Regional FlagSocial anxiety and WoWSource
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#1 - 2012/04/12 07:07:00 PM
Everyone has fears. Everyone has something that they’re terrified of. Spiders, tight places, heights... there’s always something. We’re all possessed by one phobia or another.

For some of us, that fear is of having to interact with other people. Conversations and public appearances are nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching experiences. I’m not referring to scenarios that typically evoke fear, such as giving a presentation or approaching a potential significant other, or even a lack of self-esteem or confidence (though those are certainly results of social anxiety). I’m talking about mundane, routine situations like buying groceries at the supermarket or scheduling a doctor’s appointment over the phone. Most people don’t even think twice about paying the cashier, but for those of us who struggle with social anxiety, it’s a terrifying, paralyzing ordeal.

And unfortunately, that apprehension of being social extends even into World of Warcraft. There are some people who play this game who are so intimidated by other players that they don’t group or queue up for dungeons or BGs. They just can’t work up the courage to whisper someone to join a raid. They’re too afraid of the negative reactions they might get to type in guild chat or trade (though you can’t really fault them for avoiding /2). Talk in Vent? May as well ask them to give a State of the Union Address.

And it’s a shame, because something that’s supposed to be fun is the exact opposite of it. They’re unable to do the things they want to do in-game because their fear is in the way.

It took me a year of playing and a great deal of prodding from my brother to even set foot in a raid. It’s taken me three to get myself to tank (not even heroics, just leveling dungeons). I’ve been guildless for most of this expansion. The thought of someone scrutinizing my application to their guild makes my stomach churn nervously. Though it’s a tendency that I’m working on breaking, there are times when I’ll pass on loot that’s an upgrade for both myself and another party member, because I don’t want them to say anything to me.

Look, I know the simple answer-- and the response that most people are going to give-- is to “man up” because it’s just a video game and “it’s not real”. And though I agree that WoW is just a bunch of pixels and code, the connections and friendships you make with other people through the game are as real as anything. And if you can help someone who has social anxiety beat their fear in Azeroth, that’s one step closer than they were before to solving their phobia in real life.

I’m just trying to raise awareness about social anxiety and online gaming. I know I might sound self-righteous or overly noble about a condition that many dismiss, but the fact of the matter is that there are people out there who start to hyperventilate when a queue pops or when someone whispers them, who drop group after a wipe not because of disgust, but because they’re terrified that it might have been their fault.

Just keep in mind that a computer screen and internet anonymity may not offer others the same amount of protection and comfort that they offer you.

So is there anyone out there (who’s brave enough to step up) who has had similar experiences as mine? Anyone to keep me from looking like a complete fool?

(Lastly, and I have to mention this in passing, because this is General Discussion, I’m looking to start a guild for people like me who have social anxiety. The recruitment thread can be found here, if you’re interested:

Community Manager
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#258 - 2012/12/07 04:19:00 PM
Interestingly enough, I just watched a video of a keynote at a conference in which the speaker emphasized that we often forget that the use of the internet was devised as a means to communicate with people. We place too much emphasis on the medium and not on the purpose of it. The same could hold true for World of Warcraft. While I respect that not everyone is here necessarily to connect with others, it's still important to understand that the game itself is a medium by which you connect with other people. These people have thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires, fears, hardships, triumphs and everything else that goes with being human. It's important to remember that when you strip away the veneer of the game, that you are being connected to these people in a truly unique way and you get to go on adventured together to boot.

Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully those that are in similar circumstances can find a way to get over their fears, or others are inspired to be more empathetic to those who may have these fears and lend a little extra support.

*Yes, this is an older post, but I thought the sentiment was relevant even today.