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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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How to Make Friends
No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!
Title text: No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!


This comic follows an example interaction, purportedly showing how to make friends. We see Cueball's strategy for making friends. It does incorporate various points of advice for building friendships, which are completely sound in the abstract. But it's clearly not helping him -- he's missing the social context & making bigger social gaffes in the course of following the abstract advice. Escalating social awkwardness ensues.

It starts out with a common way of making friends or interacting with friends, hanging out over a meal. However, Cueball suggests doing so with awkwardly literal phrasing; whereas most people use expressions such as “have lunch” or “grab a bite to eat”, Cueball explicitly invites Hairy to “eat food”. The fact that he feels the need to clarify that they’ll be eating food, as opposed to any other orally consumable items, indicates his lack of confidence to clearly communicate his intentions.

Before Hairy can even respond, Cueball then says that they could instead “sit together and talk without eating.” Although this is indeed another common way to make friends, it’s kind of an odd way to phrase it, especially since he didn’t even give Hairy a chance to reply to his initial suggestion. Cueball then says he doesn’t need to eat (meaning not right now, especially as a prerequisite to talking), but he immediately feels compelled to clarify that he does need to eat (meaning in general), and again it’s weird that he clarified, as his original wording probably would have been understood. He then awkwardly remarks about how he can eat later if Hairy would rather just talk. The overall implication is that Cueball’s awkwardness and over-explanation would be off-putting to a typical person.

This is apparently a situation that Randall has encountered before, and he apologizes for trying to offer advice.

The title text says Cueball wants to be friends at Hairy, rather than with him, which isn’t how friendship usually works. “At” implies that Cueball considers being friends to be a unilateral action that he needs to direct towards Hairy, like “smiling at” or “pointing at”, and does not understand that it is typically a mutual activity of building a relationship, which would be indicated by being friends with him.


[First panel with words:]
How to make friends
[Second panel with Cueball and Hairy facing each other:]
Cueball: Want to go eat food together?
Cueball: We could also sit together and talk without eating. I don't need to eat. I mean, I do need to eat. But if you don't want to eat then we can just talk. I can eat later.
[Third panel with words:]
It turns out I still haven't figured how to do this.

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