I’m starting a social experiment to create more genuine connections with people. If you’re interested sign up here. For context and explanation, continue below.
It’s easier than ever to keep in touch with people. I can text someone whenever I want, see major life updates through Facebook, and see what people are doing in the moment through Snapchat. All the tools exist to keep up to date with people.
But here’s the problem. We have no good way see what people are really thinking and feeling. It might be easy to see a person on the outside, but it’s very hard to see a person on the inside. It’s rare to feel like you can be genuine with a person, it breaks the “highlight reel” we create of ourselves online.
And as an extension of that, it’s hard to create NEW, genuine relationships. If it’s way easier to keep in touch with our old friends, it’s easy to feel complacent about putting ourselves out there to make new ones. And even if you did want to make new ones, where would you go? How would you do it?
If you read any papers about the phenomenon, most sociologists seem to come to the same conclusion about how to make friends:
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.
I’ve been thinking more about how to address this issue: Why is it so hard to develop organic relationships after college? How can we simulate those three elements that foster closeness, and even make our existing relationships stronger?
One aspect of this is experiences, something I’ve written about before. In short, experiences are things like Escape the Room, Paint Nite, recreational sports leagues, etc. Experiences force proximity, but they also create shared struggle and a goal that requires interdependency. For a brief period of time, being in the same place with a group of people you know (or don’t) trying to overcome an obstacle creates a momentary environment of closeness.
But friendships also come from repetition and letting your guard down, so maybe there are other approaches too. There is no clear place to go where you can feel comfortable being real. And there definitely isn’t a place where it happens consistently.
So because of that, I’m trying out an experiment.
The Experiment: Get Real
I hate small talk. I think it’s dumb to ask people the same set of questions all the time, especially when you know the answers to many of them thanks to social media. I want to get right to what you’re thinking, how can I learn your thoughts? Tell me something real, take me below the surface level.
I’m starting a social experiment called “Get Real” to get people to be a bit more introspective and genuine. The idea is going to start simple:
- I’ll email out a question.
- The following week, I’ll post 1–3 of my favorite answers (with consent, anonymous or named), and ask another question.
- The question could be funny (what’s your worst date story?), it could be random (what would you do if I gave you $100k?), or it could be deep (what scares you the most when you think about the next year of your life?).
While the initial purpose is to create a sense of closeness between myself and others, the goal is to create an area where people can feel comfortable being vulnerable. After doing this for a bit, hopefully people will feel empathy towards others they may not have felt before, and find it easier to bond. And at the very least, you’ll at least be confronted with an interesting question you may not have thought about before.
If being a part of something like this interests you, sign up here, and share it with friends. I’ll be documenting things I learn through this experiment throughout the course of it.
Let’s get real.