Recently while scrolling through Twitter, I stumbled across the account of Eric Buenning, a fellow basketball blogger at SBNation. Eric was in the midst of telling a story that’s very familiar to me, the date that starts off super promising and ends horribly awkward. He then dropped a term that I’ve never heard before, “swog”. For those who are not familiar, this is a good primer. I knew I had to know more about this “swog” concept. And with that, a conversation began…
As a man who has embarrassed himself in more than a few ways with the fairer sex, I find this concept of “swog” in which you frequently discuss on Twitter to be quite interesting. I was hoping we could begin with a quick run-down of what “swog” is and isn’t in your eyes. Most importantly, I am curious as to what separates “swog” from a lack of social awareness and the general inability to flirt with those you are attracted to. Care to shed some general insight before we move on to a deeper discussion of the topic?
First and foremost, I have to admit that I am not the one who came up with this. YouTube icon Ryan Higa made a video about ‘swog.’ I am just the one who carries the swog virus most feverishly.
Swog, in my eyes, is the opposite of swag in swag situations. What I mean by that is also my reasoning for why it’s not just a lack of social awareness.
A lack of social awareness or general inability to talk with the other sex stems from a lack of confidence in my eyes. If you’re approaching a girl thinking “oh shit oh shit this isn’t going to work out like the movies,” then it won’t. Because you suck. Because you eliminated the possibility of whatever you’re trying to accomplish working before you even began.
Swog is different. Strictly speaking in the category of hitting on women (or men, if you are a woman; or the same gender [swog doesn't discriminate]), swog happens when you go into it thinking that you’re going to be all sorts of smooth and that nothing could possibly go wrong. The act of the “pick-up” is just as awkward as one done by a socially inept person, but the original mindset going into it is different.
Swog is basically attempting what you think will be successful and falling flat on your face with it. For example: I work at a reception desk in my dorm. Sometimes, groups of girls walk by, and I greet them with “Hello, ladies.” Not the worst greeting ever, right? WRONG. I don’t have the most….variety in inflections of my voice so it came off like I’m Hannibal Lecter and now I’ve got a group of girls who want nothing to do with me. That’s swog.
Swog has also loosely permeated into events of mine where just super awkward and embarrassing things happen to or near me, and I don’t have the gumption to figure a way out of it in time. Magically, I always end up experiencing the most unorthodox and most spine-tinglingly awkward paths toward a solution.
I’m not an awkward guy. I’m actually pretty normal when it comes to most situations. It’s just..every time a situation presents itself where the most awkward version is a slight possible, I seem to end up living that timeline out.
You basically just described my life. I’ve often wondered if I am currently living out the darkest timeline as I, much like you, have found my life seemingly always taking the most egregiously awkward turns with next to no warning and for no apparent reason.
This leads me to my next question. Is swog an innate characteristic that we both just happen to possess, or is it an external force much like the Kavorka of Seinfeld fame that has been inflicted upon us like a curse? In other words, is it fixable? Or are we doomed to walk the earth with permanent swog?
What a question. As it is hard for me to answer because I am currently so immersed in gooey, dirty swog, I believe it is something that is acquired. I struggle to say it’s a curse or something that can be afflicted upon someone, because I’ve tried to give it away…multiple times..it’s not working.
It’s not just straight up acquired though. I believe that, as a youth, we all had a chance to completely squash swog. A lot of people didn’t, but I believe that people like us left the door open a little too far for its return.
To answer your question fully, I am in the camp that believes that it is an external force that is not really afflicted on anyone at random. It’s always around. Some people just don’t have enough confidence to realize it’s coming and eradicate it.
I also think that it can be fixed, but not be the infected party. This is where the aid of quality wingman or wingwoman are pertinent. If there is anyone who can help shave the fat off most awkward situations, then the likelihood of a successful attempt of swag increases dramatically.
We are not totally doomed. Yet.
Also, HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA you have swog!
(Sorry, it feels good to not be alone).
I like the idea of it being present at birth and not being fully squashed. As a recovered socially awkward nerd, this explains a lot. While I am a normal, socially well-adjusted person these days, as recently as four or five years ago that was not the case.
Would it be fair to say that swog is a lingering symptom of terminal nerdiness during teenage years?
