Cueball and White Hat are attempting to make small talk. White Hat begins the conversation with a typical greeting, asking, "How are you doing?" Normally this is a habitualized greeting pattern, where the person being greeted would respond with a generic positive like, "Good," "Okay," "Can't complain," etc. Instead, Cueball answers with a very open and honest statement about the social anxiety he thinks he is successfully dealing with. White Hat then admits that he is experiencing the same thing, and the two congratulate each other for having a "normal" conversation with another human. After that, there is an awkward silence where neither knows what to talk about next. Finally, White Hat makes note of the awkwardness and Cueball suggests they stop before it gets worse.
The scene is ironic because their dialogue mirrors the common pattern of typical minor daily interactions, but also differs greatly from anything "normal." White Hat & Cueball are being really weird here, specifically because their dialogue is inappropriately open & honest. The literal semantic content of their dialogue is probably more accurate & meaningful than the usual pleasantries people exchange, but the effect is very different.
So basically they have not managed to behave like regular human beings, and thus have nothing to congratulate each other for. Except for White Hat's opening line nothing in the conversation has in any way resembled normal behavior. Due to their serious issues with small talking and interacting with other people, even this simple interaction fails completely, hence the title of the comic.
The title text states that, after saying goodbye, they don't move away, keeping up the uncomfortable silence, continuing to display their problems. Neither of them wish to be the first to turn away, or one or both are locked in the situation and has no clue how to finish it, even though they are both obviously aware of their problems and what makes them anxious. This may be a reference to the final stage direction "They do not move." in Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, where the protagonists frequently discuss leaving, but do not move.
Randall has previously made several comics with a similar theme, showing Cueball's (or his own) problems with several social situations / interactions / small talk, especially the comic 222: Small Talk which is very similar to this one. He made three of those type of comics in a span of about a month more than two years ago finishing with 1650: Baby.
- [White Hat and Cueball have just met and begins an interaction.]
- White Hat: How are you doing?
- Cueball: Really excited to be confidently handling this extremely basic social interaction!
- [White Hat holds is arms slightly out.]
- White Hat: Same here!
- Cueball: Hey, congrats!
- White Hat: You too!
- Cueball: Thanks!
- [In a frame-less beat panel, they just stand still.]
- [Same setting as in the first panel.]
- White Hat: And now it's falling apart before my eyes.
- Cueball: I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead.
- White Hat: Same.
- Cueball: See you later!
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Wait... in the title text is he making fun of us!? DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 15:22, 28 February 2018 (UTC)
- More like all of us socially challenged nerds in general. Who, coincidentally, make up a sizeable percentage of XKCD readers. Love the username, by the way. — AfroThundr (talk) 22:41, 28 February 2018 (UTC)
- Because it is formatted like an Explainxkcd transcript, i thought he was poking fun at us, DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 00:01, 1 March 2018 (UTC)
- No, it is standard to put  around a part of the text that is not said or a direct comment on the comic. Usually the title text is either something one of the characters say after the main comic, or Randall's comment. But this is just to make another beat panel, like the third, without including it in the main comic and taking away from the main punch line. --Kynde (talk) 09:35, 1 March 2018 (UTC)
- Yeah, square brackets are standard practice for stepping back from the material. I often quote things I like from TV shows, movies and books on Facebook, and I always set the scene with square brackets, long before I ever saw that here. "[Vlad is walking through a run down section of town]". NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:58, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
- Interactions category?
Should we make a new category that references those comic that like this display Cueball/Randall's lack of social aptitude, or general problems with Small Talk. I have already listed five comics in the main explanation, and there may be many more? (Please add them to the list, if you know some of them). I might have created the category already, if I had a good idea for what to call it. "Small talk" or "Social interactions" could be possible titles for it, but seems not quite adequate? Let me hear if you think such a category would be relevant and if you have a suggestion for a great name for such a category. (Sorry if my writing displays my problems with social situations ;-) --Kynde (talk) 09:40, 1 March 2018 (UTC)
- I shared my thoughts below, before I read this, LOL! I would call the category Social Awkwardness or Socially Awkward, and there's definitely a LOT more than 5! I think there was one last week! (For example, 1917: How to Make Friends) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:40, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
It was more than two yeas ago Randall made the last of this type of comics. It seems that he returns to his old themes!? --Kynde (talk) 10:33, 1 March 2018 (UTC)
- No, it isn't. He regularly visits this topic. With a quick look I found 1917, which is so similar it belongs in any category this comic is in. This is definitely NOT an old theme. That statement in the explanation is just untrue, it should be removed. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:22, 4 March 2018 (UTC)
- It's not just this comic, the My Hobby series has also returned this month, as well as the Fun Facts, and the ones that (successfully) make one feel old. So yeah, that statement shouldn't be removed. Herobrine (talk) 11:04, 4 March 2018 (UTC)
- "Not JUST this comic"? THIS one doesn't qualify! The statement should be removed, because THIS one isn't a "return", he never left THIS topic. I'm not arguing that he isn't returning to old topics, I'm arguing that this particular topic isn't an "old" one, he never dropped it. I just went back to 1650: Baby and quickly went through all the comics just since that one, and found the following comics all dedicated to being socially awkward, having social anxiety: 1652, 1746, 1800 (arguably... being so socially awkward as to try this), 1841, 1859 (arguably... trying to fit in), 1873, 1886, 1911, 1915, 1917. Far less than I expected, but far more than FIVE. And 3 in fairly recent memory, at the end of 2017. And that's not looking earlier to expand that list of 5. It certainly hasn't been "two years". The observation that he's returning to old topics is a good one, it should just be in one that qualifies as an actual return. How about I rephrase: that statement should be MOVED, to a comic where Randall is actually returning to an old topic. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:03, 6 March 2018 (UTC)
I could get excited about handling this extremely basic Web interaction, but I do not think I will. It could just fall apart two comments later. Since I have learned from their example, maybe it will go three or even four comments before it falls apart.
18.104.22.168 05:26, 2 March 2018 (UTC) Gene Wirchenko [email protected]
- I tried to contain this withing two lines now ;-) --Kynde (talk) 16:26, 3 March 2018 (UTC)
I feel like social awkwardness is a HUGE theme on XKCD. There totally should be a Social Awkwardness category (and that's what I'd call it). Every time he writes one, I identify with it so much! LOL! Right now I see 4 or 5 listed, but I'm sure there's WAY more. Wasn't there one last week? And the title text, I don't think he's referencing ANYTHING, he's just saying that their awkwardness with interaction includes not budging when they've thus given up on the conversation. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:35, 2 March 2018 (UTC)
DPS2004 has created a new Category:Social interactions so he has taken matters into his own hand. It is probably good enough. We can begin adding more comics to the list.I will start with Small Talk which was left out by him, I Guess? --Kynde (talk) 16:26, 3 March 2018 (UTC)
Apparently I just spent the past month, LOL!, going back to the beginning to "quickly" go through all the comics until Baby to add comics to the Social Interaction category. (I had already done Baby until this one). It's at 34 members now, which I really thought would be higher. Since there are I think 12 just since Baby, this clearly isn't an "old theme" Randall is returning to, it hasn't been 2 years since he's done a comic on this topic, so I removed that line. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:12, 30 March 2018 (UTC)
- (Interaction category talk above this line)
"They aren't capable of talking to each other like norma human beings? Ew. Weirdos."
That's basically the current explanation. 22.214.171.124 08:02, 3 March 2018 (UTC)