I am a people watcher. It’s basically one of my very favourite activities.
The youngins today may jokingly generalize this into a ‘creeper’ tendency. I, however, happen to think it is relatively normal…even though the world seems to think that averted eyes and completely ignoring everyone around you is more appropriate.
Keely and I were on the subway the other day and mentioned this mutual people-watching hobby to one another. We chatted about this and that, made stupid jokes that were less based on actual humour than overtiredness, and we even tried to spy a script in a nearby girl’s hand to deduce what audition she was off to.
One thing I noticed though, was that when the train started to fill, we spoke to each other less. As more and more people trickled in and came closer to our space, we even looked at each other less. Then we reverted to looking at the floor. And finally… you guessed it. We both pulled out our phones.
As did the seventy-some other people in the immediate vicinity…
Whether on the subway, bus, or—god forbid—in the elevator, it is absolutely clear that 99.99999% of people are very uncomfortable.
Now, I should admit that I am entirely guilty of these feelings as well. In fact, it’s what I tend to complain about most of ‘city life’. (I grew up in a town of 1000 people, okay? Strangers smooshed into a tiny crowd with no proper breathing space is not my idea of normal).
Often I’ll find myself in an elevator with a handful of others wishing I had quickly thrown my headphones on so as to avoid any possible communication. Even as I travelled to see my brother a few weeks back, I was legitimately offended that the woman beside me on the train didn’t get the hint from the headphones in my ears…no, I was not interested in her mid-life crisis.
However, exchanging pleasantries with strangers, and throwing a smile in the direction of someone you pass is also a product of a small town upbringing… So I often feel this weird in-between.
On top of that, I think grew up in an interesting time. As an early nineties baby, I oftentimes feel like I straddle the line between the before-the-tech-fiends and, well, the tech-fiends. I actually do remember a time before our household had Internet and I even arrived to my first year university dorm without ever having sent a single text message.
I guess what I’m getting at, is that I remember a time when one could stand among a group of people and not be desperately clinging to a smart phone. I remember a time when it wasn’t “obnoxious” to continue a conversation with a friend even with five other people in your breathing space.
(When did I get so old? Back in my day…the kids actually talked to each other!!)
These are the things I thought about as I stood on the subway platform last night waiting for my train home. Every single person I could see was staring at his or her phone. And the kicker was…there was no service. No text messages could be sent or received. No phone calls could be made or answered. We couldn’t check Facebook or Twitter or … well, again, I’m kind of an old person, so that’s all I really do on my phone, but you know, I do hear the kids can get up to all kinds of other things…
I had this completely ridiculous and, to be honest, unfounded, idea while standing on that subway platform. A voice in my head said to me, “There you go. That’s why the arts are dying. It’s because people don’t talk to each other anymore. They don’t even look at each other. They wish they didn’t have to deal with people at all.”
Of course this was a vast oversimplification…I do realize that. But to me, even as a self-proclaimed introvert, I get my inspiration from other people—whether through conversation, interaction, or even a glance across the subway platform.
Do you remember a time when being a people-watcher wasn’t out of the ordinary? When people casually scanned crowds as they waited, instead of listening to their music or busying themselves on their phones? I remember about fifteen years of that and I’m only twenty-two years old…What will the world look like in another twenty-two years? Will people even go to their workplaces anymore? Will all business be completed via LinkedIn-type networking devices and the new-fangled “extra” smart phones of the future?
I apologize for the old man rant today, artsies. I’ll be back and much cooler (pfft…) next week.
In the meantime, maybe take a second to look at people sometime this week? Hey. It beats pretending to do something on a phone with no service, yeah?
Catch ya on the flip side! (…That’s what cool kids say, right?)
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