I’m also curious about your theory around it not being able to be identified by the actual inflicted person themselves. Do you think there is no amount of training of awareness one can achieve to overcome it by themselves? What about situations where the inflicted is alone with someone and outside intervention is not possible?
Do you think an Alcoholics Anonymous-like sponsor should be available/on call 24/7 for these situations?
YOU’RE MAKING ME THINK SO MUCH HARDER THAN I EVER HAVE BEFORE ABOUT THIS!
If I understand you’re first question correctly, I don’t think swog directly correlates to nerdiness. Everyone has it. How you handle it doesn’t determine your status. However, it may be more visible in “nerds” because they are incapable of hiding it effectively.
In regards to my theory, I do think that the afflicted party can work through it, but it’s nearly impossible if they’re truly infected. There are only a few factors that I’ve found useful for the afflicted to overcome swog on their own. They are as follows:
- The girl or guy is waaaaaaaaaaaay into them, so the pressure is less intense
- Alcohol is in their system (Note: I’m NOT advocating you get drunk in every social situation. I’m also not saying it’s a guaranteed fix. Sometimes people think they’re being smooth when, in reality, they look hella desperate)
If you are alone and there is no sign of help anywhere, then swog is very tough to defeat. It is not impossible, but the truly affected will have an incredibly difficult and stressful time finding a way out of their predicament.
However, all it will take (if you can summon it), is about 30 seconds of insane courage. I believe that swog is a make-or-break type deal. It may oftentimes be impenetrable, but it’s not without its fair share of defeats.
By the AA idea, are you implying that we should have a swag coach hotline, like in cheesy rom-coms, but way way way cooler? I’m all for that.
That’s exactly what I am suggesting. I am a 27 year old man who has battled this condition my entire life. I do not wish that upon anyone. I am asking these questions not only so I can understand what I’m battling with, but so I can help others from finding themselves in this situation when they reach my age.
So, I’m going to ask another question that will require us to both dig in deeper about this phenomenon. In my experience, whenever I have found swog rearing it’s ugly head (for the sake of alliteration, I will refer to this as a “swog storm”), I have noticed that the situation fits into one of a few general categories:
- Something that catches you totally by surprise
- A completely novel and new experience
Given all that we’ve discussed, may I propose a theory of my own and get your opinion? You know that old quote about how luck is where opportunity and preparation meet? What if swog is when opportunity meets unreadiness?
We’ve already established that those inflicted with swog are generally confident individuals, so they’ll find themselves with opportunities. Unfortunately, they are ill-prepared for these opportunities and in those 30 seconds of hesitation after something surprising or new, they’ll stumble and fail and everything will go off the rails at this point. I like this explanation because I think it’s an accurate description of the problem, and also suggests a possible solution. This would then suggest that one can conquer swog by simply suffering through it and experiencing enough embarrassing, awful situations that you are then prepared for when they strike again.
That said, if I’ve learned anything in my 27 years, it’s that the amount of ways a situation can turn to shit and get super awkward is seemingly infinite, which suggests I will have to suffer with swog for the rest of my life. Though maybe, and I hope this is the case, it’s a problem that will asymptotically approach zero. Though I know it’ll lay dormant waiting to strike when I least expect it.
I totally buy into your theory, although one could reason that it is hard to prepare for something where you don’t know when or where it will strike.
That being said, I think that people who have been infected with swog are stuck with it the rest of their life. It sucks, but it’s always going to be around.
It’s hard to formulate this idea after a night of drinking, but I do like your theory. Let me add a revision to it, though. I believe that swog is sometimes prevalent when opportunity meets a lack of preparation, but it is also akin to a lack of awareness. I’m not even sure what I’m saying make sense, so let me put this into a formula.
Lack of preparation + lack of awareness of situation + overexaggerated “expectations” (I have a story if you don’t understand this part) + opportunity = swog.
I can totally accept that amendment to my theory. There have been many, many times in my life when I have been totally oblivious to some subtext or clearly overlooked a serious red flag. Things like that can snowball and later bring about a swog storm.
I’m curious about these over- exaggerated “expectations” that you mention. Do you mean a false sense of bravado? An over-inflated ego or confidence?
Ah, this an important distinction here. I very much do NOT mean a false sense of bravado. I’ll get to that stuff in a little bit.
What I mean, and this is from personal experience is…well, ok. Let me give you a scenario.
