2419: Hug Count

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 23:15, 20 May 2022 by (talk) (Undo revision 271862 by Explain xkcd server admin (talk))
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
Hug Count
I've never been that big of a hug person, but it turns out I'm not quite this small of a hug person either.
Title text: I've never been that big of a hug person, but it turns out I'm not quite this small of a hug person either.


This comic is another in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comic displays a bar chart showing the number of Individuals Randall has hugged per year, spanning from 1996 to 2021, and goes up to 35 individuals hugged in 2007. The apparent spike in the estimate for 2007 may have been chance or may have been a known social event that Randall remembers, such as a family reunion or anticipated parting from a social group (such as a school or job from which he left), where he hugged many people he otherwise would not have hugged. While it varies a decent amount for the first 24 years, it drops sharply in 2020 and goes even lower in 2021. However, it should be noted that 2021 (at the time of the comic) had just begun, which is why the final bar is grey. It seems he is down to only two people hugged in 2021, one of which is most likely his wife. In 2020 he managed 5 different hugs, but the extra three may have been before the onset of COVID-19 precautions in the US.

This is because in 2020 when the pandemic happened, everyone had to social distance and avoid contact with strangers. This was a widely used method of slowing the spread of COVID-19. People are asked to not closely associate with those outside a very limited 'bubble' or even isolate themselves in their own household. As such, people have had less physical contact with each other since the beginning of this pandemic, including hugs.

No explanation is given for the variations year-to-year preceding 2020, and much of it may be random walks. However, one can see a major spike in hug levels in 2010 and 2011; Randall's wife was diagnosed with cancer in late 2010 (see Category:Cancer). Loved ones of those with cancer tend to receive much compassion from others, and compassion tends to beget hugs.

The title text states that, while Randall isn't very big on hugs, he too desires hugs. It plays on the common phrase "I'm not too big of an (x) person", which is used to indicate that someone isn't extremely fond of said activity. One could then infer the person is not fond of the activity at all, though in this case, he indicates his desire for hugs is non-zero, as presumably demonstrated by the frequency being now less than even he would prefer.


[A bar graph is shown with 25 black bars and one gray at the far right. Most of the bars have a height around the center of the graph, but the one in the middle is clearly higher than all others, and the two before and after are lower than average. There are also a couple of high bars in pairs on either side of the central spike. The far-right, however, are two very low bars, with the last in gray less than half the height of the previous, which was already only a third of the next lowest bar. There are numbers on both axes. The X-axis has the year for every fifth year below the relevant bar, and the number of hugs is given in intervals of 10 on the Y-axis. The Y-axis has ticks for every number, but those with labels are longer. The chart has a title written above:]
Estimated Number of Distinct People Hugged per Year
2000  2005  2010  2015  2020

Table of number of people hugged[edit]

Year People
1996 31
1997 28
1998 23
1999 25
2000 21
2001 18
2002 28
2003 24
2004 17
2005 19
2006 14
2007 35
2008 17
2009 16
2010 27
2011 29
2012 18
2013 15
2014 16
2015 22
2016 15
2017 21
2018 19
2019 25
2020   5
2021   2

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I don't know how this makes me feel. I just don't hug. Maybe a couple of female relatives as I leave the traditional Christmas gathering (that didn't happen in 2020) because they expect it of me. But some societies (I'll namecheck the Italians, but there are many others) would possibly break those totals in a day (pre-Covid) just by going to the market-place and sealing deals with the local tradespeople. So my chart dipped drastically ast year, but not so much by absolute count. (No, not looking for sympathy, or virtual hugs, just saying...) 23:33, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

What happened in 2007? Seems like a sizeable spike. Being in a reception line at a wedding, for instance? 23:43, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

No citation. Is this Randall's personal chart, do you figure? Ekedolphin (talk) 00:18, 2 February 2021 (UTC)

The title text would certainly suggest so. Fyndegil (talk) 19:32, 26 February 2021 (UTC)

2007 was the year of the xkcd meetup, which involved a lot of hugs, some of which may have involved Randall. Randall also moved from Virginia to Massachusetts that year, which may have resulted in separate small groups of people hugged in the same year. (Both of these facts are mentioned in his blog post from that October 1st.) 01:35, 2 February 2021 (UTC)

The Free Hugs Campaign peaked between 2006 and 2007.

2011 is the year Randall announced his gf's cancer. This might mean more people hugged him in support. 2010 might have been a time when some people close to him already knew about that (before the announcement), this would explain the big number in 2010, too. In 2015 he went on a book tour and had many signing sessions, where people might have hugged him. -- 03:54, 2 February 2021 (UTC)

Mine is between 0-3 every year since 4th grade. Primarily my sister, my mother, and now my niece. I am nearly old enough now to go through a midlife crisis. Any other true anti-social people here just now realizing how little you get out? 09:22, 2 February 2021 (UTC)

I'm probably in the 10-15 range most years, but around 5 for the past year. Being mostly confined to the house really hasn't bothered me, though, so I might well qualify as anti-social... 12:42, 2 February 2021 (UTC)
Thinking about it, there are just three months in year (and not even WHOLE months) I'm getting out less with covid than without. Winter vacation with possibly shopping for it, summer vacation with possibly shopping for it, and then I'm going on one con. Outside of those three opportunities I don't really mind AND nothing really changed. I'm still angry for losing those three opportunities. Also, well, outside of family the con tends to be only opportunity to hug someone ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:53, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Whether or not this is significantly less for some people or not, it's still sad for me. Of course, being an extrovert might have impacted that, but to me, it just represents everything, in general, that's happened. Char Latte49

It's sad about 2020, but appears to be hopeful about 2021. He already has 2 hug in the first month. If that trend continues, it should end up being an average year. And it may accelerate as more people are vaccinated. Barmar (talk) 18:13, 2 February 2021 (UTC)
If he has a small set of people he can get hug under Covid rules, likely he'd hug them early in the year, and the number would look normal at first but then not increase much in later months. Just saying: hope is good, yes, but the number of hugs in January doesn't really mean much. --Pi one (talk) 19:23, 2 February 2021 (UTC)

I did a quick statistical analysis of that, and neither 2020 nor 2021 are an outlier (above lower fence), but 2020 is unusual (z-score of -2.05) 21:45, 25 September 2023 (UTC)