Friendly in real life

As my day passes – and maybe you can relate? – I’m constantly barraged with ideas for posting. They shout out as me while walking through the corridor, sipping tea, checking messages, picking my nose.  If it were quantified, I’d estimate that around 6% of my ideas actually make it to the internet.

So when I signed up for twitter with the intention of meeting people, building connections, talking to friends and all that other networking/social mediafying buzz, who knew it’d become so overly stimulating and nearly explode  my brain with inspiration.

Twitter and facebook are significantly different. Facebook is more targeted, more personal. Twitter just never stops – it’s the social media equivalent of pi. Hopping on for a ‘quick look’ means staying too long for a peruse of people’s links, topics, ideas, and so on – and you know what, about 97% of these people are strangers. Strangers! I’m stopping to exchange with people whom I’ve never met before, and because it’s online that is A-okay.

So why isn’t it in real life?

Here is what happened to me yesterday while on break from the library. Contrasted against the social ease of Twitter, it was totally bizarre.

Right. There I am in my blue exercise top and too saggy dark jeans, slouched over on the beaten leather sofa that is situated against the only heater in the corridor of my campus, opposite the canteen, with a navy sock-thing covering my chicken-fluff hair. (How is that for an excessively descriptive sentence? I’m gaging on the adjectives.) It’s a public area and I’m hugging the radiator with a cup of tea in one hand, and a newspaper on my lap opened to an article about Egypt.

Things are normal for the Avenue: students are scattered around, everyone is involved in their worlds. My glasses are on the table.

Okay – stage is set. Here is the bizarre bit, which honestly should not be bizarre at all, considering I just started a conversation with @completestranger on Twitter.

A lady walks by and I glance up as she passes. She slows – not a full stop, but a kind of ‘I recoginze you but my feet are still moving’ type of slow down – and says, “Hello!”

So I smile, and say, “Hello.”

And then she stops just a moment, gets slightly closer (but not too close, don’t worry) and says: “How are you doing?”

Which was so strange!

Of course, what could I do? I say, “I’m doing well, thanks.” (Never say you’re ‘good’, because there’s a high chance an older lady will swoop down from nowhere and correct your grammar, as I once experienced.) And she walks away.

This is why I feel the entire exchange was different – and by different, I mean really great, but also really unexpected:

  1. In England, people do not generally say ‘How are you?’ in passing. They say ‘Are you alright?’ instead.
  2. I have never seen this lady before. Mind you, my glasses were on the table and she was essentially a passing, blond, smiling blur – but I didn’t recognize the fuzzy features. (And if you are reading this post, and I should have recognized you – I really do apologize and would like to blame it on my lack of glasses. Normally I’m excellent at remembering faces . . . not names, but faces).

So what warranted the slowdown and smile? The smile, I get – I smile at everyone who’s looking. But the slowdown and smile? Followed by an inquiry of wellbeing?

And so, I was ‘liked’, or ‘retweeted’, or plainly said: made to feel good by a stranger. A stranger in the real world.  Why was it so startling?

Everyone feels better when someone cares, even in small portions.  A smile shows you care (if only in small portions), and I firmly believe people ought to smile as they pass. It’s one Canadian habit that is highly commendable. But this woman took things a step further. She actually wanted to know how I was doing, it wasn’t a passing substitute for ‘hello’, and I was not prepared for her interest.

But you know what? I remembered her. Her fuzzy, blurry shape has been seared into my mind and for the rest of the day I reflected on the exchange. This is more than I can say about the tweets and comments of social media. They have their use, and are great for introductions, but I think significant connections must go beyond 140 characters.

What’s really fascinating and significant is that bottom line – inspiration hits from all angles, and twitter/facebook are no exception; but it’s the real stuff, in the real world, those real feelings and emotional experiences, which create an impression on my life. And it’s that stuff, the best stuff, which makes it into Bumpyboobs.

I’m quite happy for the lady and her kind inquiries. It was a great treat for the day, and gave me a whole lot to consider.

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