Familiar stranger and wellness

milgram familiar stranger

Theres been so many times in the past when I blogged about the breakdown of social bonds between strangers. One of my favourite books is Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, I still need to read reclaiming conversations. The smartphone is a easy target to point at when thinking about this all.

The thing I hadn’t really considered is the effect of the mental ill/wellness epidemic maybe slightly caused by loneliness.

This is why I find things like Uber quiet ride pretty scary when you take the long view. Which of course Uber isn’t, as they try and make public transport redundant as its not convenient enough for our lives.

You can outsource pretty much every aspect of irritation in your lives. But you can’t outsource loneliness, or pain. Like a dystopian sci-fi plotline, we are allowing Silicon Valley to make our lives as convenient and seamless as possible.

But there’s an app for everything now, which means no more phone calls to the pizza shop, no chit-chat while waiting for the bus. The little white earbuds, and their more aggressive, noise-cancelling cousins, are shielding us from this terrible outside world.

And we are lonelier than ever. Our communities are disintegrating, whether it’s the corner store bought by a billionaire developer or churches being replaced by Instagram or the fact that I have never met or even seen my nextdoor neighbour. We are at a crisis point.

You could easily point the finger at Airbnb too, something which was about people sharing homes with strangers; now is about hotel like experiences. Airbnb haven’t helped things wither with their plus listings. Don’t get me wrong I understand, but airbnb originally was different.

I keep saying it but noticed I don’t think I have ever wrote about it so directly.

Public transport along with lots public services could be the decider between a epidemic of loneliness. I mean where else are you going to experience familiar stranger and that essential head nod. Rubbing shoulders with strangers clearly is good thing in the long run, you wonder why more people are flocking to our over crowded cities? I think there is something in the social object theory and I’m not the only one. Bonding with strangers builds friendships, builds neighbourhoods, building communities, which builds societies?

The data is still not 100% but I think this is essential research material.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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