Talking to myself won't help my GPA, and all of my friends are imaginary
September 12, 2016 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm a lone rhino in an online Communications survey course. The prof wants us to discuss conversations that we have. In short, I converse with no one. Whaddo I do?

Hi, Bunch of Smart People-
I'm really at a loss. I'm recently divorced, kidless, have moved to another city, and have severed ties with most of my past- especially the recent past. I work remotely, too. And, for reasons I haven't totally discerned and therefore fixed yet, I creep people right the fuck out. So I have no friends. Overall I don't acknowledge this right now since most of my experience with this 'interaction' stuff has been negative, and I'd like to focus on finishing my degree. But, for this class, I have seriously entertained filling out an RPG character sheet to create an imaginary friend just to get through this. But if I do this, everything I say for these kinds of questions will be A COMPLETE LIE. Will this come back to bite me? I admit I'm feeling resentful enough for this to not bother me much. But are there consequences I'm not considering? Please help a frequent lurker and occasional drunk poster. I promise I'll send MF money. Thanks for any advice-
posted by JulesER to Education (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Omegle and Chatroulette are online services that connect you with a random fellow user to chat, with video and text-only options. You have to be patient as a lot of people on there are just trying to find someone for cybersex but at least the last time I used them, there were definitely also some people who are just there for friendly chat and talking to people around the world.
posted by capricorn at 6:45 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does this AskMetafilter question count as a kind of conversation for the purposes of these questions?
posted by Paragon at 6:49 PM on September 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

I would just use conversations that I've had in the past.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:49 PM on September 12, 2016 [11 favorites]

IRC via Mibbit, type in a topic or some random words and you'll be faced with a selection of chatrooms. Select one and begin conversing. There's also a metafilter chatroom.

You could also create fictional people, there are guides for this available for creative writers.

You could also use google voice/hangouts to call a random number and converse with those who answer. You could call companies and query their services, ask questions and whatnot.
posted by FallowKing at 6:51 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

OP here- Holy cow you guys are quick- good thoughts already, thanks. I should specify that a number of questions are about communication in "intimate" relationships- friends, SO's and the like. Please keep 'em coming as you can. I shalt not threadsit...
posted by JulesER at 6:57 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Follow the suggestions and consider the people you talk to as 'friends'. You can create real-world histories for these people if you need to argue that they exist. Or you could ask them questions to know their actual histories.

IRC chats can quickly become intimate.
posted by FallowKing at 7:04 PM on September 12, 2016

And, for reasons I haven't totally discerned and therefore fixed yet, I creep people right the fuck out. So I have no friends.

Have you considered getting therapy to have someone impartial try and figure out these reasons? This might also create some fairly intimate conversations that you could use for this assignment.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:04 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Might check out Second Life. I used that for a couple of college projects, although admittedly not ones like yours.
posted by mordax at 7:10 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Social worker here !

Intimate relationship can be discussion of divorce papers or communication through silence. Not all communication is positive.

You can talk about remote working relationships, you have to be communicating with someone about your work, your objectives and progress.

It is okay to lie and not admit your whole personal life for someone for a grade.

If you must go to meet ups, find something that interests you and just go for 16 weeks.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:12 PM on September 12, 2016 [17 favorites]

The only way making something up could bite you is if another assignment further in the semester builds off this one; but that should be covered in your syllabus. I try to be an ethical person and in fact I really HATE breaking rules in general but in this situation even I would honestly just fake it.
posted by bleep at 7:20 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

do you want to call me? i could do this.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:22 PM on September 12, 2016 [18 favorites]

Honestly, I would just email the prof, explain that you are going through a divorce, just moved, and are working remotely, and that this assignment is going to be emotionally and logistically tough for you. Ask if there's an alternative assignment you can do. You're probably not the only person in this situation, and you'll be doing your fellow students a favor if you address it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:24 PM on September 12, 2016 [30 favorites]

I take online classes for a communication degree, and I have totally made stuff up for assignments like this in courses like interpersonal communications and organizational communications because I didn't feel I had a situation that fit the requirements exactly. It's not going to bite you in the ass, although you might want to keep a copy of the assignment on hand for yourself in case future ones build off of this one. But no one's going to check that the person you said you talked to actually exists. Your instructor is going to check off that you hit the requirements for this assignment and that's as far as their interest is going to go. There won't be any fact-checking.

When I get freaked out about things like this, I remind myself of my 8th grade cultural fair project at school, where every kid had to do a big family tree project. The only family I have any knowledge of is one narrow branch of one half of the tree, but I didn't want to roll up with a family tree that's just me, my mom, her parents and her siblings, so... with my grandma's help, I made shit up. I made up a complete family history -- names, dates, cute little family anecdotes, I even used pictures of the same relatives at different ages and pretended they were different people. And I got an A on that project, and nobody ever fact-checked it.

