We’ve all done it. You meet a friend of a friend at a party, or your cousin’s new boyfriend, or your roommate’s brother. After talking for several minutes, you extend your hand and say something, like,
“I’m Abby, by the way.”
To which they respond,
“I’m Tom, nice to meet you.”
But you knew you were talking to Tom the whole time, you sneaky thing, you. And you don’t just know Tom’s name. You also know what town he’s from, that he ran track in high school, where he went on vacation with his family this summer, and, if you’re really feeling creepy, where he ate dinner for his 22nd birthday (hey, the location is tagged on his fourth most recent profile picture! It’s not your fault he’s sharing this info with the world!).
Social media is definitely responsible for most I-know-you-but-will-introduce-myself-as-if-don’t-introductions. Ah, the joys of the 21st century.
What’s even worse than just knowing who someone is, is letting them know that you know who they are. This is a confusingly complicated sentence for a simple concept: the accidental like. At one point in your life, you have found yourself accidentally giving that double-tap to your ex-boyfriend’s sister’s 2013 Instagram pic of her dog. You texted her a ~cute apology~ with the embarrassed face emoji, and jokingly told her you missed the dog (you weren’t joking, but whatever). You’ve also probably been on the receiving end of this: like when you woke up to a notification that the guy in your lab who’s literally talked to you twice in your life liked your Facebook status from 2010 (it went something along the lines of “omg so bored, wish there was a Bat Mitzvah this weekend”).
And these experiences are coming from me — someone who goes through month-long phases of deactivating social media accounts to focus on studying, and religiously uses SelfControl (the app not the actual ability – in case you were impressed). So I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people who are avid social media stalkers. Do you accidentally “like” stuff all the time? Or are your fingers just more nimble than mine?
On college campuses, the fake introduction often extends beyond social media creepiness. You find yourself at a pregame with the girl you sat across from every single Wednesday in your History seminar last semester, and introduce yourself as if you don’t know exactly what laptop stickers she has. You sit through hours of your friend complaining about her weird Spanish partner, only to innocently exchange names with said weird lab partner at a recruiting event. I know that your sister goes to Columbia, and that you got a B- on your last exam, you think deviously to yourself. This even filters into friend groups, which is honestly really bizarre. Your friend Becca finally introduces you to her friend, Ashley, who she’s been dying for you to meet. You proceed to make small talk as if you don’t already know everything about Ashley, and as if Ashley doesn’t already know everything about you.
I wish I could suggest that we should all be totally honest. Like yaaa let’s tell each other every single thing we know about each other when we meet, right?! No, obviously not. If you’re thinking this is social suicide, congrats, you’re probably correct. But isn’t that a tiny bit depressing?
So, I have a more realistic suggestion. What if we dropped the saving-face, cooler-than-you act, and had a tiny bit of humility. You could say something like, “Oh hey, Ashley, Becca has told me so much about you!!” This is not a weird thing to do. THIS IS NOT WEIRD. This is what grown ass adults do, guys! I promise you will not be any less cool if you admit that you know who Ashley is. In fact, you will probably become friends with her faster.
But yeah, I’m gonna say that this still doesn’t apply to social media. So if you ever happen to see your friend from elementary school’s mom’s cousin’s teacher’s ex-husband shopping at Trader Joe’s with his new wife, you should not run up to him and ask him how his trip to Cambodia was last summer. Just a suggestion.