Natural human contact is totally vintage

Young people of the world: Make eye contact!

…is how I wanted to start my post today, but then, yes, I spotted the problems with that.

I could be labelled ageist, for starters, and I don’t want that. At 46 (gosh! I just gave away my age) my 20-something sons ‘joke’ with me about how freakishly old that is, dearie, and then argue about who will end up having me live with them. At this point I intervene and tell them it will NOT be decided with a coin toss. ‘Joke’. Ha.

After that, I could be in danger of being classed as an ‘oh what – is she a technophobe?’ and I don’t want that either. Thanks to exceptional opportunities in my other job, I have never needed anyone to explain my phone to me, or, you know, facebook and stuff, and I nurse a massive outrageous all-consuming slight addiction to books, reading and writing, which is its own form of people-free pre-occupation that could be used against me. So no, this isn’t an anti-technology rant, either.

There’s the possibility I could be labelled odd, because for god’s sake, who smiles at strangers in the street? but me being odd is not news to anyone who loves knows me.

Early morning - river at dawnI went for a walk along the river today and even though it was 8 degrees at 10.30am, a lot of people were out walking or running, enjoying their Sunday morning. I am that person that you come across on your walk that will make eye contact, smile and say, ‘good morning’, ‘hello’ or ‘hey’. All my family have always done it and it comes naturally. But not everybody does it back, and – granted, it’s a limited survey group (my specialty) – it just seems to fall into the ‘oh – don’t people do that anymore?’ category of laments.

Some people had an interesting take. Even though they smiled back and said something similar in return. If they were two people – friends/a couple – you got that feeling that after you walked past, they turned to each other and either smirked and burst out in muffled sniggers (which I didn’t hear, so maybe they didn’t), or they said, ‘oh, look at that. That old lady was engaging with us. Wasn’t that awesome?’ ‘Totally vintage, I love vintage,’ and that is odd. Are we really doing that? Treating human contact as an exhibition piece, something for analysis or comment? To coo over? Are we?

Others had their headphones in, but no eye contact. Others were engrossed in conversations with their walking-partner and intent on making a point about something. ‘Like, then she said this, and I was like…’. That’s ok, focusing on your friends is real, and never mind the limited vocabulary: it’s the connecting that’s important.

I came across many who were warm and friendly, some you stop and talk about their dog they’re walking, have a chat about the weather. Some you laugh with – you both spot the fitbits you’re wearing, and know you can’t stop because you’re working up your heart rate – but there it is: engagement. And I like it.

The ones that don’t make eye contact miss out, I reckon. I understand shy, I understand introverted, I understand ‘I’m already in a conversation, crazy old lady, stay out of my business’. But what if we stop making any natural contact with each other altogether? What if one day Skynet crashes and there are no devices available with which to communicate? Omg, what then?

Having said all that, I think I like the idea of Pokémon Go. Not only will we soon see research and development dollars allocated to battery-life issues, it’s a couple of steps in the right direction for human interaction. Although there are a few more steps to go before something is really achieved. But let’s re-cap how Pokémon are travelling:

  • Step One: convert user to a standing position, from which mobility is possible. Check.
  • Step Two: convince user that the device gives you access to items that are desirable (wow – good work there, by the way); place said items outside the domicile. Check.
  • Step Three (and this is where the commercial intentions and goals for humanity will diverge): user looks up from device to appraise current location, its aspect, its features (commercially encouraged for safety/security purposes as protection from something unpleasant, like litigation). In progress.
  • Step Four: user says to fellow-user, ‘let’s put device down and enjoy aspect of current location.’

I’m holding out for Step Four. C’mon, Step Four! At that point, they will spot old crazy lady on the river walk, and who knows what might happen, then? – omg she’s smiling. OMG is she saying something – ? Yes I am. Hello.



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