Heartbeat

The past two semesters have left me socially stunted. Little Cage interactions that once seemed easy and magical are now awkward and nightmarish. Digital communication via Zoom and Google Meets gives me a false sense of human connection. I’m left in a state of perpetual confusion, akin to the way a chihuahua approaches the world — a little ball of nervous, anxious energy.

Needless to say this general disorientation has left me out of practice with the pleasantries of an engaging conversation and starved for meaningful connection with other people.

It was in this semi-anxious, highly-listless state that I found myself reading through an email from Ole the Lion, which had toward its end the description for Matchomatics — a survey that “matches you with other people based on compatibility and lets you get to know other students at Olaf who you might not normally meet!”

I was joyous. This was it. This was the opportunity for which I had been longing. A simple survey that handles all the hard work of social interactions for you.

The survey results hit my inbox, and immediately I was enthralled. The data nerd in me pored over the rows of numbers, parsing the difference between percentages and calculating averages. This was the quantitative social analysis I had always wanted.

But, like any good statistician, I wondered about the data’s accuracy. Models are only good insofar as their ability to project real-world outcomes, after all. So, with this in mind, I sent emails to my top four overall matches, asking to get coffee or chat over Zoom. These little chats would, I hoped, allow me to assess Matchomatics’ accuracy and practice social skills I desperately need to redevelop.

I can now, with confidence, say that Matchomatics’ accuracy is pretty good, based on several metrics — conversation flow and body language, to name a few. For every metric I give all exchanges high marks.

Each conversation was unique in its own way. At no point did I seriously experience awkwardness, especially once the dialogue really got going. I found it easy to invest myself in the ideas and passions expressed by my conversation partners. And, to my pleasant surprise, I left each interaction inwardly and outwardly happy.

We — me and each match — covered a range of topics, from preparation for law school to meditative practices to our favorite European soccer leagues. One match and I even went for a walk down the Hill, taking advantage of the warm weather to enjoy each other’s company outdoors. All throughout the slew of subjects covered and little jokes made, I never felt bored, and I never had the urge to suddenly be somewhere else.

It’s difficult to find the source of this sudden social comfortability. Perhaps it comes from the intentionality with which I engaged my matches. Perhaps it comes from some shared experience of wanting to connect with others after a pandemic that has driven many apart. Or perhaps Matchomatics is just really effective, a perfectly functioning survey of budding friends-to-be.

Whatever option may be correct, I encourage those who completed the Matchomatic to invite your matches out for coffee, a talk over Zoom or a caf meal together. If my experience is any indication, you’ll leave these little interactions happier and, maybe if it goes really well, with a new best pal. 


marand1@stolaf.edu