In my lifetime, there have been few experiences as pleasant and gratifying as the moment when strangers become acquaintances or friends. Unlike for most of human history, we now live in a world where we come into constant contact with unfamiliar human beings. In our lifetimes, we interact with tens of thousands of different people a year – if not more – whereas most humans who have ever lived rarely knew of anyone else’s existence outside of their tiny and insular community.
The internet has radically amplified this trend, granting us the unprecedented ability to contact people from across the world. The once imposing scale of time and distance are being increasingly eroded. I can now establish a companionship with people who I have never physically met, and I would have otherwise never known these individuals existed had it not been for the web.
I love meeting new people and establishing new bonds. I love the feeling of connecting with a person on a deeper level, whether it’s through a shared interest or activity, or by empathizing with a more personal experience or feeling. It makes me feel less lonely, and opens me up to experiences, ideas, and perspectives I would otherwise have never known.
We often go about our daily routine without ever thinking much about the people who surround us, who are engaging in the same day-to-day activities as we are. Who are those individuals waiting in line with me? Or those people driving by in all those cars? Where are they going and why? What are their dreams and ambitions? What are there story?
Indeed, it’s hard to realize that as we go about our lives, billions of other individuals just like us are doing the same. They all have a story that they’re living out. They all have fears, desires, ideas, and experiences. The majority of them wants and need companionship too. They need that bond with other humans, whether it’s a friendly associate or an intimate lover. We all need someone in some way.
Going to any social setting – a party or classroom or department store – I always feel that latent sense of interconnection that pervades all collective gatherings; that palpable sense that any moment, I can create a bond with someone by recognizing their mutual humanity and engaging in conversation. It won’t always work of course, but the fact that it can is what excites me. The fact that I can tough another person’s life in some way, or visa versa, is what makes life great. Any stranger has the potential to be my next confidant. Any one of them has the potential to change my life.
These interactions could be brief or shallow, but that doesn’t diminish their value to me. Human interaction in general is the spice of life. It makes things more interesting. It enriches our worldview and our experiences. Most importantly, such contacts forge the ties that bind – the knowledge that we all share this world, that we’re all individual human beings who are capable of the same basic feelings and thoughts. This realization is that makes me a humanist, and what has driven me to care deeply about others I otherwise should have no reason to concern myself with.
I advise others to never pass up the chance to establish some sort of connection with another person – the store cashier, the person stuck in line with you, friend of a friend you meet at a party; make an opportunity to say something nice, to find some sort of icebreaker, or to simply smile and express your mutual interest in their humanity. In this fast-paced and materialistic world, it is easy to go about our lives without taking the moment to stop and just enjoy the company of strangers. Arguably, there is no such thing as strangers – they’re all prospective or future companions.