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First Encounters of the Casual Kind

By Nate Odenkirk | Staff Writer

Feeling alone in a vast universe? Looking to see if there’s anyone “out there?” Follow these easy tips for a stress-free extraterrestrial first encounter. Remember, humankind only has one chance at a first impression!


1. Up our game.

With potentially infinite beings in the galaxy, it’s really important to make a splash. Unfortunately, we’re sending out all the wrong signals. All we do is blast messages to every corner of the galaxy, hoping someone responds… you don’t have to be an astrophysicist or dating coach to know that it’s a desperate look.

Let’s be honest: our go-to opening line, “Greetings. We are the human race from planet Earth”—reads like a spam email. Who responds to “Greetings”? Lame aliens, that’s who. The type who abducts cows “for fun,” and is “into” probing; not exactly prime first-encounter material.

Instead, a suave interstellar DM is a great way to get the attention of a compatible lifeform. Try a premium Hinge account, as it’s slightly less expensive than maintaining a mountaintop observatory (just turn off the distance filter). And swap out “Greetings” for “hey” (lowercase-h says “we come in peace” without actually saying it).

2. Keep it casual.

Once we make a promising connection, it’s important to stay cool. It may be our very first contact with extraterrestrials ever, but they don’t have to know that. We should behave like we have first encounters all the time, and that it’s no big deal!

Some believe we should impress our visitors by meeting at the White House or United Nations building. HUGE MISTAKE. That’s too far, too fast. Remember: this is just an easygoing, low-stakes first encounter! Any coffee shop or corn field would be perfect. If this first meetup goes well, we’ll have plenty of chances later to take them to our leaders, when things start getting serious.

Also, let’s remember to show up on time. It could take aliens lightyears to commute to our planet, so we have no excuse for being fifteen minutes late.

3. Have a conversation.

Engage them! When we meet the extraterrestrial, it’s a bad idea to immediately launch into a diatribe about “human civilization,” or impart well wishes from the global community. That’s one-sided and would be considered tacky. Instead, start by asking how their day was! It shows we’re interested in them. Being able to listen is a rare sign of intelligent life in our cosmos.

Search for common ground. For example, maybe they also have a Great Pyramid, built with comparable materials and techniques… talk about a coincidence! Hint: if the alien is from the observable universe, chances are they know about the laws of thermodynamics, so that’s a great way to break the ice.

4. Take the check.

It’s the classy thing to do. Besides, their planet may only use strange currencies, with names like X6453, Z-GOR8, or Bitcoin.

5. Make clear follow-up plans.

Doing long distance is hard, particularly when you’re in separate galaxies (a killer time zone difference). So, if the first contact goes well, don’t be afraid to ask for the extraterrestrial’s coordinates.

Avoid contacting them right away—wait a few millennia first. There’s little concern about ‘ghosting’ on the timescale of trillions of years. In the meantime, plan for the second encounter. Check Yelp for a nice Italian restaurant halfway between our solar system and their star cluster. There probably isn’t one, but there may be one.

6. No pressure!

The most important thing is to represent the human race. And have fun! Despite our flaws, anyone (or anything) would be lucky to have us. We’ll find “the one” soon enough. After all, what’s the worst that can happen, Armageddon?

Oh, really? Well, then, let’s remember to wear deodorant. ♦

Thank you for reading!