Maybe I’m crazy, but if you take the train or any type of mass transit, I’m sure you’ve noticed this: most people have their heads down in their smart phones, doing whatever they can to not interact with the person next to them.Honestly, seeing this sight can be frustrating for the everyday extrovert like me, so I started to wonder, was it always like this? All these diverse, interesting people concentrated in one, inescapable space, yet so many lost connections!
Now I get it, many of us on the train are afraid to talk to each other due to the negative ‘what if's’ that could go wrong. Thankfully though, someone was nice enough to challenge these fears for us. A recent article in the NY Times noted experiments done on Chicago subway trains, where commuters were asked to socialize with the stranger next to them and make note of how they felt afterwards. As the article sites “by the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.”
So I put the question out on Facebook as such, “To all you Old Timers, before cell phones, did people interact with each other on the train?” And this was the first response I got back…
Now this had two effects on me. Firstly, it made me feel a lot better about technology. As the meme amusingly points out, perhaps mobile devices aren’t making us as anti-social as I thought. Maybe we always were, and smart phones are just a crutch to perpetuate the behavior – just like newspapers once were.
Secondly, it gave me a feeling of “Wait. We’ve been doing this way too long!” Imagine the possibilities if we were just brave enough to talk to each other on the train.
With that in mind, I’d like to keep your glasses half full, by giving you 4 Positive Possibilities (4PP’s) that could make your daily commute much more productive, rewarding, and maybe even a little more enjoyable.
PP#1: Make A Business Connection
In this day and age, your network is your power. Imagine if you committed to speaking with at least 5 people on the train per week. If you did that for a year, you’d have the opportunity to make 260 business connections with actual people. Social networks are great, but if you want to make faster progress, start talking with people face to face. One connection could take your career somewhere you never thought possible!
PP#2: Diversity Sparks Innovation
What if the person I talk to has nothing in common with me? Perfect! This is your chance to learn a totally new perspective! And coming from a company that is prided on Diversity, bouncing your ideas off of someone who is unbiased can only unlock more possibilities to your ideas. So don’t let differences bog you down.
PP#3: Socialize Au Naturale
If you’re like me, mornings are your arch nemesis and you sometimes need a 20oz latte to get you going, but social interaction forces our minds to wake up and gets the adrenaline going. Otherwise, we’d just act like zombies. Think of it as your daily mental warm up! A focused conversation on the train could get you going more naturally than your cup of Johan.
PP#4: Just Be Happy!
As I pointed out in the NY Times article earlier, social interaction has greater possibility of creating a positive experience, which will only make your day more enjoyable. Even if it’s the small exchange of “Good Morning, how are you today?” that could be enough to start or end your work day on a positive note. And some might say it feels much better than staring into the infinite and cold abyss that is your smart phone.
So from now on, I’m going to try focusing on these possibilities and see what happens. It doesn’t only apply to train rides either; there are plenty of other applicable scenarios.
What other areas of opportunity are you missing to be social? Please share your thoughts and let me know if these tips work for you!
This post was written by Mark Baron. Mark is a passionate social media and marketing professional at Yoh focused on making a genuine and valuable connection with his audience. His biggest passions are in building relationships, creating art, entrepreneurship, new technology, and storytelling. He’s lived in Philadelphia for almost five years building his career and enjoying all the opportunities Philly has to offer. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn to learn more!