For a tool that abstractly connects so many, the average smartphone is damn good as a social forcefield in the waking world. As a social crutch, your phone – the physicality of the device itself – is inherently equipped to communicate to humans in your vicinity a variety of subtle messages, among them: Don’t bother me. These are important queues when wading through life’s socially uncomfortable moments, like if you find yourself alone in a crowded bar with nothing but other people’s fun to hold your attention or when passing a stranger on a quiet sidewalk. The appearance of busyness is an easy out from these situations, a hiding place never as far away as your own pocket.
So do me a favor this week. Look a stranger in the eye and say, “Hello”. Do it once or twice or hundred times. If you do this already, good for you. The world could use more of your kind. My grandfather used to do this incessantly. He was that kind of guy – friendly, charming and outgoing, whose example had a profound impact on my brothers, cousins and I. He would have been 100 this month.
“Smile and say, ‘Hello’,” he used to say. “It doesn’t cost you anything.”
Good luck out there.