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Treating Strangers like Friends

When you travel with someone for a year or two, you pick up their habits. One of Todd's habits that I most admire, and am thankful to have picked, up is the practice of treating strangers like friends. When he goes to a restaurant and the waiter asks him how he is, he tells him what's going on in his life and returns the question in such a way that it obligates a genuine response. When we leave a restaurant, everyone we know gets a hug.

I get nostalgic, mostly for times I wasn't alive for. Like the middle ages. And, more relevantly, like the days before computers and cell phones, when neighbors actually recognized each other, and maybe even talked to each other. Shopkeepers were called shopkeepers, and they knew their customers by name. Their conversations extended beyond a scripted sales pitch for a rip-off extended warranty. I miss these times because I've seen them in movies and read about them in books, not because I've really experienced them.

Simple habits can be profound. One such habit that is more important than ever is to treat strangers like friends. Facebook, cell phones, and other "social" technologies have done to friendship what laminate flooring did for hardwood floors. It made things easier and more accessible, but did so at the cost of substance. In fact, this is happening in pretty much every area of life, something I've realized more fully now that I'm trying to find meat with substance; it's almost impossible. So I try to treat everyone as though they're a real person, just in case they actually are. Unfortunately I can't answer all my email anymore, but when I do I try to write to the person as if they're my friend, rather than use stock replies (which I could do, since a lot of the things people write about are similar). Once in a while I even fill someone in on secret future plans or send them a draft of something. When interacting with random people in everyday life, I make an effort to actually listen to them and to talk about things that they may not have talked about with every person they've interacted with that day.

Introverts and friendships

On Alan's Journey

Being an introvert, it's important for me to 'recharge my batteries' after being around groups of people. Such experiences just drain all my energy. This is the same with most introverts, if not all of them. They don't like crowds, they don't like parties, and they don't like being the centre of attention. I definitely fit into that category.

But disliking large groups of people is not the same as disliking people. Introverts can really enjoy having people in their life - just not a lot of them at the same time.

I've recently culled a whole bunch of people from my Facebook account. These were people that didn't interact with me in my life, or in Facebook. Some of them had been friends in the past, but time and distance between us have made us strangers. So I dumped them from Facebook. They'll probably never even know.

I looked at the remainder, and of the 82 people in the list, about 80% of them have been real face to face friends on my life. The remaining 20% have become friends via online interaction.

What are friends, exactly?

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