Twice in my life, I’ve learned that the “friends” in my immediate vicinity are not my friends, but belong to the social circle of an ex and are going in the breakup when she finds someone else with an American Express and a little bigger biceps.
So, when I made my planned transfer to TCU in the fall, I figured it was time to find some quality people. I set a goal of approaching 100 strangers of similar age outside my classes in the first six weeks of school with the aim of being friends. I also made a goal to ask out every girl that seemed genuine. I’d lead with a genuine compliment or a relevant excuse to talk to them and see if I could keep up a conversation if they weren’t obviously busy with something else.
I have a wide circle of friends in Miami, where I used to live, so I figured it would be a piece of cake.
I absolutely, inexplicably got my butt kicked. It shook my faith in people.
About 15 percent of people I approached were pretty fucking rude.
TCU is famous for its unwelcoming and ruthlessly materialistic kids, so I expected a few people to take some pleasure in ruining my day. However, I didn’t expect anywhere near the abuse I got for trying to make friends. And I’d give myself an A- for social skills.
About 75 percent were polite and would talk to me but weren’t really open to being friends.
No harm, no foul.
I tried to balance my approaches, varying between day and night, making sure to not only approach cute girls. In an effort to further my diplomatic efforts, I bought drinks for anyone with a pulse when I would go out.
At this point, I felt like one of those knife salesmen that go door-to-door trying to sell their wares to unwitting strangers. I began to question my value as a human being after a couple of weeks of doing this.
As the pressure of school ratcheted up, the rude got ruder. I’m not going to dignify them by talking about what they said. They suck. I meditated, trying to find balance in what I was doing wrong. I spent hours on the phone with my friends in various countries, catching up about anything and everything.
When I was at my lowest point and about to give up on the experiment and resign to a life of Netflix and phone calls to old friends, something funny happened. A few people started to be nice to me.
The final 10 percent of people were actually really cool, but I didn’t get anyone in this category in the first 20 people I approached.
I’d get phone numbers and offer to buy people lunch. After the six weeks were up, I’d made half a dozen friends. It turned out that a lot of people felt just like I did and wanted to connect with genuine people.
I approached my 100th person at a bar on West 7th (I think I approached 60 girls and 40 guys over the course of my experiment). She was unbelievably mean, and took the chance to drunkenly tell me all kinds of awful things.
In all, I approached 100 people in the most difficult school to make friends in the United States. I connected with about 10 people and became friends with a half dozen of them.
In one sense, the whole endeavor was remarkably ineffective and exposed me to get trashed on by strangers. On the other hand, it was a massive success and cut the amount of time I needed to make friends to a fraction of maybe a third of what it would have been. I 100 percent succeeded in my goal of connecting with quality people, so on that measure, it was a massive success.
On the whole, I would recommend that anyone who isn’t happy with their social life to give this a try, for at least 20-30 strangers.
I’m naturally an introverted person, so it wasn’t easy or fun to do this. I didn’t necessarily like doing it, but I like having done it. And if a stranger gives you a compliment and asks you where good local places to eat are, give them a chance!