I think creating connections has become increasingly more challenging but also even more important during these times of living through a pandemic and quarantine. While I am not going out as much or travelling to school on the bus, I still go to work and walk around the neighbourhood where I encounter strangers. Being in quarantine has definitely made me more desperate to connect with people – who are not my family or over a screen – though it has also presented new challenges. How do you seem friendly and interested in a conversation when your smile is mostly hidden by a mask? Or when you need to literally distance yourself away from others?
I consider a “stranger” to be someone I haven’t seen before, talked with or been introduced to yet. I work in a supermarket so while I am familiar with the members on my team, there are lots of workers in different departments that I am unfamiliar with. The other day I had a conversation with a coworker from a different department in the lunchroom who before had been just a stranger to me. He was offering some of his homemade fried rice he had proudly prepared to my co-worker and as I joined the conversation he even offered some to me. I politely declined, but that was the moment I realized we were no longer strangers to each other. Sharing food with someone is something we often do with friends or family, instead of a stranger. To quote Hamblin,
I’d recommend watching the video Hamblin makes capturing his interactions of going up to strangers at the park, titled “Techniques for Talking to Strangers” which I found very entertaining and also insightful.
We also talked about our pets and he pointed out his two adorable dogs who had their pictures posted on the pet wall. Two days after, I saw him again and said “Hello.” I was comfortable to do so as I thought back to our conversation and how he no longer felt like a stranger to me. I think we consider someone known when we know their name, can easily engage in conversation with them, or share our food with them.
Compared to in-person, I think that online, people are a lot more open to sharing details about themselves. Though it can depend on the situation or culture, in-person people tend to share short interactions with strangers or acquaintances as they go about their day. Online there is less of a sense of urgency – you can hold conversations over a longer amount of time. I find that strangers are more willing to share information about themselves online. Maybe people are unaware of the engagement their posts will see or are content if even a single person does and replies. I think similarly to real life, online we are all looking for some sort of connection, even if it is from behind a screen. When I do yoga videos on YouTube, it is not uncommon for me to scroll into the comments section and see people’s life stories written there. Sometimes the type of content someone creates inspires a person to share their own personal story. Probably because to them – the creator no longer feels like a stranger.