Let’s say I somehow pull off enough swag to set up something as simple as inviting someone of the opposite sex over to watch a movie or they invite me or a third party does all this and bails. You know what I mean. There’s only two of us. In my head, I’m running through all these scenarios where pausing the movie will be necessary (if you know what I mean /nudges/ /raises eyebrows/). By the time I’ve run through all these, I’m all worked up and nervous about how I would react if any one of them happened, and by now I’ve retreated into myself and am about 30% as cool as what I want to be. In truth, if I could block those (really, pretty unrealistic) thoughts right away, then the night would be much more enjoyable, even if nothing came out of it.
This also happens in a group setting, when I invite someone I think is attractive to join whatever the group is doing. If they agree to come, it’s great. However, people with swog will still have those awkward thoughts of /should I sit by them? How outgoing should I be? How much attention do I show her?/ and then the people who don’t have swog DO “hit it off” with her and then you get intimidated and then become that 30% again. Perhaps “expectations” was the wrong word. What I’m trying to get at is that people with swog, since they usually don’t operate with swag, tend to mentally overcompensate or drum up wild exaggerations of hangouts so simple that you end up kind of ruining any chance you may think you have with them (in your head).
Let me ask you this: Say a girl you kind of like asks if you want to grab dinner, coffee, lunch, etc. You’re totally not into her just yet, but you want to see if there is anything worth pursuing. Does this not become a ‘date’ in your head automatically? Don’t you find yourself putting a little more pressure on this to go well than you should? It’s not simply just nerves. I’ve been nervous to do things I’ve been prepared for. That’s easy to fight through. This is different, because in your head, you’ve exaggerated what you’re actually doing. I really hope I’m not alone in this. I might cry if I am.
Now, let’s talk about that false sense of bravado, and hopefully this will lead into another discussion. There is no such thing (in my opinion) as a false sense of bravado for someone with swag. You may try to convince yourself that you have it before you go out to do whatever, but you don’t. The false sense of bravado belongs to your atypical “bro.” That over-confidence, as some would reckon, is how they get the girls or guys on most nights. I’m getting off track.
The reason people with swog won’t have that false sense of bravado is because they are too mental. Not to be offensive here, but they can’t think primitively enough to operate with majority swag. They take too much into account and hypothetically venture down too many avenues to give themselves any kind of real shot.
I think this may be where you and I begin to diverge a bit, Mr. Buenning. To answer your question, yes. If I’m grabbing drinks, dinner, coffee or whatever with a girl that I am either into or interested in, then yes, I view this as a date. However, I do not find myself piling undo pressure upon myself as a result of this, with very rare exceptions. And to that, usually when I’ve felt this pressure, it’s been because we’re both super into each other and I have a good feeling going into it that we’re going to hit it off. That’s rare for me to feel that in a first date situation though.
Instead, I would posit that these feelings you are experiencing are a manifestation of insecurity, which I view to be separate and distinct from swog. That said, when I was your age, I felt these feelings regularly, so this may be an age thing here.
But I really like we’re you’re going with this idea about being in your head. I’m a neurotic mess at times. While I’m generally a calm and collected guy, the moment something weird, awkward or unexpected happens, I turn into an anxiety monster and totally lose all sense of cool. And that’s when swog happens. So much so in fact, that I would like to think that neuroticism is a prerequisite for swog.
Perhaps that’s the way to look at this? Swog is neurotic confidence/swag. You find yourself in a lot of situations where there is the potential for neurotic over-introspection and the moment an inciting incident occurs, you’re derailed in hilariously awkward fashion. What do you think?
That seems pretty accurate. Swog is, at it’s most simplest form, is just a crippling mental over-analyzation of a situation, usually with the outcome being hilariously awkward.
Is that it? Are we done?
Outside of having to live with this for the rest of our lives, yeah. I think we’re done here. Hopefully this conversation can help someone in some way.
In addition to Goodspeed & Poe, Angelo writes/podcasts about the NBA for I GO HARD NOW, covers the Cavaliers at Fear the Sword, and ocassionally writes about horror films for Bloody Good Horror. He lives in his native Cleveland with his Netflix account and PlayStation.
Eric Buenning is a writer for ESPN Truehoop’s Bucksetball, SBNation’s Rufus on Fire and the soon to launch Shorthand District. He is the self-proclaimed “King of Swog” and may or may not have written some of these emails while trapped in a toilet.