On one of my most recent flights (from Nicaragua to the States), I met a very sweet girl. She happened to be sitting one seat over from me, just by pure luck (because, how often do you get the really cool people sitting with you?). She had a “D” seat in the aisle and I had an “F” seat by the window but the flight wasn’t full so there was no one sitting between us.

We got to chatting and I learned a lot of things about her. For instance, she was close to my age, she was getting her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling in Arkansas and she was in Nicaragua visiting her boyfriend – whose entire family lived there and who, consequently, proposed during her trip, so now he was her fiance.

We chatted the entire time before the plane took off and chatted for awhile after we were in the air, too. Finally, we both tried to sleep (to no avail – for me, anyway) and ended up chatting as the plane landed, as well. As we walked off the plane together to head to Customs, I had a moment where I wondered if I should ask her whether she wanted to connect on Facebook. Actually, I had several moments where I wondered whether to ask that. And here’s the thing – normally, I just ask, so I wasn’t sure what stopped me. I like connecting with people and it’s fun to catch up on people’s lives that you may have met once or twice (but really connected with nonetheless).

I’m also not one of those people that meets someone and then forgets where I know them from. That happens to me with connections I’ve made exclusively online (like friends of friends in the vegan community or digital nomad community, for example), but as long as I’ve met you once in person, I will always remember where we met and what our conversation was like. So, the point is, it wouldn’t be lost on me to friend someone I had just met on a plane.

Ultimately, I didn’t ask her. And I’m not sure why. And now, I regret it, because she was a really cool person. It’s not often that we meet people we have instantaneous connections with – the people that I’ve met so far on this journey that I feel that way about I now count as some of my best friends. So I’m sad about the missed opportunity to grow a friendship with someone, even from afar.

That said, though, the impulse to friend: is it awkward and unnecessary or sweet and uniting?

In the pre-Facebook/Twitter/IG/YouTube/Snapchat days, I’m sure people had lovely conversations like this all the time on planes or trains or buses (you thought I was going to say “automobiles” didn’t you? I considered it) and then just went about their day pleased to have experienced a moment of connection with another human being. But we don’t really do that anymore – if we meet someone now, we’re more likely to try to connect with them digitally and try to grow the relationship – at least, I do, I don’t friend people and then never chat with them again, I like to send messages asking how they are or comment on life posts, etc.

But, I also feel like my desire to friend is almost automatic – like, I never think to myself “Oh, that was a nice conversation.” Without fail, my brain goes, “Oh, that was a nice conversation, let’s friend them on Facebook.” Is that normal? Or is it some kind of traveler’s neurosis? Or is it some kind of millennial neurosis?

I just wrote a whole blog about how too often, I think people try to push their romantic relationships into the “happily ever after” box when they may be better suited for the “this makes me happy now” box. Is my desire to try to “long-haul friend” people the exact same thing? Should I just be appreciating the moment of connection and going about my day?

Here’s why I’m not sure: I don’t think we appreciate genuine moments of connection with other humans enough. I think we’re mostly so caught up in the world of “Me” that we forget that life IS connecting with other humans – my trip to Nicaragua didn’t mean anything because I got to see a place, it meant something because I got to meet people and chat with them and hear their stories. Similarly, the plane ride could have been me silently looking out the window or reading a Kindle book the whole time, but because fate decided it shouldn’t be, I instead got to have a really nice conversation with someone I liked instantly.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the idea of trying to become friends with someone we’ve just met that we like – after all, that’s how it works in “real life” too. And in fact, one of the reasons I love social media – despite its many flaws – is this precise thing: it’s now so much easier to stay connected than it used to be. But maybe just by letting the moment be on its own, we would come to appreciate those genuine moments of connection more. And then maybe we’d try to seek more of them out – but because we friend people immediately, we don’t seek them out and we don’t value them as much, so we stay disconnected in “real life.”

There was a lot of “maybe” in this post. So, I guess what I’m saying is, I’m confused. I know there’s nothing inherently wrong with my desire to friend people – it actually comes from a really genuine place – but is it unnecessary or even, maybe, harmful?

What do you think?

The Impulse To Friend: Awkward Or Sweet?

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