“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?”Henry David Thoreau
I sat at Goose Island restaurant in O’Hare airport traveling solo. The waitress had taken my order and I blankly sat waiting for my meal. Muscle memory then kicked to remind me the ton of friends I was with — tons, in my phone of course. So thumb ready, I scrolled through the feeds of apps, got my quick entertainment high, and then sat staring blankly again.
I began though to observe around the diner, and the first thing I surveyed was two strangers on separate tables leaning toward the other having an engaged conversation.
It looked nice. It looked satiating? It looked…idyllic??
Whatever the description, I caught myself wanting that too, and more importantly, feeling I needed that. Not just for the given moment where I was alone, but in perpetuity, every day.
Moreover, it was a specific type of interaction. It wasn’t one constrained by the layers of a work environment or romantic setting. It was the zero-expectation, selflessly candid, human-to-human interaction sparked on the innocent discovery of shared values.
Unpacking these thoughts more, I traced it back to my mileage with social media.
So to recap, there’s an air of distrust, a depreciation of our social dynamics as they intrinsically are, and it’s all done at massive frequency. And having reflected on the years this has calcified, especially as one guilty of such indulgence, it led me to understand why I felt the way I did at the airport and more revealingly, what I needed going forward — a solution intended for us all.
We are the same social beings that have the same fundamental social needs 50,000 years ago. We just now have a shiny device and need to possess a more critical lens in repurposing it to enhance our underlying thread as human beings, not mere users. Like the actual paleo diet, all the figurative sugars and processed junk are stripped out. We instead focus on the more wholesome properties of human character — our knowledge, our experiences, and the unique stories that have stitched who we are today. We then channel regular opportunities for rich social interaction to unearth these identities through the more “ancestral”, pre-social media exchange of in-person dialogue, albeit designed with today’s contemporary standards. And the people with whom we have these candid conversations with? Strangers, naturally.
But why strangers you ask?
Strangers are outside of our orbit of relationships. Most of what we know and how we think is comparable across those within our orbit. When we intersect a different orbit, that of a stranger, we stretch our intellect and diversify our understandings of the world. And when we moreover have that magic moment in discovering a common thread to connect on, we magnify our perspective on life and realize—we’re just humans after all.
As is such then, we strive for every person to fluidly embark on his or her own personalized “Humans of New York” series. Ultimately through such recurrent encounters, we can reprioritize healthier habits in our lives, augment our sense of reality, and actualize our mission to inspire a kinder, more meaningful world.
So just as we exercise for physical health, let’s complement that routine and shift the state of mental health to one of mental wealth. Let’s modify our narrative with technology, together.
If this type of idea excites you, join our email list.
Hope to share a conversation with you soon.
— Chris, Founder of Pretzly