Discover more from Hot Chips
....and 5 others.
And why my new hobby is now discovering new friends.
(Before I start: there were a couple of very fun developments that, if they happen, would make that sports-tech piece much cooler than I thought! So meanwhile, I decided to write about something I’ve been doing a lot, and no matter what, that piece is coming December first week.)
For me, most of October and November was spent meeting people. I don’t know what has made me this sociable: I’m actually going out of my way to create more interactions, beyond the requirement that exists in formal settings (like a workplace). I’m not sure why, though. Did I miss human interaction all that much in the pandemic? Maybe, but that’s hardly the only reason I got around talking to a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, more regularly than ever.
It’s weird, because I like to keep to myself pretty often. I have traditionally been an introvert (or a very selective extrovert). I have always been a bit of an egotistic personality, where I want the person to approach me all the time instead of the other way round. You know, like the whole “I want to be alone but also I want someone to give me some attention” meme. Actually, there is a more accurate representation of that meme that I have, since I also used to be a very cliche sort of nerd. The serious, insufferable kind (of course I was a quizzer, why do you ask):
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Twitter (and writing, to some extent) has been the biggest reason I became of a more outgoing nature. Basically, social media has ended up doing its job for once. Sure, it will expand to everything else: AR/VR, e-commerce, fintech, yada yada. But Twitter actually works? And not necessarily in a transactional way? What?
I think that’s been the most impressive revelation to me: communication doesn’t necessarily have to be transactional, even (and especially) on social media. You’re not obligated to say nice things just because someone is doing really well in life. You want to, because you’ll also have likely read innumerable tweets about all that they had to go through. You become passive well-wishers for people struggling with different problems. Some intend to make a mark in academia, some are building an early-stage startup, some are vocalizing issues faced by their communities, some are actually just trying to get by, and everyone (who’s sane) despises the government. I’ve seen people in each of these categories, and also interacted with them, in however limited a capacity.
And some just want to help. It’s the availability of help that mesmerizes me so much. And that’s every kind of help: monetary, social, physical (like how fundraisers blew up). The help doesn’t have to be explicit either: you chat with someone about something, and turns out, you could help the person out about it. If they’re in the same city, there’s nothing better than to meet in real life.
For example: one of my friends (who I also met through Twitter) opened a group chat on Twitter with someone she knew and I didn’t, because I tweeted something about going to a rap concert, and she thought the two of us would vibe. The other friend wasn’t majorly into rap, but a week later - and this was our first interaction - the dude brought his car around to pick me up at 1 am for a short drive in Gurgaon. And we chilled at a 24x7 Store, ending up vibing on everything but rap. Also, my friend called on her friend primarily because she knew I was a bit alone. If that friend is reading this: thank you, again :)
This is not an endorsement of Twitter, but more a testament to the idea that words in public aren’t just empty statements. They will matter (both positively and negatively). And, again, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the last time I saw ONE social media platform bring so many people together, it was Quora. People on Quora used to have city meetups - Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai. Heck, even Bhubaneswar used to have one. This is a bunch of people posting their incredible stories, horrible motivational speeches, wild (and often hugely mistaken) theories. Basically, a basket of different fruits where you can’t tell what is rotten and what isn’t.
Of course, network effects allow you to follow back people whose thoughts seem to match with yours. Which is interesting in two ways: you find your own, but you also want to try and get out of your little comfort zone. “Hey, can I talk to at least one person beyond the 3 who like all my tweets?” And talk doesn’t mean replying by comments: a full, legitimate conversation without the words “What’s up”.
But besides conversations, reaching out to people has taught me one thing really well: finding out within 10 minutes how you’ll gel with someone, if you will. In the process of reaching out to people you’ve never met, you’ll encounter a million different thought processes and ideologies. Some you’ll flat-out disagree with, some you’ll box into certain types because of how they think. Regardless of what you think of them, you realize you can’t avoid their types. You’ll find them at your workplace, your study program, your forum. So you learn how to converse with them, what are touchy topics you should completely avoid to save your sanity, and what filters you should apply in your chats with them. And how you should frame your questions to those people.
Which is not to say that people who like reaching out to everyone are people-pleasers, or are faking their personalities and behaviors to just appear amiable. They have their own thought processes, of course, but they know when to say what, and they have likely tried going down the debate path once. And, then, of course, rant about the same incidences of “debate” to their nearest.
(This excludes people who lash out open threats of abuse and violence against daughters of celebrities, and the like.)
A nice example of such a rant could be, “Oh yes, Elon Musk is a dumb dipshit hard-on and I like very little about him, but I also think he was utterly right about exposing the World Food Programme’s own hypocrisy by challenging them as to how they could cure hunger with $6B. They get that kind of money every year anyway. Much like that other scam, Oxfam.”
For all purposes these thoughts are very hypothetical.
It’s also a lot more enriching when, in that entire process, you find someone who you click with instantly. Your thoughts, politics, interests, all (or most) align. Moments like these make you think that maybe the world being a global village wasn’t such a banality after all. Many of the best people I know coincidentally go through this cycle, and also possibly end up looking the most content to me, no matter where they stand in the hierarchy of society and money. Or so has been my takeaway from the few conversations I’ve had with people.
The reason why I also said that this goes beyond being transactional is because of how different it is from, ahem, “networking”. Relationships are much less one-dimensional today than, say, 20 years ago. Your bonds with people become more dynamic, and they don’t just become “oh this is a quiz friend”, “this is a job friend”. They become a “oh hey, I thought of you when I saw this” sort of friend. Or, a “hey, I think I’ve found you a new person to rage against” friend. Basically, the dynamism between people should ideally feel more natural, irrespective of the structures they’re housed in. I mean, however, few and far between they may be, workplace romances do exist. Co-workers might end up sharing their life traumas and become best friends. You could be an open book, or reserve your pages with only certain people, or not show anyone anything, as long as you feel good about it. Which is what I really like about friendships today: labels feel very diminutive when you’re trying to describe each friend. So the first thing you talk about is their qualities, and not what their background necessarily is. This is also slowly factoring in a lot more when it comes to, ahem, “networking”.
I am this close to calling Twitter a functional dating app at this point.
I have realized that I have given away my strategy of approaching people (not that it matters, I’m no celebrity or whatever). but I’m also extremely well-aware that what I have written is pretty much an open secret. And to be honest, it doesn’t feel like a bad approach. I’m making more meaningful relationships, feeling less I’m faking myself, and feeling much less alone than ever.
Until next time, which at this point looks like my birthday week. I’m being too bold to assume that I can get anything done in that week, but I likely will :)