“We live in a mechanized, audio-visual society, so there is a need to humanize more now than ever before.” That was a sobering quote from beloved drama instructor Florence Salant Greenberg. It’s no special revelation that we live in a society where intimate social interactions are choked by technological conveniences and social media, both of which make it easier now than ever to go through our lives with as little human interaction as possible. I was pumping gas the other day, and I was in a hurry, so I used the card reader at the pump. While I appreciated that convenience, I couldn’t help but wonder what would come of me approaching the clerk inside of the station, and in addition to asking for services, maybe ask how his day was, ask him if he lived in the area and if liked it. Although there was an ease of service and a lot of time saved, I couldn’t help but imagine the emotional and social benefits of interacting with another human being.
I felt that way because I’d recalled a principally similar situation that’d occurred about a week earlier. I was in Downtown Los Angeles with my old roommate, co-host of the Mr Cadillac Fancy Pants Podcast, Ray Flores, and we were in this very small, gregarious diner at 2 AM, the only place open and serving food at that time. The workers there were very young, some looked like students, and they’d turned up their music for everyone to listen and dance to, new wave R&B. I’d heard a song I liked, and explained to Ray that I knew it was a remix of a song I’d heard before. He had an app that could essentially “hear” music being played, and tell you what song it was, which is, as stated earlier, technologically convenient, but isn’t conducive to human interaction. I felt in that moment that I wanted the social interaction, which, let’s face it, in this day and age can be intimidating due to rarity alone. But in this situation, it wasn’t anything to fret about. I simply approached one of the workers there, and asked him about the song he was playing. That blossomed into an extremely amiable, profound, and refreshing conversation about music and personal interests. On top of that, he introduced himself, explained that he and his brothers run the small restaurant on the weekends, and gave me and Ray free food. If I had to choose between that, and technological convenience, it’s obvious what the better scenario would be most of the time.
Now once again, none of this is shockingly new information. “Yawn yawn, yes social media and technology are socially contradicting and ‘evil’, this is old news”, you might say. And things aren’t going to change on those fronts, since those are two of the most pivotal factors that drive modern culture. But obviously it’s not the world around us that needs to make it easier for us to be more socially substantial, but ourselves who need to take more initiative. The point here, however, is not necessarily to talk to strangers. While that is helpful and can lead to refreshing experiences, there’s another, more important point to be had.
The issue being zeroed in on here, is not just the lack of social experimentation, but the quality of social interactions themselves. Take the young man who had taken the initiative to make conversation with me after I approached him at the restaurant for example. I would’ve been satisfied with a simple “Hi, thanks,” and “bye”. But he wanted more socially, which lead to us getting deep, and that honestly made the “social inconvenience” worth while. That experience made me question the quality of social interactions amongst friends and family, let alone strangers. Because at the end of that night, I learned more about the preferences of a stranger than I’ve learned from a lot of the friend’s that I’ve known for a very long time.
This idea of learning about the person you’re talking to isn’t new, but it also isn’t something that is accomplished often in our society. For example, there are a group of friends that I grew up with, and when we were kids, all we talked about were ideas and scenarios, predicting the future or creating stories. Now that we’re adults, whenever I see them, the only thing we ultimately talk about is work and relationships. That’s something I’ve noticed about most of the people I encounter, whether I overhear conversations on planes, trains, buses, or bars, or I’m catching up with friends after a month long hiatus, it’s always how work’s going, what happened with their girlfriends, what they need to do next to make more money. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, we all need to vent. But we began to realize that, if we want deeper, more profound, idea oriented conversation, I shouldn’t demand that of anyone else other than myself. I should take the initiative to essentially “interview” my friends, with the goal of learning more about them and their viewpoints.
What do I mean when I say “interview”? Usually one thinks of an interview for a job, or by a reporter, or maybe of a celebrity at a press junket. In each of those scenarios, think about how much the interviewer learns about the other person, and imagine that in a more socially relaxed, intimate setting. And instead of a Q & A approach, if one were to apply a conversational comfortability, along with a goal to appreciate the thoughts and ideas of the other person in order to expand and share their own, more than likely you’ll end up having a very enlightening exchange and learn more about your friend than you ever have.
Ask yourself this: What do me and my closest friend talk about? How much do I know about my most intimate friend(s)/family? When was the last time I learned something new about a friend, family member, or life partner? The conversational tendency nowadays is for people to be more event oriented in conversation, as opposed to idea oriented. “How was your day?”, as opposed to “What’s your favorite part of the day?” “What did you eat?” as opposed to “What’s one food you could eat forever?” “How’s your boyfriend/girlfriend”, instead of “What’s your take on love and romance?” “Did you see this on the news?” rather than “Where do you think we’ll be in 30 years?”
Take sharing hobbies as a very simple example. Think about the things you’re passionate about now, whether it’s a hobby or routine that brings you joy. Many people nowadays don’t have those, or at least don’t have a lot of them. But whatever you do feel strongly about, why did you begin taking interest in it? Perhaps it was something your parents taught you or were passionate about themselves, or maybe something a friend talked you into and now it’s something you’re in love with. Studies show that more than likely, the things we love to do with our free time are inherited by others, so it’s rare that we come up with what we do with our lives on our own. Sharing ideas and dedications can expand one another’s horizons and life direction. The same can be said about viewpoints, preferences, and goals. Those kinds of conversations can even cause a person to be self-reflective, perhaps helping them to realize their own thoughts, inclinations and emotional makeup.
Sharing ideas, feelings, opinions, and learning about another person’s passions, perspectives, and preferences, opens up our own worlds to new ways of thinking, processing emotions and seeing life, and allows the worlds of two different people to metaphysically collide and harmonize. Instead of shooting the breeze, you’re actually learning about the other person, and are making yourself more susceptible to mental, emotional, and situational growth.
Having that kind of profound, enlightening discussion, can be as simple as two people intimately interviewing each other with the goal of learning more about one another, about themselves, and about life as seen through another mind’s eye. That’s why, to start off season two of our thought provoking podcast, the hosts interview each other about one other’s preferences, passions, metaphysical perspectives, and other fun facts, in order promote deeper interactions amongst our fans.
We encourage you to try it out! These interviews surround 4 types of questions in a back-and-forth encounter: 1. Preferences 2. Hobbies/passions 3. Perspective on a metaphysical topic (life, love, psychology, future, aliens, etc.) 4. A fact about the other person. The next time you’re in a social gathering or with a friend or family member, try interviewing them with the objective to enlighten yourself and your mate. Please comment below on how it goes!