second Life (which was the big thing at that time, way before anything like VR Chat even existed) usually turned out forced or awkward. There were some nice ones here and there, but not enough to justify the effort that it took from me. I ended up losing more energy than I was gaining from it. That's not to say you couldn't do it, though.

Anyway, what made me finally connect more with the community was to start doing creative things that would attract the interest of others, and that eventually would grow to a bigger project involving more people. Now I have developed very close relationships with several furry people that I feel I can share anything with and we're having fun together doing all sorts of things - not only working on these projects together but also playing games of all sorts or just chatting on voice. We have even met up IRL on some occasions, eating at fancy restaurants and going to the cinemas. (We live really far apart and we're all involved with our own RL things so it's rare.)

Neither one of us are that into role playing so I think maybe that might be why we're working so well together? RP people really are a different kind of breed, and if RP isn't for you it's most definitely going to feel awkward if you force yourself into it. That's not to say all ppl on VR Chat are RP:ers but I definitely think there's a big overlap there.

Ultimately, I think you need to figure out what exactly it is about the fandom that you like. There are so many facets of the community, and perhaps there's one that suits you better than others. I think if you're new or just starting to socialize with other furries, there's this need to feel validated, but at the end of the day, you need to realize these furries are just human beings, and you shouldn't feel the need to feel validated by them any more than you should feel the need to feel validated by your local pizza baker. There are so many people in this community, some really bad ones, but some really good ones too. If you're lucky, you might be able to find some of those good ones that you're compatible with, and I think the best way to do that is to do what you feel passionately about. Passion makes you more noticeable and attracts the interest of others. Or perhaps there's passion of some other fellow furry that attracts your interest, and you could build something that way?

I think a lot of furries have this idea that because they have this affinity for anthropomorphized animals, they can immediately make friends with anyone sharing this interest, but that's kind of weird. It's like saying if you enjoy watching television, you'd make great friends with anyone also into this activity.

The truth is that the community is just as diverse (if not more) than the ordinary population, and if you struggled making friends there, you're probably going to have some struggles here too, because, as already stated, the people within the fandom are just ordinary human beings like any other.

In the end, what does being a furry, or doing furry things even mean?

I think another way to go about this is figuring out what you're actually into. Given an ordinary day, what do you actually spend your time on? Do you play certain games? Do you do certain activities? Then perhaps you can find someone playing these games or doing these activities that also happen to be a furry. That's going to be a lot easier than just randomly trying to make friends with some furry stranger than you might have zero things in common with (other than liking anthropomorphic animals).
 

Khafra

Heave away, haul away
Strike up a conversation with one or two people with similar interests and be introverts together, best of both worlds
 

TyraWadman

The Brutally Honest Man-Child
I just brave the fears and the tears. It gets easier to handle with time, but also creeps back up on you now and again.

Just gotta ground yourself and remind yourself there is nothing wrong with being nervous or afraid. And to rationalize if your thoughts get way out of hand XD
 

Kinguyakki

Alignment: Chaotic Stupid
I've been a part of the fandom for about 6 years now and while I don't mind being a spectator it gets a little lonely not having furry friends. I can deal with posting on forums like this or furry subreddits but I have difficulty handling VRChat and Discord and other, more direct groupings.

Any tips for biting the bullet and putting myself out there? I feel like a lot of furs are of the extroverted (or otherwise internet friendly type) variety so it's kinda intimidating to talk to new people but I'm sick of my anxiety preventing me from engaging with the fandom and the folks in it on a deeper level.

I just keep online stuff to being online, I don't form many close friendships where I keep up with people over months or years. We may frequent the same chats or online places (in my case, Second Life) but I really have no interest in forming deeper connections. It's just "online" to me.

You are correct, though, I've noticed that in most furry oriented chats and message groups, the people are fairly extroverted and friendly.

I wouldn't really approach chats with high hopes or expectations, just chime in and join conversations. It may help to post in less-crowded chats. There are some Telegram groups that have a LOT of members, very active, so that can be daunting when the topic of conversation keeps changing or getting interrupted.
 

MaelstromEyre

Slippery When Wet
I have a terrible time just jumping into live chats online, I often lurk for quite a while to get a feel for the group before joining in. Same goes online, virtual worlds like Second Life where you not only have general chats, but some people use voice chat as well.

If I go into a situation where it seems like everyone already kind of knows each other, it will take me a lot longer to start participating.

The good thing, though, is that most of the time others will be welcoming and friendly.
 

Ziggy Schlacht

Hasn't figured out this "straight" business
So, if it helps - understand that many, if not all, people are to one degree or another faking. Take Tom Cruise, he's 5'7" (170CM). Now, you might think that a guy with that kinda money, all the prestige he could ever want, and a name everyone knows would be confident and secure... right?

Wrong. It's written in to his contract that he be made to look taller than other actors because he's the lead. 5'7" is apparently "too short."

