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October 5, 2007 / Amy Bradney-George

Friday

Due to my current study topics, I’ve had a lot of reason to reflect on ideas of fears. And the one that recurs the most for me is probably fear of the “other”, the stranger. And I’m not talking about “stranger danger”, although that has become part of it. I’m more interested in the way people will isolate themselves in public to avoid talking to strangers, the majority of whom are probably nice people. Ok, so I grew up in a town where you didn’t really have to worry about strangers, and pretty much everyone would talk to you, say hello in passing and stuff. But living in the city has given me a different view of group socialisation.

If you sat next to someone on a bus (someone who by chance did not have their personal music player deafening them and shutting out the “real world”) and tried to start a conversation with them, chances are they would ignore you, make non-committal responses, or move seats. Some times people will talk to you, but that is usually to ask questions like “Do you have the time?” or “How late is the bus?!” , that kinda jazz. So why? I figure it’s because they’re scared. Hey, I can understand that, I often listen to music on public transport. But it still bothers me, and I’m aware of it because people seem to find me approachable (even when I’ve got music in my ears, and I make sure it isn’t deafening me).

Thing is, people don’t want to talk to people they don’t know. Quite possibly (probably) this is because there is a chance the person right next to them at the bus stop is a bit strange. But honestly, your average person isn’t going to get all weird (unless you talk to them, then they might think you were strange). Is this defence inbuilt in our subconscious? Or is it something we’ve developed because of the way society is today, complete with all it’s warnings and moral panics.

The way I see it, it’s definitely something worth thinking about.

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