On an old episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that I can’t for the life of me remember (someone help or I’ll go nuts), Larry David passes an acquaintance on the street and doesn’t really do the whole stop-and-chat convo. The show then goes on a story line about how it’s not an acceptable way to act and Larry handles it in only ways Larry can, poorly.

The issue that happened to Larry came up in a conversation on Saturday night when I was at a friends house talking with a couple buddies of mine. We agreed it’s such an awkward situation when you see someone on the street you know but barely talk to, yet feel an obligation to have a conversation with them. Here’s how an example of one of those would go:

Old, school friend: “Hey!! Long-time no see! What’s up man?”

Me: “Hey man, not much just in school. How about you? Working now?”

As they go on to answer what’s happening I listen, but I know as soon as they’re done answering it’ll lead into a ‘we should keep in touch’, followed by a moment too long of awkwardness, if there’s nothing else to talk about.

Like Larry, a few years ago I would’ve been more willing to pretend like I didn’t see someone walking down the street. If it meant I didn’t have to encounter them and have that fake conversation followed by that inevitable awkwardness, then I wouldn’t have to rush to where I was going.

After going through Journalism school and now studying PR, however, I think differently. I still see those run-ins coming off as fake, but now I see every run-in as a networking opportunity. Most of them happen when I’m in a hurry; it’s inevitable. How then can I speed the whole thing up without it seeming like what their telling me isn’t quite at the top of my list of important things at that time? I don’t like being fake with people, and I’m proud to say I avoid being that way. I may not agree with a person on certain levels, but I can still be nice to them if they’re nice to me in turn.

Social media takes away the awkward

I can now avoid the fake by networking comfortably with social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog. Facebook allows for me to keep in contact with old acquaintances I hardly talk to by allowing me to post on their wall or send them a message; all of which could be useful if I run into them. Because face-to-face relationships are still important, there are plenty of meetups, tweetups and other kinds of gatherings with PR folk that are relaxed and make it easier for people to network without pressure.

This social media age I’m fortunate enough to be in has made it easier for a person like me who’s shy at first when meeting people. I feel I can communicate better through writing, which has always been the case, and it helps me get in touch with people I may not have approached in real life. That initial contact online lets me build a bridge with that person when I get the opportunity to meet them, which will make the conversation a little less awkward. So, if you run into me on the street, don’t be worried about approaching me and saying ‘hi’, just don’t be fake about it, and I’ll chat with you.