Fellow Imagination Connoisseur, Mellius 01, who is also a psychologist, warns against pushing a friend with social anxiety too hard.

Dear Rob,

I’ve been wanting to write you for a long time about the geeky stuff for which we all share a love. However, after hearing Victor Accosta’s letter yesterday, I feel I must write.

I know the members of the post geek singularity are a friendly, well- meaning bunch but I don’t think some understand the severity of extreme social anxiety. One thing I would like your viewers to know, both as an awkward geek and as a psychologist, is that pushing someone with social anxiety to take part in a way that makes them uncomfortable is not good fun for them.

While Victor no doubt meant his letter in the nicest way, I can only imagine the effect it must have had on Willow hearing it, and your subsequent remarks. One can’t be teased out of social anxiety. And though the praise is flattering, it can feel unearned for people who have issues with self esteem. It can sometimes even feel as though people are making fun of you if your anxiety and self image are severe enough.

I won’t presume to speak for Willow, but I can empathize with her situation. Speaking for myself there is this anecdote. I have a lot of friends online, and when I receive compliments from them I always say “I’m better on paper”. Some of us shine in our verbal communication and body language skills and some of us are better at writing our thoughts when we have had time to process and choose our words with care. I prefer chatting online to verbal exchanges for this reason. I also have a public speaking phobia and would be terrified of doing a live chat.

Going to wrap this up now. It’s really just a heads up for people who might not be aware of the effects of teasing comments to a person with extreme shyness and social anxiety. We all love Willow, and her current engagement with PGS through her letters is always a much anticipated treat. Your invitation for her to come on your show stands, I’m sure, and perhaps she will feel comfortable enough at some point to engage with the PGS in this way. For now, let’s respect her enough to give her the space to decide if and when she wants to accept – and maybe lessen the pressure a bit.

We love you Willow! You do you.

Mellius

Editor’s Note: And so we’re going to end it here. While Rob and I appreciate and understand the showing of empathy, offers to help, shared stories and the like – we both feel it’s time to take a step back and, as Mellius recommends, let people be who they are.

I’m sure Rob will agree when I say that we’re both exceptionally proud of the spirit of inclusion and loving friendship shown over the past few days. And the letters we’ve received (and we’ve only been able to publish some of them) have been both heart-warming and eye-opening. The Post-Geek Singularity is a great community. It’s a safe community. And it’s a community full of individuals with hearts and minds that, while not always in agreement, know it’s right to respect the thoughts, opinions and personal spaces of others.

Thanks to you all for re-affirming our belief in the humanity of humans (and those of you who may come from somewhere else) and respecting our efforts to make a new kind of community for all geeks, everywhere.

– Mike