Feel uncomfortable? This founder wants to solve your social anxiety.

Why do some people have trouble making friends while others have no problems at all?



Thanks to SocialSelf

David Morin, now the founder of startup SocialSelfwanted an answer to that question – but nobody seemed to have one.

“They never know,” Morin explains. “They just say, ‘Well, that person is just really nice.’ Almost like it’s magic.”

Morin wanted to crack the code, so he launched a company that provides an automated solution to the “loneliness pandemic.” Today, SocialSelf has a million monthly users.

australiabusinessblog.com sat down with Morin to learn more about the evolution of SocialSelf, “social overthinkers” and how being awkward can be a good thing.

Related: How to Become a Master at Talking to Strangers

An automated solution for the ‘loneliness pandemic’

Before Morin started SocialSelf, he was already well versed in entrepreneurship. At the age of 17, he co-founded an electronics company, which he sold as a multi-million dollar company. Then he started another company to sell advertising space on websites.

But an encounter with Robin Sharma’s book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrariwho argues that happiness is found by helping others changed Morin’s perspective.

Morin began to think about what really made him happy. In the end, he landed on something simple: everyday experiences with friends.

“If you have good friends, you can handle any battle in life,” Morin says. “But when you have everything else in life and you still feel lonely, it’s like nothing is worth it.”

But he also recognized that it’s hard for some people to forge meaningful relationships — and he wanted to help them.

Morin launched SocialSelf in 2012 as a simple blog with a focus on social psychology. But the site attracted a larger audience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now SocialSelf offers content written by counselors and therapists, free training to help people build their social confidence, and paid courses for those who want more depth.

Related: Welcome to the Age of FOMU (Fear of Meeting Up)

‘Hardcore’ customer development helped build SocialSelf

In his research to build out SocialSelf’s courses, Morin spoke to at least 10 people for each course, which equated to 20-30 hours of phone calls.

Taking this “hardcore version of customer development” was essential, Morin says, because he needed a deeper understanding of various socialization issues — or risked giving overly generic advice that could be ineffective or even harmful to SocialSelf members. .

Take the example of someone who has difficulty connecting with others in a social setting. The root of the problem may be social anxiety, but it could just as easily be a lack of empathy. Of course, telling someone with social anxiety to develop empathy is counterproductive.

“If you read the advice online to ask more questions because people like to talk about themselves, that sounds like good advice,” Morin explains. “But when we interviewed our members, it turned out that a lot of them feel like they’re not really interesting, so they never talk about themselves. And then they read that advice and think: Oh, I need to ask more questions. And then they still don’t connect.”

When users navigate to SocialSelf, they have the option to complete a short survey. Based on those results, users are assigned tags in the SocialSelf system, which then adjusts their next steps through automation.

SocialSelf’s courses aren’t a replacement for therapy, Morin notes, but they can still be valuable for many people — without the comparable price tag.

“Like you [go to] As a therapist, they ask you very simple questions at the beginning to find out how they can help you,” Morin says. [cognitive behavior] therapist, they use proven methods based on what your situation is and what your goals are. And that’s actually not that hard to do in an automated form.”

Related: 4 Important Social Skills You Need to Succeed at Work

Image Credit: Courtesy of SocialSelf

What is a “social overthinker”?

Morin kept coming across the term “social overthinker” during his research process.

It was an idea that resonated with people who saw others socializing in a seemingly careless, easy way—while stuck in a cycle of overthinking that made similar kinds of interactions difficult.

“Often these people are quite wealthy and smart,” Morin says of social overthinkers. “They have a good job and all, but when it comes to socializing, they get nervous because they put pressure on themselves and they complicate things in their heads.”

But there’s good news for social overthinkers, too: People tend to think they seem more uncomfortable or nervous than they actually do.

Morin cites the example of people who give speeches and think they seem more anxious than their audience — empirical research supports that finding.

But so is the general experience many people have had: they go back to their seats after a presentation and complain about how nervous they were, but were told they didn’t. look totally nervous.

Related: 10 Tips To Beat Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Socializing isn’t easy – and some things make it even harder

Many people believe that socializing should be easy because we’ve been doing it since childhood, but it’s an incredibly complex process, Morin says.

Covid-19 added another layer of difficulty: A report of the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that 36% of all Americans, including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children, are feeling “severe loneliness” in the wake of the pandemic.

But at the same time, Covid’s socialization restrictions have been a relief for people who suffer from social anxiety, Morin says. It became normal not to socialize, which in turn only exacerbated the underlying problems.

“If you socialize less, it just gets harder because when you socialize through chat, for example, there are so many thousands of nuances that you don’t pick up on and don’t get used to,” Morin explains.

That’s why some social overthinkers find returning to school or work — and the social interactions that come with it — more difficult than ever before.

Social media is another complicating factor, Morin says. He likens it to eating sweets: it fills you up to a certain extent – you’re not really satisfied, but you lack the incentive to go to the kitchen and prepare a real meal.

“There seems to be some kind of mechanism where people use social media, and therefore they are not motivated enough to start socializing in real life,” Morin explains.

Related: How the Health Crisis Will Change Socializing in Business Settings

Feel at ease when you don’t feel at ease

Some people who have social anxiety at a young age grow out of it over time, Morin says, while others move in the opposite direction — becoming less socially savvy over the years.

What makes the difference? Whether or not a person puts themselves in situations that require those socialization skills, Morin says. Essentially, only those people who are comfortable with being uncomfortable will be able to find a more natural social base.

But that doesn’t just mean showing up at the party you don’t want to go to — you have to engage in the behavior that’s causing the discomfort, Morin explains. Sitting on your phone all the time or helping with the dishes won’t stretch those socializing muscles.

Instead, start that conversation — and keep it going for longer than you might like.

“If it’s awkward to keep a conversation going a little extra, and you’d rather keep it short because you’re afraid there will be an awkward silence if you push yourself to have a conversation for a few more minutes , then that’s what appears to help,” Morin says.

And that’s exactly what Morin wants to do: continue to help people enrich their lives through socialization. He hopes to make 10 million of SocialSelf’s one million users one day.

“I want to keep scaling this up,” Morin says, “so that maybe it can make a small difference to society as a whole, [help] people feel more confident and can bond better with other people.”

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