How to Make Friends the Hard Way and the Easy Way
If you just start walking, eventually you’ll bump into someone.
This might take a while. You might be lucky and walk right into a crowd of people, but if you’re in a sparsely inhabited area, it could take weeks. If you start walking from a random location in an area containing some number of people, you can calculate the time it will take to run into someone by using the physics concept of a mean free path:
Some areas certainly make encounters easier than others. Here’s the average collision interval for a few different regions:
- Canada: 2.5 days
- France: 2 hours
- Delhi: 75 seconds
- Paris: 40 seconds
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta during a sold-out game: 0.6 seconds
- The field during the game: 3 minutes
It’s clear that if you want to physically run into people, you’ll have better luck in a packed football stadium than in the boreal forests of Canada. And if you do try the stadium, you’ll have more collisions in the stands than on the field — although the collisions on the field will probably be more jarring.
But most of the time, random encounters don’t lead to friendships. This is OK. Occasionally, you may hear someone complain that people walking around in public need to be shaken up from their routines, that they’re too wrapped up in their own little worlds. But people have their own lives. They’re not necessarily looking for a connection at the moment you are.
So if it’s so difficult to connect, how do people ever make friends at all?