Have you ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? You know, the game where you think of an obscure actor and see how many degrees of separation there are between him and Kevin Bacon? Since Kevin Bacon is a fairly prolific actor, it’s really hard to think of actors who haven’t been in a movie with someone who’s been in a movie with Kevin Bacon.
Seriously, go to the website and try to find an actor/actress with a Bacon Number higher than three. It’s harder than you think.
The reason it is so hard is because Kevin Bacon is always building genuine connections with people in Hollywood. He acts a lot. He treats people well. He’s not a heartless networker. He doesn’t use people to climb the ladder of success.
This is an article about being like Kevin Bacon and harnessing the power of first-degree connections to foster relationships with second-degree connections.
But before we go into the details of a second-degree dinner, let’s clarify what we mean by second-degree connections.
What is a second-degree connection?
Your social circle is your circle of close friends and family. You know each of them very well. These are your first-degree connections or “strong ties.” You probably look, act, and dress just like them.
Since the world doesn’t revolve around you (despite the looks of the above picture), each of your friends has other friends. You know some of them well. You know many of them poorly.
These are your second-degree connections. Your second-degree connections are the people who make your life interesting. Since you don’t know them well, they inject novelty into your life. They will have a different sense of humor than you, read different books than you, enjoy different hobbies than you, and share unique stories you’ve never heard.
Second-degree connections make your world a bigger place.
What is a second-degree dinner?
Second-Degree Dinners are basically double, blind, friendship dates.
It’s a double date in the sense that there are two pairs of people getting to know one another.
It’s a blind date in the sense that you’re “setting up” your friend with someone they do not know.
It’s a friendship date in the sense that it’s not supposed to end in an orgy.
So who does one invite to a Second-Degree Dinner?
The first person you invite is someone who thinks this is a good idea. Most people think this is weird. They need to be invested in this idea enough to invite someone else. Choose your first friend carefully.
The second person you invite should be tailored to the first person. The two should not know one another well. Ideally, they are not even friends on Facebook. They should be “second-degree” connections. They also need to have some things in common. Ideally, they will click right away and become BFFs.
Have some degree of confidence that the two people you invite will find each other interesting. Since this is kind of like a blind date, impress both of your friends by how thoughtful you were in “setting them up.”
The key here is to be like Kevin Bacon and build a spiderweb of first-degree connections for yourself and your friends. Bring together the diversity of twentysomethings within your city, dinner by dinner.
What Do We Do?
The point of the Second-Degree Dinner isn’t to get dinner.
What you do doesn’t really matter. What matters is that four people are trying their best to make real connections with one another. To discover common interests. To connect with one another in a way that social media cannot allow. To experience the incredible feeling of going from stranger to acquaintance to (hopefully) friend.
So maybe you all get a beer. Maybe you eat street-side tacos and walk through downtown together. Maybe you play a board game. Maybe you go to a concert. Maybe you build a snowman or go fishing.
Maybe you all adopt a dog together.
Whatever you do, there should be a plan. Because when there is a plan, conversation is free to flourish. And if there is conversation, you can ask questions like…
Questions To Ask
- “What is your biggest fear and biggest hope for your career?”
- “In what ways are you getting your twenties right? Wrong?”
- “Are your friendships as strong as they were in college? Why?”
- “What do you do for fun beside Netflix and Facebook? Could I join you sometime?”
- “How do you give back to your community?”
- “Who are your role models?”
If you’re still worried about the small talk, brush up on How To Talk To Strangers.
What do I do if I’m an introvert?
Pretend you’re an extrovert for an hour or two. Take a deep breath, share a funny story, and remember that no one here actually wants to make small talk the whole night. Use your introvert powers to ask good questions, listen well, and forge a deeper connection with one new person.
What do I do if I’m an extrovert?
Pretend you’re an introvert for an hour or two. Slow down, don’t be the center of attention, and listen. Use your extrovert powers to jump-start the night if it falls a little flat.
Isn’t this networking?
That depends on your definition of networking. If networking is a way to use people as a means to get something you want, then no. If networking is a tool to expand your sphere of influence to benefit others and enjoy the company of great people, then yes.
How often should I plan a second-degree dinner?
Second-Degree Dinners are not natural. You will never do this accidentally. It requires forethought and preparation. If you plan a second-degree dinner once every month for the rest of your life, you will become one of the most well-connected and most respected people in your city. So, once or twice a month should do the trick.
This is stupid. I know how to make friends.
That’s not a question. And you clearly don’t.
How Do I Start?
If you’ve read this far, odds are good that you think this is worth trying. But don’t trust Future-You to make it happen. Do these three things right now.
- Make a list of 10 friends who might like this idea.
- Open your calendar and schedule a time (in two weeks) for your first Second-Degree Dinner. (This doesn’t have to be a huge weekend event. It could just be a weekday lunch.) Bonus Points for setting a recurring monthly reminder to plan another 2D-Dinner.
- Text three friends the link to this article and ask if they would be interested.
Odds are good that some people will think you are weird. The odds are even higher that people will flake-out on you. Welcome to twentysomething friendships. This is normal.
But if you are persistent and genuine, people will stop making excuses and begin making time for your crazy 2D-Dinners. This will broaden your circle of friends and proactively push back against the all-too-common loneliness of the twentysomething decade.
And you might end up being popular, which is what life is all about. Right?
Have you tried something similar to a second-degree dinner before? Was it on purpose or by accident? Did anything good come out of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments!