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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018
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Dating someone who is extremely online, macking on a shy person and climate change anxiety - it's Dear Fifi

It’s that time of week again.

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Back in Yangon! I think I may be heading towards Cambodia next. My free bit of advice for this week? Never take a 27 hour bus journey involving three buses. Especially if it involves sleeping across metal seats at 3am in a bus station in Pyay. And the next one breaks down three times in the mountains. Sigh.

Need advice that’s a little more applicable to everyday life? Get at me right here.

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I have recently started going out with a guy that I had met through some friends. I always thought he was really funny on Twitter and really enjoyed hanging out with him. There is a bit of distance between us so I don’t get to see him that often and we mostly chat through Whatsapp.

The problem is, since we started dating I find him so boring. I realise now he is TOO online. Everything we talk about he has already shared on Twitter, everything he does is on Twitter, everything he eats, every thought he has. Even when we are together he is tweeting about it rather than talking to me. I have tried to talk him about it but he just tells me that’s how he is. As you are someone who is unapologetically online, what do I do? Do I have a right to be annoyed?

Yes, for sure. He’s being rude! You’re right that I’m online a lot – I love Twitter, both reading and sharing. It makes me laugh, teaches me things, it’s gotten me lots of jobs and it’s made me plenty of good friends. But there’s being “extremely online” as you put it, and there’s being downright rude. 

There’s a line between checking your notifications once an hour or so and being glued to the thing to the detriment of IRL conversation and engagement. And look: we all walk the line sometimes. I know I do, anyway.

We have instant validation machines in our pockets that have trained us to check them every couple of minutes. It’s becoming hard-wired into how we operate on a daily basis. But when you’ve also got a flesh and blood romantic prospect in front of you, it’s a huge red flag to wilfully ignore them when they outright ask for a bit of basic attention. And it’s a red flag at an early stage, too. It’s not the Twitter use, really – it’s his poor response to being asked to slightly modify his behaviour towards you.

In the past, I’ve been asked by people to put my phone away. Admittedly, it’s my mother 99% of the time, but it has been exes too. And I always do it when asked, and I try really hard not to grumble. I either set it face down, across the room, or somehow else hide it from myself. Being disagreeable when someone asks something simple and doable of you like that is just rude. It’s disrespectful. For people who don’t use their phones as much, it reads as “I don’t find you as interesting as what is on this screen”. Once I’m told the person I’m with feels this way, I take steps to act and make sure they know I do find them interesting and care about their company. That’s the difference here, I think. 

He’s not listening to you. Or else you’re just not that compatible. But worse still? You find him boring. That’s not good, no matter the reason. Might be better to cut this one loose and go back to faving his tweets from the safe distance of the timeline.

I really like a guy and have been dropping subtle hints but he just doesn’t seem to get it. I want to tell how how I feel but he’s really shy so I’m afraid of scaring him off. What should I do?

In this situation, I’m afraid it’s no risk/no reward. Asking people out is nerve-wracking at the best of times, but it’s tricky if you think this person is particularly skittish. The important thing to remember is that people aren’t mind-readers. One person’s subtle hints is another person’s pleasant, innocuous chit-chat. I think it’s time to dispense with the hints – clearly they aren’t working.

Be direct, but tactful. It’s always good to give people a little wiggle room to politely decline any sort of invitation. I think a simple, straightforward message asking him out is the ideal approach – nothing too vague that makes it difficult for a shy person to craft a response to. Then, depending on what he says, err on the side of caution and back right off if he doesn’t pick up what you’re putting down. 

Remember that most if not all people will just be flattered to be asked out, even if it’s not the right date for them right now. Just go for it. Ask him to something you know he has an interest in, to show a bit of consideration. A gig, an exhibition, a type of restaurant, a movie, an arcade. Something that suits. 

I think one mistake people make with date offers is not being specific enough on times and dates. That’s the dreaded vagueness I mentioned. Being clear allows the recipient a tactful refusal, and crucially it also ensures the invitation stage isn’t dragged out and more awkward than it needs to be. Ask him if he wants to go do this thing next Saturday and you’d love to spend some time together/get to know one another better/enjoy this shared interest together. (A shy person will find it easier to respond to than an anxiety-inducing aimless “Wanna hang out sometime?”) Then let go and let god.

Godspeed in getting your hole, my friend.

Climate change is going to destroy everything we hold dear, a lot of it in your lifetime, if you’re under 40. We’re pretty much locked in. Okay, there’s a chance we can fix it, but it requires a speedy level of social and personal change, on a global scale that is so unprecedented, it’s practically impossible. There’s no hope, realistically. Human civilisation, in all likelihood, will not survive the current century. I’m finding it hard to comprehend that, never mind accept it. What should I do?

I am a worrier by nature, so I get where you’re coming from here, but you need to take a breath and stop. 

Two things. One, something my Dad said to me earlier on this year when I was catastrophising about something I feared was coming for me – something beyond my control, something bad, something in a chain of things that would happen that I could foresee, or so I believed.

Unleashing all this on him, he somewhat wearily replied: “Fiona, you can only worry about what’s in front of you.” That’s very true. Take life one obstacle at a time. Tackle it bit by bit and don’t get drawn into apocalyptic thinking.

Second – and apologies in advance for another truism you might roll your eyes at – but I found this Dalai Lama quote about worrying helpful too: 

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

Essentially, worrying is fucking useless. Do what you can but don’t fret on things you cannot possibly predict or control. It’s a greatly liberating thing in life to realise that what’ll change our lives will be something unexpected, not what we’ve been worrying about. (By that, I don’t mean switch to obsessing over antibiotic resistance or some other doomsday topic, I mean just learn to let go.) 

Do what you can. Let go of what you cannot control. Remember to breathe. 

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always.  

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About the author:

Fiona Hyde

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