When a friend request is accepted on Facebook, does it really mean two people are friends? One Minnesota man says yes, and he is going out of his way to meet every person on his friend's list.
Mikel McLaughlin is a St. Thomas law graduate who just passed the Minnesota bar exam -- but before he gets a real job, he wanted to go on a journey. So far, McLaughlin says he's been pleasantly surprised by how a simple gesture of wanting to enhance a friendship on Facebook can go a long way.
With more than a billion users, the social-networking behemoth continues to be integral part of many people's lives. Old and new friends alike are just a click away.
"I had 302 [Facebook friends] when I started this," McLaughlin told Fox 9 News.
The 35-year-old's social experiment involves testing the strength of those online bonds by asking people to sit down with him in person.
"I'm going for quality over quantity," he explained. "I want quality time with people."
In the process, he hoped he'd also find some meaning.
"I don’t know what everybody's meaning is, but I'm trying to figure out what mine is," he said.
For the past month, McLaughlin has crisscrossed the West Coast, reconnecting with Facebook friends he hasn't seen in years.
"One friend took me to Yellowstone National Park for the first time," he said.
For some of his Facebook friends, it was the first time they'd met in real life.
"I got to do a ride-along with a police officer, and that's someone that I've never met," McLaughlin said.
Each encounter ends up on McLaughlin's blog, but he's not on the journey alone. In Bloomington, his wife, Sage, handles all the tech support and she said this experience has enhanced their relationship.
"If this is something he wants to do and it's going to make him happy, then it's only going to make me happy," Sage McLaughlin told Fox 9 News.
Which may be why, in the midst of writing about all his friends, Michael McLaughlin decided to write about his best friend on Day 31 of his experiment after realizing that distance can make a heart grow fonder.
"I just thought, 'Huh, I couldn't be married to anyone any better," he said.
With hundreds of sit-downs in random coffee shops and restaurants still left to complete, he's already planning his next meeting -- and may even make some more Facebook friends.
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