Social Isolation Redux
I know I harp on this subject. I do this because it’s a huge problem for men. I’ve covered well how technology seriously disrupts in-person social interactions. Streaming video, satellite TV, entertainment servers, all of it acts as barriers to genuine human contact. Congratulations, nerds, you won. But girls still won’t date you. Yes, that was an abrasive remark aimed at the socially dysfunctional men who created such technology.
There is another way we isolate each other. During our collective commutes to work, our vehicles typically holds only the driver. Commute times are long, averaging 35 minutes. That’s 35 minutes in social isolation as we drive to and from work, mentally focusing on work, those idiot drivers surrounding us, and the sundry minutae of life.
I was reminded of this commute-based isolation when I started to use public transportation earlier this year. While I was taking the bus, I got to know some of the regulars and enjoyed the social interaction. Here in South Florida, bus riders are not rich folk. It didn’t matter to me. In the mornings I chatted with the young, overnight security guard of Cuban origins who got on the bus stop as I did. Returning from work, I talked about motorcycles and life with the middle-age Puerto Rican bus driver. I also chatted with tourists who took the same bus up the beach to get back to their hotels. Of course, there were drunks and mentally ill homeless to deal with. Such is the life of a regular bus rider.
With a new and far more lucrative contract just having started, I’m now taking the commuter train (Tri-Rail). These are hard-core commuters and mostly like me, the white-collar crowd. Most are glued to smart devices so I don’t interrupt. But these past few days, there has been cordial chit chat with other passengers and a few occasions. Such times are excellent opportunities to be social in a socially frictionless environment. Just this morning, while waiting to exit the train, I was standing next to a middle-age flight attendant, a stewardess to use the older vernacular. She was in uniform. That train stop has a shuttle to the Miami airport.
I opened the brief conversation. “So we’re both going to work.”
She smiled at me pleasantly. “Yes, we are.”
“But you’ve got a helluva an office.”
With that she laughed and a light exchange ensued as the train slowed to a stop. We wished each other well and walked to our separate shuttle busses. There are a couple of take-aways from all this:
1. Take advantage of social opportunities. I’m not advocating making radical changes to your commute, but perhaps a carpool might be something to explore if your job, job schedule, and geography permits it. Bonus, save money on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.
2. When opening up a conversation, it’s easiest to bring up something that you both have in common. Even something as innocuous as going to work is a conversational opener. What I did with the flight attendant was a variation of the environmental opener (HT Roosh)
Social isolation can too easily wipe away social skills. All men, regardless of age, must be reminded of this often. Just now, as I’m writing this post, I’m on the train. The gentleman across from me has his eyes firmly attached to his smart device. I tried to engage him in conversation but he was a bit terse and put in his ear buds. Hint, taken. Maybe tomorrow I’ll sit across from someone more social.
Here’s a photo of an interesting business I see from my train-based commute:
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Good post. I’m blessed with a two-block walk to work but I used what I suppose is an environmental opener today: Having a cafeteria lunch alone, I scanned the room and sat one (empty) table away from an attractive woman also eating alone. The busboy – known to me by name – came by, asking if I needed anything, and as usual we chatted about sports for a minute. Then he checked with the woman and went on his way. I caught her eye and said something like, “Howard is a good guy isn’t he? Makes this a nicer place to eat.” Long story short, I now have this apparently-quite-receptive woman’s phone number and intend to call her tonight to arrange lunch for Friday. Get social. Speak up. It works. Thx, PM.
Good generic opening up lines (for a potential conversation) I find are:
-Hi, how are you?/how is it going? (simple but effective, everyone can relate, even if it’s a mere automatic greeting, it builds rapport. I use it even if someone is using a device or has earphones, just in case because sometimes people still respond to you. It’s also not too intrusive/pushy so people can ignore you or just say the automatic “good” and then ignore you if they want, but it’s at least an opportunity, plus it’s friendly)
-**adjective** weather huh? (weather is the most banal and yet common conversation topic ever, every and any one can relate and comment)
Also, for those who are a bit more shy/socially awkward, try practicing with shop clerks, they’re paid to be friendly with you and it’s not like you’ll have to deal with them much afterward, so there’s very little risk. (A tip from Derek Halpern I’ve used myself: http://youtu.be/TduT4-Z-uEQ )
Hope this helps someone out there. Let me know. 🙂