Stranger Encounter

(Week 2)

On Saturday the 17th, I attended my childhood best friend’s wedding. No sooner had we been playing Sailor Moon on the playground at the spry age of 6 than us trying to get by at slept-the-wrong-way-and-now-my-neck-hurts-and-my-whole-day-is-ruined 29. Her, gracefully walking down the aisle to a Studio Ghibli soundtrack, and I, attempting forced small talk with people I will likely never see again.

It wasn’t all dull, the one caveat to the monotonous banter with strangers was spying the presence of another old friend from the first grade, Joy. This old friend had entered my life with very little humility, bragging about how she could spell “rabbit.” Being the spelling-challenged 6-year-old I was, I was in awe of this feat. Thus, with her wit and our mutual disdain for the poofy triangle hair we both reluctantly sported (mom’s brushing through thick curls), we became fast friends. On this bright and still-wind day, she was there with her parents and what looked like her boyfriend. I had previously met her family 20-something odd years ago, but we lost touch through high school and adulthood, and I had yet to meet her significant other. As our eyes locked, smiles engaged, and we approached each other with open arms. We became reacquainted and she gleefully introduced me to her boyfriend, Gabe.

Gabe was a towering individual, and although his tallness was slightly intimidating, his body language appeared unassuming and approachable. Despite his somehow paradoxical disposition, his chatter was clear and to the point. Gabe, Joy, and I reminisced about the grade-school relationship I had with my spelling-inclined friend. We also chatted about the weather, the wedding, when he and Joy had met, how they met, where they worked, where they lived, what street they lived on specifically, what street I lived on specifically, whether Joy and I should freeze our eggs, when we planned to get married to our respective significant others, you know, typical personal information you freely give away in an attempt to fill the silence before the reception.

Privacy aside, all in all, it was a pleasant interaction. After the last two years of isolation, it was nice to meet someone new face-to-face. I feel this in-person interaction differs from those I have online mainly due to the observations one may pick up on body language and the ability to opt-out of a conversation. Body language can be a great indicator of how a stranger is processing and understanding what you say. This extra information adds context and richness to the interaction allowing you to gauge the stranger, measuring (consciously or subconsciously) whether there will be another interaction in the future or if they have an unfriendly “vibe.” If you are online chatting with a stranger, this gauge of character is not always possible as words may not come off in the context you intend them to. It may also be easier to be manipulated by an online stranger, manipulated into thinking of them in a certain light.

The option to “X” out of a conversation online is an escape chute you do not have in person. In a conversation you may no longer wish to be a part of, a stronger individual than I might be able to state that the conversation is now over or turn around and leave without notice. For slightly more people-pleasing people (aka, me), randomly leaving the conversation seems rude. Could I say I prefer one over the other? Not really. Both forms of communication have their place and necessity in life as long as people and technology exist.




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