Day Four: Can I Friend You?

I’m sweaty and shaking.  This isn’t me.  I am perpetually publically polite. If I gain enough courage to ask a server for the item I ordered, I say, “Excuse me.  I’m really sorry, but I ordered this hamburger without cheese.  Is there a way you could get me a new one.  I mean, you don’t need to cook a whole new patty.  Maybe you could bring me a knife.  I’ll just scrape it off myself.  Actually, I’ll tell you what.  I’ll just eat it with the cheese. Yeah, cheese isn’t so bad.  Sorry if I wasted your time.”

But here I am, about to request friendship from a stranger.  In my mind, it felt quaint.  I would create friendship cards with a checkmark for yes or no.  It would have that early elementary feel to it.  Instead, I’m at McDonald’s, depending on my voice, hoping it won’t crack.

“Can I request you as a friend?” I ask the man taking my order.

“Um, like Facebook?” he asks.

“No, I mean in person,” I stammer.

He furrows his eyebrows, looks away for a moment and then asks, “What all does it involve?”

“Well, when I buy a Hot and Spicy McChicken with no mayo, I’ll give you an update on my status. Then you have to comment on it. Afterward, you do the same thing. No matter how crazy the line may be, I promise I will treat you with respect and regardless of how bad your day has been, you will greet me by asking me what I’d like to order.”

“I already do that,” he says.

“Perfect, then.”

“So, that’s all?” he asks.

“That’s it,” I tell him.

He chuckles for a moment and then says, “Well, then I accept your friend request.”

“Okay, let’s practice.”

“What’s your status?” he asks me.

“I’m tired.  My daughter has been vomitting the last two days.  It’s rough. I haven’t had much sleep.  And you?”

“I’m sick of this job.  You could train a monkey to do it,” he says.

“Maybe you should,” I respond.

“Well, it’s what you have to do to pay for college.  Another day another dollar,” he adds.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I add.

After ordering my Hot and Spicy McChicken, the woman behind me says, “Excuse me sir.”

“Thanks, but I’m not a knight,” I tell her.  She stares at me blankly.  “Do you want to be my friend, too?”

“Sure,” I say and turn to the man.  “I just got my first friend request.”

“I’m hungry,” she says.

“I recommend the Hot and Spicy McChicken.  It’s hot.  It’s spicy.  And it’s made with one hundred percent assorted meat product shaped just like a patty.”

I leave the restaurant (can you call it a restaurant?) surprised by the interaction. It has me thinking about my own children and how quickly they make friends.   Within a ten minute visit to the park (or as the neo-cons in our state like to call it, the Socialist Child Amusement Center), they have made friends with every other child.  They give high fives, learn one another’s names and share what they are thinking.

For all the talk of “friending” someone on Facebook, I find it interesting that it’s on my blog and on Twitter that I’ve actually made new friends.  It wasn’t quite as simple as my McDonald’s interaction.  It was more gradual, based less upon physical proximity and more upon shared interests and ideas.  It has me wondering why I don’t make more of an effort to “friend” people outside of social media.

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9 thoughts on “Day Four: Can I Friend You?

  1. “Why I don’t make more of an effort to “friend” people outside of social media?”

    Great question. For me I think it is because there is so much small talk to get through. So much time spent maneuvering likes and dislikes and commonalities. Where as with social media we throw ourselves out there and wait for people who like us to find us. Or vice versa, we sift through what people share and connect with what we find appealing.

    Social media allows us to pick and choose what aspects we want to connect to on both sides of the relationship, but in real life we have to sit through it all, and I for one am not social enough for that.

    • But is there a danger in customization? I went into this project assuming it would be a time to engage in tech criticism. What I’m leaving with is the sense that I need social media and I enjoy it and yet the real criticism isn’t with the medium, but with me. It’s the notion that I grow self-centered and I miss things when I am the one who gets to control everything.

      • You are right, “I grow self-centered and I miss things when I am the one who gets to control everything.”

        It is nice to let things develop more organically and it life they often do, but I have seldom met new people and connected as easily as I do with people online. Not sure why. I think it is important to make that effort, just to see what happens, but I like that social media is making ti so much easier.

  2. Maybe distinctions need to be made between kinds of social media. Facebook is very much about small talk, but blogs like this and the discussions that follow perhaps get deeper into the commonalities.

    Facebook for most is people they know or have met or have established some kind of online relationship with already. In other forums, people who don’t know each other exchange ideas but don’t necessarily consider everyone to be “friends.”

  3. This day was awesome. Stirs thoughts of Play It Forward, in the friending arena. I just might have to copy your experiment…I like how it has you looking more and more inward, as you expand outward….

  4. I find it fascinating you tried this experiment in a fast food place where people usually are in a hurry and might have been to busy to make friends. I think it’s fascinating the women gave you a friend request. I’m hoping you’re thinking of making this a book because it’s one I would read! Love the experiment so far! I wonder if doing this in Germany would yield the same results? People tend to me more closed off here. I wonder if in different places this would work as well like in a subway versus McDonalds.

  5. Why don’t we befriend people like this face to face? I think we know now that our facial expressions are not universally understood – that in this culturally mixed environment, no matter how wonderful, means that social codes are undefined. But on-line, we have a code! It allows us to ignore, to delay, do think a bit before responding. Also, we don’t have to worry about when ‘our turn’ is to speak.

    Also – when would you have met a British-Bengali living in Singapore in your local fast-food place, hey??

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