Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Awkwardness of not learning names

I am really regretting being lazy and not making an effort to learn people's names. The time where it was socially acceptable to ask them their name is way past. And what's worse is that everyone seems to have learnt my name. So I now am left having conversations like:

Nameless person: Hi, Stephen!
Me: Oh ... hi, Mumblemumble! How are you?

And I just have to hope they don't notice that I'm calling them Rhubarb and Custard. What's worse, I actually made the active decision at the beginning of term not to make an effort learning people's names, because I'm more socially unaware than a socially unaware rock which lives in a place where not many other rocks live, like, I don't know, a sandy beach.

And before you get all technical on me and say that a grain of sand is actually just a very small rock, we'll see which one hurts more when thrown at you. Yeah. The actual logic went something like this. I spent the summer teaching English at a school where I had to learn lots and lots of strange names every week.

First day of class. Mature joke, I know. But actually, in my defence, I was having a conversation with other teachers about annoying names, and I said, 'I had two Fannies this week' and all my colleagues sniggered. Look who were the mature ones then.

So I decided I wouldn't spend all that energy learning names this term. And anyway, I'd just learn the important names naturally, wouldn't I? I was so so wrong. I now know only about 10 people's names. That includes my flatmates, who account for five of those names (I have seven flatmates).

This sad state of affairs leads nicely onto my fact of the day.

Fact of the Day

Yes, I'm trying to do a Fact of the Day. Which would be more aptly named, Fact of the week or Fact for whenever I can be bothered to update my blog. But anyway, here goes.

Have you ever had a moment of doubt when you thought that, maybe, just maybe, you weren’t as popular as your friends? Well, it turns out you were right. On average, your friends have more friends than you do. And this is true for almost everyone.

This effect, aptly called the friendship paradox, has a very simple explanation: you’re more likely to be friends with someone who has lots of friends, than you are with someone who has very few friends. This effect is found in lots of other social networks. For example, your mother is more likely to have had more than the average number of children of her generation. This is simply because a lot of people had no children, who, by default, are not going to be your mother. Similar phenomena include believing a place to always be crowded when in reality it isn’t, simply because you’re more likely to be there when there’s a crowd than when there’s no-one there.

In other words, the fact that your friends are more popular than you is no indication of your own popularity. It’s simple statistics. It might take a while to get your head around, but it’s just maths.

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