Theoretically, a few Facebooked facts should make meeting up easier. You know they went to University of Maryland and recently went to Thailand, for example. What a coincidence! You’ve been to Maryland and you’ve eaten at a Thai restaurant. That’s two ice-breakers right there!
Except, according to new research out of Benedictine University, maybe it isn’t. In fact, checking out someone’s profile in advance can actually make you more nervous about meeting them IRL — especially if you tend to be anxious anyway. When people — 26 Benedictine undergrads, specifically — met up with people they’d seen on Facebook, their “arousal” levels were much higher than when they went into the encounter cold. And while arousal doesn’t necessarily mean anxiety (we hope?), scientists think in this case, it’s bad news. If Facebook intros were soothing, they point out in Time, people should be calmer when they meet in real life. But they’re not.
Scientists are surprised. “Intuitively we all thought it should help pave the way a little bit,” says lead researcher Shannon Rauch. As an anxious person with a Facebook account, though, I’m not. Meeting people you sort of know from the internet (but not actually) is terrifying. Part of the reason, Rauch suggests, is that Facebook sets up expectation, and expectations are stressful. That’s true. You know what else is stressful, though? Trying to figure out how to drop Facebook-gleaned info in casual conversations without looking like a creeper. Do you bring up your one friend in common? Do you ask about Thailand? What if you accidentally mention how you also are a Sondheim fan and similarly have a cat?
There’s a simple solution to all this: Don’t Facebook people. Hahahaha, no that’s impossible. Facebook is a siren too powerful for any mortal person. Deep breaths, everyone.