Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Sick of men harassing you on dating websites? Anxiety over re-engaging with the world because of COVID-19 concerns?

DEAR NATALIE: Why do men yell and harass women on dating sites? I get that it's frustrating to message someone and not get a response. But why can't they just shrug it off? I ended a subscription to a site. They kept my profile up and let men message me so they could tell me I have messages but not let me see them or their profile unless I renew. Women may not see those messages. When I started using the sites, I answered back to be polite but learned very quickly not to do that if I wasn't interested. So many men harassed me that I had to report them and block them. Some men even do that if you don't answer in a timely manner. Why do they do this? — FED UP

DEAR FED UP: Why can’t they shrug it off? Because they believe you are there in that space solely for their entertainment. The idea that a woman wouldn’t respond to them, no matter how they engage, is too upsetting for their fragile egos. So, they lash out like children having temper tantrums when no one pays attention to them. The internet has allowed the worst of people to appear because they do not have to look anyone in the eye. They can feel brave and powerful behind the keyboard which compensates for the lack of control and power they may feel in reality. It’s often misdirected anger. Anyone that treats you with disrespect should be blocked. You owe them nothing. You don’t owe a response, a smile or an acknowledgement. This does not give them the right to belittle or attack you and speaks volumes of the toxic culture in which this behavior thrives in. I find the best way to deal with this is pay them no attention at all. Do not feed into it. Do not engage with it. Let it wither and die out on its own. Anyone who is respectful and has a sense of decency would just move on, anyway.  

DEAR NATALIE: I know this will sound crazy, but I’m really worried about things going back to “normal.” I’ve become very comfortable in my house, with working from home and ordering in food. My mom says that I have to get ready to start “living again” and that staying inside all day, every day isn’t healthy for me. But I feel my anxiety creeping up on me every time I think about life outside. I know she’s right, but I’m having a hard time adjusting knowing that so many people aren’t following protocol or wearing masks. Any suggestions?— ANXIOUS A LOT

DEAR ANXIOUS A LOT: I have been hearing this more and more from people who are feeling very comforted by their space and don’t want to engage with the outside world. I am not here to tell you what to do with your life, but I will say that your mother may have some wisdom worth listening to. What is your life going to be if you hide away? In truth, our worlds shrink or expand in proportion to our willingness to engage. On the other hand, I completely understand your fears and anxieties. They are rooted in reality, but we also cannot allow fear to control our lives. If we do, we go from living to just existing. Instead, try to take little baby steps to begin reengaging with the outside world. Wear a mask or face covering and just go for a walk outside. Maybe it’s just around the block. Maybe it’s just to the corner and back. But take a moment to step in the sunshine and take a deep breath of courage. Then, perhaps in a week or so, you decide to go a little further. Maybe you even think about trying to go to a store. You don’t have to go inside the grocery store, but maybe you just walk to the outside and see what’s going on. Notice the precautions people are taking to make it a safer experience. Reduce the time you spend watching or the news if it causes further anxiety. Have your mom tell you the important things that you need to know. Find activities outside that you can do on your own, like reading a book in the park. Listening to music on your headphones while you sit on a bench. Try finding ways to experience the outside world without fully engaging. Over time, you may notice that your feelings of anxiety start to subside when you recognize that the monster in our heads is often much worse than in reality. But if you don’t seem to feel any better, please reach out to a mental healthcare professional for a telemedicine support session. There is no reason to be crippled emotionally for the rest of your life and you don’t have to live that way. Life is waiting for you, just reach out. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Did you know you can turn on “gallery view” in the top right so that you can see everyone’s feed at once in the same size? It’s less distracting this way and makes engaging in conversations feel less intimidating.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to asknatalieadvice@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci