The 36 Question Social Experiment

About 3 months ago Mandy Len Catron’s article, titled “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This” was making its rounds around Facebook. I was rather skeptical about the whole notion, but I thought I’d want to give it a try. Blame it on the breakup. I thought it would make a compelling experiment. But because I was lazy (being honest here) and didn’t want to go through the trouble of scheduling meet-ups, I posted an online questionnaire instead and left it on Facebook for anyone who was willing to trust me and give it a go. The transaction: I’d read your answers and give you mine.

Granted it’s a different setting than what was intended: I was just curious to see what could happen and how relationships could change. In less than a month there were 18 responses from a mix of people – from people I’d only met for a while, to people that I meet on a regular basis.

Some things I learnt:

  • It’s clear as sky what your priorities in life are after you answer those questions.
  • Embarrassing stories almost always make me laugh. Like totes LOL.
  • Interesting fact: many people have a hunch about how they’re going to die.
  • My life is pretty much an open book. That makes people believe that they know me. Sometimes I know nothing about these people and that’s a little uncomfortable.

While I still owe many people replies, I’ve replied some via email, some in person, and with only one person have I actually done the 36 questions proper (with 4 minutes of eye contact in silence…that was the most uncomfortable).

Did I fall in love?

With the people I’m not so close to / haven’t met in a while, I replied via email. With them, it was nice to know that a stranger (/acquaintance / a once friend) was willing to open up with their secrets to you, and in exchange, to take the time to know yours. I learnt new things about them, and about how they viewed me. There definitely is a deeper sense of connection in that I knew something about them that not everyone else would know. But to go as far as to say I fell in love would be incorrect.

With the people I was closer to, I took the time to talk them through my answers. We’d be meeting up anyway, so at an appropriate time I’d whip out their answers, go through the 36 questions, let them know what I felt about their answers and tell them mine. It flowed more organically, we’d stray off topic at times. Did I fall in love with these people? They were people I already had love for – maybe not the romantic kind – but we were already close. It was easy to open up to these people and vice versa. I still learnt more about them, and that was nice. It was nice to learn new things about them; the 36 questions gives you a larger and deeper understanding of your friends, and you get to see them in a new lens.

Of course you’re curious about that one person that I actually did the 36 questions AND 4 minutes of eye contact with.

To say the 36 questions were instrumental in us falling in love might not be very accurate; I think you have to be predisposed to wanting to do this with someone. Some sort of interest or attraction has to be there prior to this. I guess it was great having the questions answered – many questions that might’ve lay dormant in the recesses of your mind for a while in the relationships I’d had before. It was refreshing hearing an honest answer / being open about things you’d otherwise keep to yourself, and I think that openness and honesty sets a good foundation to any relationship.

The four minutes of eye contact though.

Not sure if it’s just me but that was the most uncomfortable part. Staring into someone’s eyes for ten seconds is already highly unnatural for me. Multiply that by 24. 24 times more uncomfortable. Just thinking about it makes me feel uncomfortable. Bottom line, super uncomfortable.

Have I mentioned it was uncomfortable?

All in all, the 36 questions experience has been quite nice. I’d recommend doing it with EVERYONE (you want to be closer to). Try it with cute strangers. Try it with friends. Try it with relatives. Try it with your boyfriends. Or husbands. (Or girlfriends or wives). It’s perfect for first dates, in place of awkward conversations. If you can’t stomach 4 minutes of eye contact like yours truly, it’s okay. Do without it.

Here’s the link to the 36.

BTW I have since moved on to 40 “talk about” topics, which actually probes way deeper than 36 questions. For your perusal:

1: Talk about the first time you watched your favorite movie.
2: Talk about your first kiss.
3: Talk about the person you’ve had the most intense romantic feelings for.
4: Talk about the thing you regret most so far.
5: Talk about the best birthday you’ve had.
6: Talk about the worst birthday you’ve had.
7: Talk about your biggest insecurity.
8: Talk about the thing you are most proud of.
9: Talk about little things on your body that you like the most.
10: Talk about the biggest fight you’ve ever had.
11: Talk about the best dream you’ve ever had.
12: Talk about the worst dream you’ve ever had.
13: Talk about the first time you had sex/how you imagine your first time.
14: Talk about a vacation.
15: Talk about the time you were most content in life.
16: Talk about the best party you’ve ever been to.
17: Talk about someone you want to be friends with.
18: Talk about something that happened in elementary school.
19: Talk about something that happened in middle school.
20: Talk about something that happened in high school.
21: Talk about a time you had to turn someone down.
22: Talk about your worst fear.
23: Talk about a time someone turned you down.
24: Talk about something someone told you that meant a lot.
25: Talk about an ex-best friend.
26: Talk about things you do when you’re sick.
27: Talk about your favorite part of someone else’s body.
28: Talk about your fetishes.
29: Talk about what turns you on.
30: Talk about what turns you off.
31: Talk about what you think death is like.
32: Talk about a place you remember from your childhood.
33: Talk about what you do when you are sad.
34: Talk about the worst physical pain you’ve endured.
35: Talk about things you wish you could stop doing.
36: Talk about your guilty pleasures.
37: Talk about someone you thought you were in love with.
38: Talk about songs that remind you of certain people.
39: Talk about things you wish you’d known earlier.
40: Talk about the end of something in your life.

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