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.

Share a minute, vulnerability, humanity with a stranger

iOrgins

Frank told me about this great thing he’s involved in tomorrow (Sunday 4th October). If you ever wanted to get over your fear of rejection this would be ideal…

Let’s share a minutes eye contact with strangers in public to rebuild our sense of shared humanity in Sheffield! This is part of The World’s Biggest Eye Contact Experiment – http://on.fb.me/1NnGcQ0, coordinated by The Liberators International in cities all over the world and your participation will help create a global video message for peace and human connection for years to come.

The idea is simple

  1. We will have clear signs that say “Where has the human connection gone? Share 1 minute of eye contact to find out…”

  2. Then we sit down on picnic rugs with 2x pillows each and invite members of the public to come and share a moment of eye contact with us.

Interested? Meet on Sunday 4th of October. At Barker’s Pool outside the city hall between 12pm-3pm. What you need?
For setting up your eye contact space please bring a picnic rug and 2x pillows/cushions to be comfortable.

If its not raining I think I may pop over on the scooter and check it out. It reminds me very much of Marina Abramović at the international festival which I had the joy of going to, but less intense.

I also said to Frank, it reminded me of iOrgins in a roundabout way… This also speaks volumes with some of the things I talked about at BarCamp last weekend and generally talk about regarding lost of our humanity. But I’m always fascinated by strangers and the connection which can happen.

Anybody interested in joining me in Sheffield? (Facebook link)

Alone together forever with the narcissistic?

Tokyo from the Skytree

There is something not quite right about the whole selfies thing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it unlocks something much deeper and more troubling…

Its all about me

The selfie thing, I do find it self indulgent and dare I say it – slightly narcissistic in nature.

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Maybe instead of a pool of water, its a reflection of yourself in a 533 DPI mobile screen?  I don’t think everyone who does a selfie are inherently doing it for narcissistic reasons. Let me be clear about that. But there is something not quite right about seeing friends Selfies all over my facebook timeline of nothing more than people trying to style things out in front of a mirror. Then you get the likes or +1’s.  Finally you got the millions of selfie sticks being sold and used by people who should know better… its enough to  makes you wonder, right?

While in Tokyo, I saw a lot of selfie sticks and lots of people using them. There use seem to go from a picture with friends to a slightly more worrying shot after shot after shot of them self till they got the right one to share. One guy must have taken about 30 pictures before he was happy with one of them. I know because I was watching him on his super bright iPhone 6  plus.

Its about you… alone

As you can imagine I’m not the only one thinking this.

What greater testament could there be to the “me generation” than the rise and rise of the selfie? Anointed by Oxford Dictionaries’ editors as the word of the year after a 17,000% increase in its usage, the selfie is surely the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism.

One of the names I’m most unlikely to align with is Andrew Keen. I have slammed Andrew in the past for his views on the internet. But it kills me to say, he makes some good points on  Twit.tv’s Triangulation 183. I’m sure his new book will still have me and many others shaking our heads, I haven’t read his book and are unlikely to buy it to be honest but he’s spot on about the use of algorithms and the selfie thing.

Tokyo from up high

While on my trip to Tokyo I took a few selfies. I never quite feel good about it, my face generally describe how I felt about the whole thing. I also started to wonder if the break down in our social humanity (if people like sherry turkle are correct) can be seen ahead of time in Tokyo?

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

Selfie Sticks

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else? Theres a load of reasons.

Two pieces I have saved in my instapaper, really got me going…

One is via Tony Churnside10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love.

Every individual in the world is egocentric; we all think about our needs and ourselves first and foremost. Whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter; the world is the way it is. It’s part of human nature.The problem arises when our egocentricity overtakes our ability to feel empathy. As human beings, we have no choice but to live and function within society, within communities of different sizes.