Despite all of his success, Cruise still has body issues. What does this mean? Everyone has hangups. Everyone has issues. People, no matter how "in control" they seem on the outside are absolutely faking it. And they're still successful despite this.

So, how does this tie back to you? I don't think we can talk you out of your social anxiety. But, imagine that everyone else is just as anxious as you. They're more concerned about themselves and are likely thinking about a dumb comment they made 6 months later that you sure as hell don't remember. You're all the in same boat. This isn't the same as "imagine the audience naked" (which would weird me out more than them clothed...) but rather understanding that your fears are normal, shared by others, and aren't going to stop your success.

Then just... try. A few words here and there. Answer a question someone asks. You don't need to open a Vtube and start blogging about your bowel movements (or whatever popular Vtubers to). Accept that it's gonna be hard, but it's hard for everyone, so give it a try.
 

Yakamaru

Woof? Woof
Strike up a conversation with one or two people with similar interests and be introverts together, best of both worlds
Introverts unite! In different rooms! Being too awkward to say anything over voice chat. :>
 

Baud

Oh boy it's a deer
Suppose that, just for the sake of argument, someone struggles with their anxiety so much that approaching anyone feels impossible because they automatically feel unwelcome and believe nobody could possibly be interested in a person like that, and that every time they try joining a group of people the result is always so hurtful they quit and go back to being alone where they wish they had somebody, ending up in an unescapable loop. How would you proceed?
 

Dragon64

Well-Known Member
Suppose that, just for the sake of argument, someone struggles with their anxiety so much that approaching anyone feels impossible because they automatically feel unwelcome and believe nobody could possibly be interested in a person like that, and that every time they try joining a group of people the result is always so hurtful they quit and go back to being alone where they wish they had somebody, ending up in an unescapable loop. How would you proceed?
That's pretty much how I was like, only I never had the courage to even join or reach out to any groups
 

Green_Brick

Krita user
For me, it's very hard. Usually, I'm turned off from networking due to my drastic differences in interests, which is why I only have about a few close friends online. I've reached out a number of times, and I've had quite a number of bad experiences with others. It's... scary to put yourself out there, but when you find those golden gems of people out there... oh man is it amazing!

In the end, I'd say look for people who are taking chances and join the action. You never know, the next person you meet may be your next closest friend~
 

Huglust

Member
I feel you; I have struggled a bit with this myself in the past. I think it's not just about looking at the end goal - but making smaller goals that will lead you to the end result.

For example, if you are in VRChat it would be pretty difficult to just jump into a public world and go up to people and start talking. However, doing so with a friend - or maybe attempting to make friends with people who go into VR elsewhere (through forums etc.) can be useful. I love VRChat and would be down to meet up there if you feel like this approach would be helpful. Buddy system lol. :cool:

Another useful tip for VR in particular is joining the worlds that have more activities. That way you aren't just standing around thinking about how to strike up conversation. The first friend I made in VR was because they hopped onto my rocket ship, and I got stuck in it. The whole situation was so funny we just kind of ending up hanging out for hours after that.

The best advice is to really just make a plan and be kind with yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day. It is scary when you have anxiety, and it can feel hard to speak. Ease yourself in. Give yourself credit for the small steps you do take. Sometimes I too need to remind myself - "This is VR! If it becomes too much, I change worlds, hop of the game, etc."
I'd like to add something to this. Consider admitting to others you have anxiety. The thing about social anxiety is people can't really read you right and if you're acting weird, which anxiety will make you do, they'll just think you're weird and then your anxiety will be like, "SEE?! I WAS RIGHT THE WHOLE TIME!! YOU'RE UNLIKABLE AND WEIRD AND THEY DON'T WANT YOU AROUND! WE NEED TO GO SOMEWHERE SAFE!"

I've had anxiety my whole life and as I get older and have come to understand it more, it's gotten better. One funny thing about social anxiety is it can make you be reserved and withdrawn or unwilling to engage with people. Do people think you're just anxious and worried about being accepted? Maybe, but most likely they'll think you think you're too good to engage with them in a conversation or you don't like them for some reason. Anxiety is like a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you think about this, the more things start to make sense. More awkward weird interactions with others start to make perfect sense and the perceptions others could have of you start to show.

Often times whenever I admit something like this, it goes away really easily and people in general are way more accepting and understanding than anxiety will make you believe. That said, there are still assholes lurking about but still admitting your anxiety can help you relax so much. edit: Even if someone responds in a shitty way to you admitting your anxiety, you've been vulnerable with them and they reveal exactly what they are being, an asshole. It means nothing about you. They're just an asshole. And what if multiple people do it? Assholes, all of 'em.

Ever notice how comedians get up on stage and often times the first thing they joke about is whatever they might be anxious about? Weight, perceived body flaws, intelligence. I swear, this is a real strategy for relieving anxiety. Gently pushing it forward.

Hope this helps!
 
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