Last week was a quiet class for me. My students were out doing video shoots for their latest assignment, so there were just a few people hanging around, working on editing and so on. One of my students approached and sat down to ask a few questions. Nothing out of the ordinary.

A few minutes later, he struck up an interesting conversation. He said, “Nobody talks here.”

I asked what he meant. He explained that, since moving to Canada, he’s noticed that people don’t talk to each other. Standing at bus stops, waiting in line, it’s just a bunch of people, not talking. They might be fidgeting with their mobile device, plugged into their earbuds, or staring off into space, deep in their own thoughts, but they are not in any way connected to the people and things around them.

He’s absolutely right.

I’ve noticed this before too, especially since I’ve been a city dweller. Growing up in small towns, if you didn’t talk to everyone around you there was a problem. But in the city, it’s different. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. We don’t talk. We won’t talk.

Hide and Seek. We won’t talk to the people right in front of our eyes. Therefore, does it strike you as a bit strange that we are so willing to extend our hand in the online world and talk to just about anyone? There’s some weird social disconnects at play here. If you’re the guy who wants to strike up a conversation with everyone at the bus stop, people often see that as odd behaviour. But if you’re the gal who wants to chat with everyone on Facebook, then you’re a social butterfly. We stand in line at the grocery store, afraid to talk to the stranger behind us, but we bury ourselves in our iPhones instead, talking up a storm with 5000 of our closest”friends” on Twitter.

Step Away From the Device. We rave on and on about how social media has done so much to bring us together. It’s a worldwide conversation! It’s changed the way we communicate! I think in some ways, social media has merely given us tools to hide behind. For some people, especially the shyer ones, social media does make it easier to extend their hand and say hello. But, imagine, if we just took the time to look up from our BlackBerrys once in a while and say hello to the person standing next to us. Imagine how we might be brought together then.

Here is my challenge to you. At least once this week, as you go about your day, take the time to strike up a conversation with a stranger, in person. It doesn’t have to be long. It just has to be real. Don’t worry if people think you’re weird. I learned from my student that, in other cultures, you’re weird if you don’t talk to people! The philosophy is, we’re all here, in this moment, sharing whatever experience, good or bad. We might as well say hi, right? There’s a lot of wisdom in those words.

So stop. Put down your mobile device. Look around you. Smile. Say hello to whoever is there. You just never know what might happen.

7 Responses

  1. I find this easier with kids. When I have kids and you have kids, we will be sure to talk. When I am alone, which is rare, then I don’t talk to strangers. But when I have some time alone, I don’t usually want to talk to anyone. 🙂

  2. I’m that weird girl that talks to strangers on lines, buses, etc.

    It’s rare that I get a bad response. People are dying to connect, but there’s a lot of fear involved in it.

    Remember, we are taught to never talk to strangers.

    But it’s so worthwhile.


  3. This is a great blog. It is also, sadly, very true.
    My generation isn’t as guilty of this as the younger generation is. I think that’s because we aren’t hooked up to Iphones and ear buds or whatever the latest device is for every waking hour of our day. I’m on Facebook and Twitter but only when I’m sitting at home in my comfy chair. As a senior this keeps me in touch with friends and family on a regular basis. I talk every day to people I have known since I was a teenager. I am thankful for today’s modern communication tools for that.
    I’ll accept the challenge because for me it isn’t a challenge. It’s what I’ve always done.

  4. I echo Capitol Mom’s sentiment – when I’m alone, I don’t always want to talk period. It’s not about connection, but for me it’s about decompressing and reconnecting with me. I adore my alone time (another reason of many why we didn’t have kids), and now that Joe and I work and live together, there is precious little time for me to spend time with me. I cherish every stolen/reclaimed second. I love to listen to music on my MP3 player as I power walk, or to hide in the kitchen while Joe does work stuff on his computer.

    But, when I’m at the store, my main job is customer relations. Joe hates talking to people – like, he really hates small talk so that’s left up to me as the sales gal and cashier. I’m not a big fan of small talk either, but I have this ability to relax around strangers and talk about anything and everything, so sometimes I use that if I feel the person is in need of advice or some basic chit-chat while they wait for Joe to resolve their PC issues on the spot. That helps because they would otherwise stand close to Joe hovering over every little thing he’s doing to their machine and generally annoy him to no end. He appreciates that I distract the customers away from him.

    To be honest, I love most of our customers, but there are a few I refuse to chit-chat with and will walk away from if I’m not a part of the action (as it were). Mostly those customers are blowhards, ego maniacs and know-nothings who talk LOUDLY for no particular reason and they make my ears bleed. Heh.

    By and large, I like my fellow human, but it’s hard to like every one of them. And yeah, that has a direct impact on whom I chose to connect with and whom I totally tune out. I like being social, but on my own terms. I was never a big house party lover, and I only went to school dances to, well, dance. I tend to freak out in crowds, so I wasn’t a big concert goer, and I never needed to drink or do drugs to fit in. Wasn’t my deal at all.

    So, yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m a social loner, which I suppose makes me a total oxymoron (heavy on the moronic part LOL).

  5. Also, one reason I tend to fade away from some customers is they talk. And talk. Too much. Too fast. Too often over us as we’re answer THEIR questions. It’s rude, annoying and we’d get a lot more done on their machines if they’d just be clear, to the point and quiet long enough for us to think about the symptoms of problems they present to us. 🙂

  6. I now see families who no longer talk to each other. Rather, I should say, they have never known what conversation is because they all grew up “connected”.

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