How I meet people on the internet

Summary:

  1. I write, which invites people to write me. Byrne Hobart notes (perma) that writing is networking for introverts. David Perell says that (perma) writing on the internet is a “serendipity vehicle”.
  2. I reach out when I see someone I think it would be interesting for me to meet
  3. I ask people I know for intros and suggestions for people I should meet

For most of my life I didn’t have any friends and had almost no close social interaction with other people. I thought that I was unique in this regard and that everybody else had rich social lives and close friends they could rely on.

Now that I know how to make friends and how to meet people, I find that very few of us have enough social connections and that most people do not have any really close friends.

Given all of this, plus the fact that whenever I tell someone how I meet people, the typical reaction is extreme surprise (“wow, people do meet people on the internet!”), I think it would be helpful to share how exactly it happens and how the technology that we got instead of flying cars enables me to do it.

I looked at several dozen meetings I had over the last few months and wrote down how they came about. There’s no chance I would’ve been able to meet most of these people had I been born 10 or even 5 years earlier:

  1. a grad student. He emailed me one day saying that my blog is cool. I looked him up, he seemed interesting, so I wrote him that I’d like to meet when I’ll be visiting the town he lives in. We met and he turned out to be great. We now have several email threads running in parallel and had a couple of video calls since then.

  2. an engineer. We were mutuals on twitter, then I DMd him, then we jumped on a skype call, then we met for coffee. Here’s my initial message to him:

    You should join twitter!

  3. a finance guy. I sent him an email after he subscribed to my newsletter, he replied, we started talking, and then I emailed him asking if he’d like to meet.

  4. an entrepreneur. I sent him a post of mine as a reply to one of his tweets; he DMd me asking if I’d like to get a coffee some time.

  5. a grad student. I was browsing /r/slatestarcodex and messaged someone who I thought left insightful comments asking them if they’d like to get a coffee (this happened several times).

  6. a finance guy. We were mutuals on twitter, then I DMd him, we started chatting, then we met IRL. Here’s my initial messages to him:

  7. (many more people I met on twitter just like this)

  8. a VC. I cold emailed him.

  9. a grad student. I asked a friend of mine for people I should meet in town X and he introduced us.

  10. an entrepreneur. I just DMd them when they weren’t following me.


    Note: I only write about successes here. For more than half of my “I asked them if they’d like to get a coffee” or “I DMd them” the person either wrote that they would not like to get a coffee with me or didn’t reply at all. Following up helps but won’t change the fact that most people don’t find you or me interesting enough to be even worth replying to.


  11. a grad student. He DMd me on twitter one day to tell me that my blog is cool. His tweets seemed insightful, so I followed him. Then one day I saw a new post of his, thought that the idea was great but the post was terrible and sent him a bunch of unsolicited advice on writing. A few weeks later, without an announcement, he sent me a pdf consisting of 41 corrections and of two pages of detailed critical notes about one of my essays. We really bonded over this and met in person next time our locations intersected.

  12. a postdoc. I was hanging out in a VC firm’s office in SF and chatting people up. This person turned out to be cool and I asked them if they’d like to get a coffee a few days later.

  13. a big scientist. I asked a scientist friend of mine for an introduction. I know that scientist because a VC whom I met previously via cold emailing him introduced me to her. Here’s how I ask for an intro with really busy people (making sure that the person I’m asking for an intro knows that I wouldn’t waste the busy person’s time Don’t ask me how I learned to think about questions to ask in advance ):

  14. a grad student. Twitter showed him to me in suggested follows…

  15. a grad student. I posted in a facebook group of ambitious people I am part of that I’ll be visiting the town and she reached out to me.


    _Note: if you live in the US, traveling anywhere else in the US is pretty cheap. You should take advantage of that and meet your internet friends in person (although I do have people whom I consider to be good friends and with whom I never met in person, only communicating via text and video).


  16. an entrepreneur. I asked a friend of mine for an introduction.

  17. an entrepreneur. I DMd a mutual of mine on twitter. He said that he would be out of town but that I should totally meet his friend, which I did.

  18. a grad student. We were mutuals on twitter. I DMd him asking if he would like to meet. He said sure but then wrote that he would be too busy in the suggested time frame. A few weeks later I asked him if he’d like to get on a skype call (I was no longer in town he lived at the time). We jumped on a call and in the process of chatting, I told him every research idea I had, figured “huh, these might be interesting to other people” and wrote the Research Ideas post.

  19. a postdoc. I bought Twitonomy premium, downloaded the list of all of my followers (excel file with a bunch of metadata), searched the list for “university name in the town I’ll be visiting soon” for several universities, found someone who seemed worth reaching out to, and DMd her asking if she’d like to meet (although I never encountered her before on twitter).

  20. an engineer. I was browsing VK (Russian facebook), stumbled on someone who’s writing I liked, and DMd them asking if they would like to get coffee.


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