You arrive at a social or business networking event and your eyes quickly scan the room. You don’t see anyone you know. You walk over to the bar or buffet table for something to focus on. You look around again, and still no familiar faces. What do you do?

Perhaps your hand automatically goes in your handbag or your pocket to grab your cell phone. Thank goodness for your little plastic friend! You immediately begin pressing buttons, checking email, checking the weather, checking FaceBook. Because when you are using your cell phone, you’re not alone. But deep down you know it’s true–you really are alone. So you feel less awkward, but that little “friend” becomes a 2.5″ x 4.5″ wall—a barrier between you and everyone in the room.

I remember being at a networking meeting and walking across a room to introduce myself to someone sitting alone at a table, but as I grew closer, I noticed she was on her phone, so I swiftly walked off.

Last year I was at a party in which I saw someone standing alone, on his cell phone. I recognized him from my church, but didn’t know personally. When he finally got off his phone, I approached him and introduced myself. He said, “I’m so glad you introduced yourself. I was on the phone with my wife telling her I was about to leave because I felt awkward and didn’t know anyone here.”

The paradox: When we arrive alone at an event, most of us want someone to approach us and introduce him or herself. But if you want to guarantee that won’t happen, pull out your cell phone.