Social Media and the Unrequited Hug

One morning, in the temple kitchen, the phone rang while we were preparing a feast for the weekly Open House. It was an Indian woman, calling for directions to our Hawaii ashram.

My friend, the head cook, spoke with her while I stirred the pots and de-stemmed a pile of cilantro. She was quite animated, my friend was; it seemed as though she’d really made a connection with the woman on the phone.

Later, as guests began to arrive, we noticed what looked like a rental car pull into the driveway, so my friend stepped out to greet our new guest and congratulate her on finding our rural sanctuary.

The woman was all smiles.

She was dressed in a sari and was accompanied by her large, beautiful family.

Naturally, my friend approached her with smiles and warm greetings and introduced herself as the person who spoke with her on the phone. Then, my friend goofed.

She went in for the hug.

Oh my god.

The woman was as stiff and unresponsive as a fossilized mannequin with rigor mortis. You get the idea.

One minute she was smiling, making great eye contact, sending all kinds of friendly signals, and then, BAM! System Shutdown.

(Try this with a friend! Designate one person to be the hugger and the other, the unresponsive huggee. The huggee has to be really enthusiastic-looking, as though he or she is inviting a hug.

Then, when the hugger applies the Big Hug, the huggee suddenly keeps his or her arms tightly affixed to his or her sides, widening his or her eyes as if to say,

“What ARE you, some kind of maniac?”

This is a fun, fun game. -Ed.)

At the ashram, this became known as “The Hindu Hug,” so-named for its alliterative quality, not as a statement about Hindus in general. Some of my best friends, in fact, are very demonstrative Hindus –though maybe not quite as huggy as, say, many Californians or the friendly folks of the Pacific Northwest.

“We Hindus aren’t big huggers,” my husband laughs. “We’re Namaste People.”

The point is this:

If you are engaging in social media, or in marketing or promotions of any kind, you will occasionally get The Hindu Hug, and it will feel terrible.

For example, I am fairly new to Twitter. For the most part, I’ve been very warmly welcomed, but every so often, someone I really like will choose not “follow” me back, and I can’t help but wonder if I have virtual spinach in my teeth.

When this happens, resist the urge to doubt yourself.

You are worthy, and your breath is fine.

They may not have noticed you following them, so feel free to @reply them if they pose a general question sometime. If they still don’t follow you back, well then, don’t take it personally. Maybe they’re just Namaste People.

Focus on your craft and move on.

You have a purpose in this world beyond the numbers on your Facebook page or Twitter profile. Fulfill that purpose without attachment to the result.

And if providence should eventually smile upon you and you begin to attract some attention of your own, be gracious.

Remember where you came from.

Hug back.


Photo: Salt & Pepper Shakers by Alberto Mantilla for Mint.

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4 Responses to Social Media and the Unrequited Hug

  1. Thanks for coining the “Hindu Hug”! It was an American, Edward T. Hall, who developed the Theory of Proxemics which determines our closeness tolerance for people, according to different situations and relationships. I come from a French-American background and, in the 1960s, was used to kissing friends on the cheeks until an Ultra-Christian girlfriend pulled back, saying only her husband had the right to kiss her. Over the past generations, I have seen Americans going too far into the bear hug thingie for my taste. I hate getting imprinted with other persons’ c’ologne, or worse, aftershave. I would like to see hugs reserved for only close friends and have people return to the cordial, social handshake. (Oops. Guess even that’s too close in some cultures!)

    • Dasi says:

      Bon matin, Constance! I loved your comments!
      When I finally meet you in person, however, I will certainly give you a big ol’ American hug, so be ready for it.
      P.S: I don’t wear c’ologne. :)

  2. Sara says:

    Hello! I like this, it’s been a tough day and you just made me laugh! I may have been guilty on occasion of a wide-eyed staring response to an in-person hug (but some people hug really hard! or are a bit dodgy ;-)) but I usually try to go with it.

    And I am with you on the social media thing, I think you and I started tweeting around the same time – it can feel a bit like high school can’t it!
    Sara x

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