As a guy, whenever I see an attractive girl, I immediately start searching for an "in." I need a reason to talk to her. Is she talking to someone I know? Did she miss the same class I did and we both need to make something up? Did we meet at some random place far outside of campus? Same brand backpack? I'll take anything. Why go through this charade?
First, a note on boundaries. Sometimes we imagine a smooth transition where a boundary does exist. In India, castes are clearly defined and moving between them is difficult. Here, we pretend no such things exist and everyone is freely socially mobile despite strong evidence otherwise. Words like opportunity disguise these boundaries.
Conversely, we often imagine qualitative boundaries where none exist. Love is one of the best documented examples. We Westerners are baffled by the arranged marriage. Love is supposed to be this mystical force that draws random people together, yet Westerners would not want to accept that their marriages are often more arranged than their Eastern counterparts'. Westerners who marry often meet in high school, college, or work, meaning they already have a great deal in common as far as goals, timetables for those goals, positions in the social hierarchy, and socioeconomic status. To top it off, they're usually of the same race, family background, religion, and are equally attractive. Love is hardly a random force of nature, and all sociologists understand this.
The in is another such artificial boundary. We could probably become great friends with anyone in any of our school classes or even most of the people we run into on the subway, yet we don't talk to them without some catalyzing comm...
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...ercentage of people so long as we have enough "chance encounters" to fill these roles. It does present other problems, however, especially in places with high population density. These situations are so random and diverse that they're nearly impenetrable to ins. It'd probably be very beneficial to randomly talk to people we sat next to on the subway. We could learn about each other and make valuable business or personal contacts with no danger or downside. Regardless, would we even consider doing such a thing? Even if we did, neither the initiator or receiver of the interaction would feel special or consider it could become a real friendship. I could've selected anyone to chat with and you could've been selected by anyone. Interacting with others without an in may only be a faux pas because if it works too often, our dream of a friend-aligning force would be dashed.
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