And I found the next one while following links on a site called Thought catalogueThis is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

We cut ourselves off from others, avoiding contact with outsiders. How scared are we? That we are not willing to hand over our camera and talk to (maybe) a familiar stranger?  Who knows what fruitful conversations may spring up because of that moment/encounter/opportunity? But we will never know because we are too focused on our virtual selves.

Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen could have wrote either and I would somewhat believe it was them.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Virtual friends and likes

This should go without saying because there has been so much said about virtual friends, buddy lists, likes, +1’s, follower counts,  etc. And this is also where the difference between Narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes) and Egocentrism (the inability to differentiate between self and other).

I use narcissism because I feel it requires other people to breed as such. Its also something we shouldn’t be heading towards. I can deal with a room of egocentric people for a short while, but a room of narcissists is deeply worrying.

Its all pretty troubling but I have hope for humanity. I feel like its a craze right now. The market can sell more goods you don’t actually need. The drive has always been to make us feel less empowered and cut us off from each other. A disfranchised citizen makes a good consumer?  Retreating to the wall gardens of the 5 stacks.

My hope is we will have more which saddle between the real and virtual worlds and operate in a open fashion. I believe the user interfaces we build, shapes our use and therefore it shapes us – ontological design. From the Cluetrain

#79 –  We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

Warning!

This was written and scheduled during a 17 hour flight with very little actual sleep (trying to adjust to GMT as soon as I get off the plane). I’m very tired and I am likely to be connecting things in a very weird way (not like that never happens eh?). But I do feel like there is a link and worth posting…

Familiar strangers

quick

You get the tram, tube, train to work everyday about the same time everyday. You sit in the same seat everyday or at least the same rough area each day. When looking up from your tablet one day you notice the same street signs and same landscape before looking down again. When shifting your position you brush against another human. That human is a familiar stranger. She or He always seems to be sitting next or opposite you. Not in a creepy way or even stalker way, just happens your paths in life seem to overlap on the Tram to MediaCity every morning at 0935. You don’t communicate verbally but once in a while may nod or awkwardly grin at each other.

I like most people have had this before but unlike most will throw caution to the wind and just say hi or something like that, maybe make a joke about the fact we see each other everyday. There was/is a Irish lady who gets the same tram as myself and we work a couple floors apart. We would get into the same lift each morning and not really say anything. Then over months of catching the same tram and the same lift, we finally would at least smile. Can’t remember who broke the silence first (I assume it was myself) we got talking. Hellos at first and now full conversations in the limited time we had.

Interesting side to the story was having her introducing myself to the BBC writers room which led on to us creating Perceptive Media’s first drama Breaking Out. So there is clearly a lot of positive greatness in these familiar strangers around you. Maybe one reason why the coffee shop is a great implicit creative sponge.

These Familiar strangers have been known to have a great bearing on our lives, Stanley Milgram (famous for the smallworld experiments)has papers going back to the 1970’s on  that. But whats interesting recently is the same kind of research into real social networks scaled over a whole city like Singapore. And like I suspected in my serendipity post, the unintentional or

These people are the bedrock of society and a rich source of social potential as neighbours, friends, or even lovers.

But while many researchers have studied the network of intentional links between individuals—using mobile-phone records, for example—little work has been on these unintentional links, which form a kind of hidden social network.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Lijun Sun at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and a few pals who have analysed the passive interactions between 3 million residents on Singapore’s bus network (about 55 per cent of the city’s population).  ”This is the first time that such a large network of encounters has been identied and analyzed,” they say.

The results are a fascinating insight into this hidden network of familiar strangers and the effects it has on people.

Amazing stuff right? Without going all Jason Silva on you, I love this final part of the post about the paper… Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1301.5979: Understanding Metropolitan Patterns of Daily Encounters

For the ordinary commuter, it is a refreshing reminder that we are all part of an important network that we know little about. Next time you see a familiar stranger, you can be sure you have much in common in terms of your spatial and temporal behaviour patterns. Why not introduce yourself and see what happens?

Yes what have you to loose? Or better still what have you to gain and share? Who knows where your daily encounters might take you…