General Question

KimberlyLD's avatar

When did we become a society of people for whom job and role were the only basis for "common ground interactions" or friendships?

Asked by KimberlyLD (285points) July 18th, 2008

It seems that unless you “work in an office”, belong to a group that does “x”, or have a religous/political affiliation, people are unwilling to talk to you, or even get to know you.

Unless of course, it is done embracing the anonymity of the internet.

There are a lot of things that connect people, when did we start depending on people’s “tags” to decide if we wanted to get to know them?

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12 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

Since we adopted the 50 hour work week…

arnbev959's avatar

Yesterday someone told me about a book called The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. I haven’t looked at the book yet but apparently the guy’s argument is that America is the only country where there is no place where people go for the sole purpose of talking to strangers.

Fallstand's avatar

I’m not the most social person, but I socialize with people out at the bar, or at a baseball game, parties…etc. I’d say most people are that way… Maybe I just understanding your question wrong but I’d have to disagree

Knotmyday's avatar

Unfortunately, it’s always easier to embrace the familar. I believe that answers most of your question; however, not everyone in our society is quite that close-minded. I have a lot of friends who don’t believe exactly as I do, have the same sexual orientation, or enjoy the same books and movies- and who continue to introduce me to other people (strangers) most of whom I become familiar with and embrace as friends.
I’m positive that most people would follow the same track; all it takes is a willingness to get off your physical and mental duff and hold out your hand.

arnbev959's avatar

@knot: there is a difference between having your friends introduce you to strangers and going directly up to a stranger.

I live in new jersey, very close to new york, and in the morning there are always commuters standing at bus stops. Whenever i pass one of them i try to make eye contact so i can say good morning to them or give them a friendly nod, but they avoid looking at me as if it would kill them. I always feel like going up to one of them and saying ‘hey, you! good morning!’ but the way they look at the ground or at anything besides another human being is so intimidating. Some of the people who live in my town are a little better, but not much. I’ve noticed that when I visit my grandparents in the country the people are much more friendly, but lately I’ve noticed that even people in the country are becoming less likely to say hello.

cookieman's avatar

I worked in the city (Boston) for 20 years (16 to 36) and experienced exactly what is being described here.

Then, last year, I got a job on a farm in a suburb only 15 minutes out of the city and it’s exactly the opposite. Everyone says, “hello”. There are no business cards or job titles here. Thursday night is “fire-pit night” (bbq, beer and socializing). Everyone takes break at the same time and actually chats and eats together. Huge difference

marinelife's avatar

I agree with cprevite that alienation is a side effect of urbanization. I also think the business of classifying people by their jobs and associating with like people is peculiarly American. Think about the last party you went to where there were a lot of strangers. What qustion do people ask as an icebreaker? Chances are, it is “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?”.

This is not true, in my experience (and I would love to have our across the pond Flutherers chime in, with Europeans, who are much more interested in what people do as hobbies or avocations rather than their job, which is considered much less important.

One way to minimize the problem I have found is to do something that crosses job and occupation lines, such as volunteer efforts or hobby groups (like hiking clubs or bird watching groups).

Harp's avatar

We’ve been steadily weeding out all of the little casual occasions for human contact from our lives over the past few decades. We used to have to deal with bank tellers, gas station attendants, store clerks, theater ushers, telephone operators and on and on…

Now it would be perfectly possible to go for a week, in the city, without ever speaking face to face with another person.

Whenever I go to Paris, the most striking difference to me is the quantity of human contact. It’s diminishing there too, but still, when you do your shopping at the market, you’ll go to this guy for your potatoes, that lady for your milk, that one for your dried beans…by the time you’ve finished, you’ll have spoken to maybe 5 or 6 different people. Do that 3 times a week for a few years and you establish some pretty deep connections with people who may be very different from you, but who are, nevertheless integral to your life. I’m going back there in a couple of weeks, and I fully expect that I’ll recognize many of the same people I knew from many years ago in the course of going about my everyday business, and they’ll probably recognize me.

Humans are complex; we crave social contact at he same time that we don’t want to deal with the messiness and inevitable conflicts and inconvenience that come with it. Our modern solution has been to narrow those contacts down to the least troublesome ones, ones that we can control and with people who are the most like us. In the process, we’re forgetting how to reach out across differences.

Poser's avatar

Interesting that this question should come up now. I have a group of friends from work that I’ve been hanging out with lately. We go to lunch and socialize. It’s easy because we all have the same job, and live very similar lifestyles (in fact, they all went to the same school and knew each other long before getting here. I guess I’m the “new guy”). A few weeks ago, we were trying to find something to do on a Friday night and someone suggested Karaoke. Long story short, we ended up at a very shady bar where the majority of people are much, much different than we are. Now we are regulars. Few people we’ve described the place to have understood why we like it. I think it is the acceptable interaction with strangers that makes it interesting (to me, at least).

Some of the best friends I’ve made in the Navy were people I would have never talked to had I met them in their native surroundings, nor them in mine. One good thing about the military is that it forces that kind of stranger-interaction.

Knotmyday's avatar

@Pete- I get the “stranger on the street” alienation; no one wants to get caught up in a rambling conversation with a wino or end up with unsolicited info on how to get your soul saved. Burn me once, shame on… what was the George W. quote again? :^)
But I truly believe that socialization starts (or ends) with you. Perhaps the bus stop just isn’t an appropriate venue for beginning those kinds of relationships. Then again, who knows? I wouldn’t stop trying just because of other people’s hang-ups.

nina's avatar

Has it ever been otherwise?

aaronou's avatar

I’m blaming it on my television, oh, and my playstation…But honestly consider how much we seem to depend upon relationships as the backbone of our existence. Primal instinct may bid us to survive at all costs. But I have to ask myself if life would be void of meaning without others to experience it with. I mean, what value is there in making a hole-in-one if there is no one to share in the excitement?

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