|Me and my instant best friend, 2001|
Turns out, I ended up approaching someone because she was kind of staring at me and I needed that to stop. We started talking about our majors and found out we were living in the same dorm and--gasp-- were accepted into the same residential college that no one else had ever heard of (which has since turned into something amazing; good on you, MSU!). We talked about high school marching band and AOL Instant Messenger. These were the only things I needed in a new best friend under the crushing oncoming anonymity of college. When we moved into our dorm, my room was right across from hers, so it was basically a done deal at that point.
As we get older, it's harder and harder to make friends. Luckily, conferences afford us with the chance to meet strangers with similar interests; see librarians you met online in real life; and shake hands with librarians whose blogs you follow or whose work you love, but have never connected with. Amy at the Show Me Librarian provides some tips on how to put yourself out there at conferences and join the conversation.
Conversely, you can always approach people who look as awkward as you feel and start a conversation with them. The thing about conferences, though, is that everyone wears name tags with their name and place of work on it. There goes your "what's your name? where are you from? what's your major?" small talk equivalents.