Hell, if you're truly stumped, borrow a situation from a Human Relations AskMe and tweak it to fit your needs.
posted by palomar at 8:22 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm as honest as they come, and struggled with assignments that require you to draw from real-life experience bcs I was an anti-social hermit in college. Then I had an epiphany: these assignments are unfairly biased against people like me, and I shouldn't be down-graded for having a boring life. So I based stuff on actual events but stretched and embellished quite a bit. No worse than most memoirists as far as I know.
posted by phoenix_rising at 8:29 PM on September 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

What is the goal of the assignments? If you can demonstrate that you understand the concepts by using old conversations or made up ones based on what you think would transpire, I think you are meeting the spirit of the assignment and I would do so.
posted by AugustWest at 8:49 PM on September 12, 2016

I should specify that a number of questions are about communication in "intimate" relationships- friends, SO's and the like.

... are they asking you to analyze these exchanges as e.g. speech acts, or are they wanting you to talk about personal, emotional content?

If it's the latter, 2nd ArbitraryAndCapricious - that's inappropriately invasive, imo. Even if most of the people in the class are 20 y/o and apparently shiny, some of them will have already had painful experiences. (Some of them will have mental health issues as a result, I can't think of a mental illness that doesn't involve some kind of painful background wrt interpersonal relationships). And whether any of that is something to share or not, in an academic context, should be the prerogative of the people who've had those experiences.

(If it's the first, try to remember past conversations. Or eavesdrop.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is nothing wrong with making up your answers to this assignment. I have never once done the "have a conversation with..." or "interview someone who..." portion of an assignment and nobody cared.

The person grading you cares about two things: is it your own work and does it fulfill the criteria.
posted by buteo at 9:50 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Even if you don't contact the instructor about this now, consider mentioning it in the teaching evaluation. Sometimes profs have blind spots and it can be helpful to have them pointed out.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:54 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I second/third/nth the idea to contact the prof, if that's not too scary for you.

I have been the instructor who has set assignments like this in the past (and won't again!) and never considered this possibility and I feel terrible about that. If you were to contact me in that situation, I would direct you to an online corpus of conversation that you could use instead of your own. For example this one. Perhaps you could ask your instructor if it's possible to use that, or talkback radio, or similar.
posted by lollusc at 12:02 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much, everybody- this was all extremely helpful. I haven't completely decided yet, and I'll keep watching the thread. This gave me a lot more useful possibilities to consider, though, as opposed to just my own crusty ruminating. Y'all are awesome, as expected!
posted by JulesER at 6:07 AM on September 13, 2016

Eavesdrop whenever you can. Listen to the talk at the next restaurant table.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2016

If I were you and didn't wanted to be arsed, I would choose to interpret "conversation" as "discussions on message boards and forums" and I would count discussions on Metafilter as conversations. I mean, when I refer to stuff I've read on here, I already usually say, "A friend was telling me that..." because that's easier than explaining imaginary internet friends to most people.

Reddit might be a good place also. Stay away from the big subreddits, but if you're interested in something really specific, go look for it and there's probably a subreddit for it. There's also one called /r/casualconversations that would be an easy way to participate in some conversations.
posted by colfax at 7:33 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can 100% lie. I'd be pretty annoyed at this assignment. It seems kind of intrusive. If the prof is basing a percentage of your grade on something that you simply don't have (regular social interaction) then I'd say you can lie guilt-free.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:51 AM on September 13, 2016

I'd spin it and discuss conversations I'd had at some point in my life.. .just not in the time period given. That way if anything builds off of it you'll have the background info to build on it & it's harder to get tripped up. Also eavesdrop like crazy, go to a coffee shop & people watch, I mean technically these things were said. . .maybe not by you .. but I don't think the professors really care they just want you to learn certain skills, you can learn these from studying older or other peoples conversations just as well.
posted by wwax at 11:08 AM on September 13, 2016

Talk to your grocery store cashiers, the people at your bank, your Uber drivers, your barber, retail workers, your bartenders and servers. For a long time I was isolated and 99% of my conversations were with people I paid. There's nothing wrong with that and it's great practice. After a couple beers, I'll strike up a conversation with the person next to me at the bar. Just get out and about.
posted by bendy at 8:29 PM on September 13, 2016

After you're comfortable talking with people you have a business relationship with, branch out to meetups. When you get even braver, invite your fellow grad students to happy hour, or a rent party at your house. The more you talk the easier it gets. I just spent five years almost totally isolated and am now digging myself out. Please MeMail me if you want to talk.
posted by bendy at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2016

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