Talking to Strangers

Week 1:

This week’s process post was inspired by James Hamblin’s article “How to Talk to Strangers” (2016) where he discusses the unexpected importance of striking up conversations with everyday people. While I was not able to strike up many conversations with people in the physical world (due to coronavirus), I will be comparing my past experiences to that I’ve recently had online. First, you should know that I tend to be a very private individual and thus don’t enjoy giving out personal information to people I am not close with. That being said I am pretty much an open book once people get to know me. 

In the past week I have only had two interactions with strangers in the physical world; one from a delivery driver and one from a Facebook marketplace exchange. Since these exchanges both had a specific goal they ended up being short and to the point. The delivery driver was dropping off Ikea furniture and simply asked for my signature confining that I had received the purchase. As I didn’t see much of a reason to keep him longer than needed we didn’t stay and chat. The Facebook marketplace interaction was slightly more lengthy and had a combination of online and physical components. I had messaged the seller about the availability and spec of a Kobo they listed. They were quick with the responses and were already entertaining other offers. As this was meant to be a gift for my grandma, and the only one available I was much more persistent in my messages than I usual. I was putting a lot of effort into persuaded him to accept my offer, e-transfering him right away and arranging pick up for the next day. The next morning I met the seller outside their building for the pickup. I was within the timeframe I had mentioned, although on the earlier side. The seller who was punctual with his messages took a while, around 10min, to meet me. Looking back I was a little anxious and worried while waiting outside the building. I thought maybe he would turn out to be a scammer, or maybe I was in the wrong place. The actual interaction was again very straightforward – I grabbed the device thanked him and left. In fact, I was almost surprised by myself how fast the exchange took place. I did have people waiting for me in the car, and we were late for our breakfast, so I ensured that I grabbed it as quick as possible. However, I didn’t even take the time to notice or thank the seller for including an additional charger that was not listed. I felt a pang of guilt at the end of this exchange for not engaging him as much as I thought I should have. To reconcile this I sent him a message after the sale thanking him, and as what happens with stagers I will probably never see him again. 

The online interactions I’ve had this past week are quite different from not only my physical encounters but also even past online interactions. In the world of COVID-19, it seems as if almost all my interactions are done online. For the most part, I use online methods to text or video call close friends and family. I have never been super active on social media sites, or in large group chat text chains. I prefer to lurk around and see what is going on, only rarely participating myself. However, since school is online this semester I don’t have the usual means of connecting with classmates in person. This has lead me to learn how to be more active on social sites, specifically this week with the hope of forming groups for school projects. For the first time in a while, I don’t know anyone in some of my classes which has to lead to a lot of anxiety trying to find partners for group projects. I have found myself trying to be proactive by posting about myself in discussion boards looking for partners and even actively emailing other students with the hope of pairing up. This is something I would be much less likely to do in person as I can be fairly shy and quiet, due to my lurking nature. 

I am excited to use this class to finally start up my portfolio and hopefully move past my insecurities of being active online!