According to Ty Tashiro, a psychologist and the author of Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome, it seems plausible that we are becoming collectively more awkward at the moment. But he’s keen to stress that for most people, any resulting slip-ups are likely to be extremely minor.
“These tiny deviations from what’s socially expected in these situations can create a tremendous amount of embarrassment – and that just shows you how fine-tuned the human mind is to pick up on social expectations, and then assess whether we’re meeting them,” says Tashiro.
Socially awkward children
As for those who are still developing their skills, the more exposure you have, the better you’ll get.
“Kids and teenagers do need to have face-to-face interactions,” says Tashiro. “Because they have to learn about the abundance of social cues and expectations that happen when you’re in a real-life situation.” He explains that this is even more important for people who are naturally predisposed to be awkward, including himself.
“When I was in middle school, going into high school, I felt kind of bad about my social skills. And one of the realisations I had was that we’re just a little slower to pick up these things. I wasn’t very intuitive, but that was okay.” To compensate, Tashiro made more of a conscious effort to be socially aware, and spent time practising.
This is backed up by an abundance of research, including studies into the effects of extreme isolation in other animals, which suggests that social experience is particularly important when the brain is still developing.