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Everyone else seems more outgoing - how can I meet people? Add to ...

The question: I have a hard time meeting new people. Everyone else seems so outgoing, posting personal items on Facebook and chatting up strangers in bars. How do get myself out there and noticed?

The answer: Meeting new people can be a challenge at the best of times, and it just gets harder with age. Be mindful, however, that your perceptions of the ease with which other people meet is likely a bit skewed. It’s a hard thing for many people.

Consider your reference points, as what we find difficult can feel even more challenging if we (mis)perceive them to be easy for others.

Facebook and other social media sites are, in many respects, an artificial form of communication. There are certainly many positives that come with these sites, such as staying in touch with friends and sharing photos. Unfortunately, new technologies are leading to societal shifts in which people tend to engage in less direct communication (face-to-face or phone) and more indirect, ostensibly distant communication (online messaging, texting). This can lead to a false sense of connection with others.

Interestingly, recent research has found an inverse correlation between the number of Facebook “friends” adolescents had and the number of actual close relationships they reported having. So what you see on Facebook is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how social or outgoing someone is.

Similarly, bars are not the best place to judge how confident others seem to be, as interactions there are often enhanced by the presence of alcohol.

I’m not sure what wanting to get “out there and noticed” means. Do you want to meet more acquaintances or friends? Do you want to meet people you can go to social events and activities with? Do you want to meet potential dating partners?

Articulate and write down specifically what you want. Then determine ways to achieve your end goal. For example, if your goal is “having a running partner”, your list of actions may include “join a running club” or “strike up a conversation with runners I see frequently at the local track”.

Identify the barriers that you have in talking to others. Do you feel insecure? Do you get shy and clam up? Do you have difficulty knowing how and when to start a conversation? If shyness or anxiety plays a role, I would suggest getting The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques for Overcoming Your Fears by Martin Antony and Richard Swinson, which is an excellent, evidence-based workbook with strategies to manage social anxiety.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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