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Can Facebook help overcome shyness?

interns Contributor
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Josh Chiles is shy. In a gathering of unfamiliar people, he often waits for someone, anyone, to ask him a question or make small talk.

At a party, bar or restaurant, “I just sit there, hoping someone will talk to me,” he said. “I wait.”

But on Facebook, the 32-year-old Woodbridge resident is Mr. Personality. He constantly refreshes his status, comments on others’ updates, posts pictures, makes jokes and registers his likes. More important, when he sees his digital connections in person, he said, his shyness often disappears.

“There is no doubt that Facebook has improved my life in building relationships with other people,” Chiles said.

Chiles is, in many ways, the face of a counterintuitive new stream of research examining whether social networks, particularly Facebook, are for shy people what water is for the thirsty. The studies, with titles such as “The Influence of Shyness on the Use of Facebook” and “Shyness and Online Social Networking Services,” grapple with an important question: Can the Age of Oversharing bring the shy and lonely out of their cocoons?