Monday, July 12, 2010

Just A Passing Glance

Eye contact is a very interesting thing to me. Living in Manhattan, I find that there are an overwhelming number of people who weave through the hustle and bustle of the city with their eyes glazed over, never looking directly at anyone or anything. On the other hand, of course, there are the tourists who have their faces firmly planted in the sky, oblivious to anything going on around them. So when I make eye contact with someone, it's a less common occurrence. And frankly? It almost makes me a little uncomfortable at times, simply because I'm not used to it. 

My job probably doesn't help matters - I am a sales associate, so anyone who is not intending on buying something right that moment is expending a good deal of effort avoiding my gaze. Eye contact might prompt me to go into some sort of pitch, and we don't want that, now do we? Even those who make eye contact with me generally don't hold it for long. It's as though I might hypnotize them into spending money. It always makes me laugh.

But then there's those moments. When you catch the eye of someone you find attractive, or you're with a bunch of strangers watching something completely ridiculous, and you share a glance. And I love those moments. Even if it's just catching the eye of the person across from me on the train as a crazy homeless person walks by and sharing that knowing "look". Or meeting eyes with a cute guy as I'm walking down the street and not breaking it until we've both walked past. Those glances and those moments leave their mark on us - hell, there's a whole Craigslist section dedicated to them! And a lot of them say the same thing.

"We looked at each other, but I was too shy to say hello."

We make these momentary connections with people, but we're so scared of following up on them. I mean, half the time we're too scared or embarrassed to hold their gaze for more than a couple of moments, let alone actually go over and say hello. How many potential friendships do we miss out on just because we're too scared to advance that connection? Is it possible that the way in which we make eye contact with people (or, more often, avoid it) has to do with the way in which our society has developed to prefer textual communication? 

Do you find that you make eye contact with people a lot, or that you are more likely to avoid their gaze? If you make eye contact with someone who looks friendly, attractive, or interesting, are you likely to go up and talk to them?


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