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Maybe Strangers Aren’t Dangerous

Week 1: Process Post

Image taken from Unsplash by Jessica Yap

“Don’t talk to strangers.” This is a phrase many of us have heard from a very young age. It makes sense to follow this rule as a child, because as a child, how do you know who to trust? However, as an adult talking to strangers might not be so bad, as we are much more experienced and knowledgeable about the world; meaning we know the difference between when it’s dangerous and when it’s not. For example, getting into a car with a random stranger is dangerous, but engaging in small talk on the SkyTrain with a stranger is not harmful. According to Hamblin’s article, talking to strangers may even be good for our health. I will discuss Hamblin’s article and my thoughts and experiences on talking to strangers, in real life and online.

In How to Talk to Strangers by James Hamblin, it discusses that talking to strangers around you may be beneficial. The article looks at a study about how people’s moods improved after engaging with strangers on their daily commute. Also, the article mentions that people who trusted their neighbors and thought that they were friendly, were less prone to having heart attacks. I agree that conversations with strangers and trusting your neighbors is beneficial to your health, because it has improved my mood in the past. Whether it was a conversation with a grocery cashier, a student on the SkyTrain, or even dancing with a stranger, my mood had instantly improved. I believe it’s because it made me feel more connected to the environment I was in, as I felt noticed. These encounters also made me more relaxed.

This idea about feeling connected, comes back to the point Hamblin makes about our behavior changing once we feel like we know someone. I agree with Hamblin that our behavior changes once we consider a person to be known. With the examples I mentioned above, prior to talking to those strangers I was more closed off, but once I engaged with those strangers, I was more open, talkative, and happy. As I said, I think this happened because I felt connected to the person or the environment. Although by behavior changed, I would still argue that I was not completely myself. For example, I became more open and talkative during these stranger encounters, but I wasn’t about to show all my true colors because I still did not fully know this person. I liked talking to them and felt comfortable but did not fully trust them just yet. I consider a person fully known after I have hung out with them a couple of times, and have learned more about them and their life.

In terms of online interactions versus in person interactions with strangers I would say it’s different. For example, with zoom and talking to other classmates that I don’t know, I am less likely to be very open, or talkative because I can’t see who I am talking to. I can’t see their reactions or behaviors, and it feels unnatural to me, so I have a harder time engaging with others on zoom. I don’t have any specific stories about talking to strangers online, but anybody I have met online first, I was more wary about them and was more closed off until I met them in person.

Overall, I agree with Hamblin’s article and that talking to strangers will really help improve people’s moods and make them feel connected, but I also think it’s really challenging when you have always been told not talk to strangers, and are possibly afraid of starting the conversation yourself.

How to Talk to Strangers by James Hamblin: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/civil-inattention/497183/

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