Here’s the deal. Friends recently introduced me to this awesome thing called the internet. It’s on computers and some phones. It’s full of funny videos, cats, and people you almost remember from high school…look, my words don’t do it justice, you should just check it out for yourself.
Unfortunately, in addition to being the greatest thing ever, the internet is also quite terrible. And some argue that all of our screen time is making us stupider and badder writers and stupider. Take, for instance, WikiHow. How silly are most of the how-to articles on this site? So silly that I titled this blog post “Part I” not knowing what my hypothetical Part II would consist of, but confident that this site would provide ample fodder.
WikiHow features such essential articles as “How to Check Out a Library Book” in 6 easy steps. That’s 100% true, there is an article that stretches this process to six steps. I can simplify the process a little – How to Check Out a Library Book in 1 easy step: Check Out a Library Book.
Or how about “How to Rip Paper” (also in 6 steps). This article begins with the wise words, “Have you ever needed/wanted to shred unwanted documents, homework, junk mail or papers the right way, without a pair of scissors or a paper shredder on hand? Now you can!” Okay…is there really a human being anywhere on the planet who has a pile of paper they need ripped and can’t figure out how to do it? A single one? A solitary organism that could find this article even remotely useful? Their target audience is nobody.
But I’m going to focus my energy today on the WikiHow article, “How to Make Friends.” As with the above examples, they include quite a bit of filler and stretch this one out to 24 steps. Unlike the above examples, there are some people who genuinely need help in this area. But, like the above examples, they will find no help in this article.
Let’s dig right in. Step 1. “Spend more time around people.” Are you taking notes? In order to make friends, you will need to be in the company of humans other than yourself. Great tip.
Steps 2 and 3. “Join an organization or club with people who have common interests/Join a sports team.”
Or, apparently, invent a new sport. Such as a version of ping pong where two new friends stand next to each other and both serve a ball into play simultaneously.
Step 5. “Talk to people.” This actually helped me a lot. I used to try and make friends by walking up to them and then just staring at them with saying a word. Not terribly successful. I’ve begun to implement their speaking strategy and it’s really working out.
Step 7. “Start a conversation.” This is a bad sign. They’re only seven steps into a twenty four step article and they’re already repeating themselves. Sure, if you want to make new friends, try talking to people. And if that doesn’t work, try starting a conversation. They even offer conversation starters. For example, they suggest saying, “At least it’s not raining like last week.” Yeah, that’s a humdinger. If someone came up to me and said that, I think I will have found a friend for life. Another conversation starter from the geniuses at WikiHow, “Can you help me carry a few boxes?” That’s right, there’s no better way to make a friend than to go up to a total stranger and ask them to do manual labor for you.
Step 8. “Make small talk.” Seriously. I’m not making this up. They just keep suggesting that you talk to people.
Step 11. “Pursue common interests.” Wait, this sounds a lot like Step 2, where you “Join an organization or club with people who have common interests.” Did they think we would have forgotten already as it was nine steps ago?
“Hi, do you want to talk and start a conversation about a common interest?”
“Yes, I can see that we both are missing noses. Shall we make small talk about this, potential friend?”
Step 15. “Be a good friend.” About a third of the steps in this article are more about how to act towards your friends than how to make a new friend. I imagine that in the WikiHow article How to Shop for a New Car, they would provide such advice as – park your car in the garage to protect it from the elements.
“Even though you’re a minotaur, I’m going to be a good friend to you. Let’s go drive my car I need to shop for.”
Step 22. “Be confident.” This is the closest they ever got to being helpful. Feelings of inadequacy and self-esteem issues could actually prevent people from making new friends. Unfortunately, WikiHow took a topic that therapists could deal with for years and reduced it to a two word solution. Thanks, WikiHow, now that you’ve told me to be confident, I’m fully equipped to be confident. It’s like that time you cured my fear of heights by telling me not to be afraid of heights.
So that’s the problem with WikiHow, they take an issue and simultaneously oversimplify the important parts while endlessly repeating the obvious points. And the pictures are kind of creepy.
So, if you want to make new friends, all you really have to do is spend time around people and talk to them. That is, as soon as you finish using the internet to scroll through a 24 step article about how you need to get out more.