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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Transference - Un monde de cœurs fermés à double tour

It seems to me like we are more and more inclined to live our lives in seclusion, while we increasingly, and perhaps sometimes secretly, long for others to touch our lives.
It seems to me like we are more and more inclined to live our lives in seclusion, while we increasingly, and perhaps sometimes secretly, long for others to touch our lives.

We go to the office everyday, and on our way into the building, we meet about a dozen people that we are not acquainted with, and even though it is most often the same people we meet everyday or so, we make no effort to greet them or start a conversation, however small. We simply fix our eyes on the elevator or whatever destination we are headed to, and keep walking, unconsciously avoiding eye contact. The people we meet most often do the same. For each of us, the people we pass by might as well be wall fixtures for all we care, and we in turn are the same in their eyes.

If we go to the police to report a robbery for instance, we get faced with a mechanical "what is the nature of your request" inquiry coming from a human police officer. You'd think that at low and vulnerable moment in your life, a police officer would manage to squeeze out a bit of sympathy, but no. I wouldn't completely blame the officer, he's probably bound to his mechanical sentences to ensure nothing he says is politically incorrect, and that he treats everyone the same. I'm just amazed how the only way we found to have "proper human interactions" with each other involves taking away the human aspect of it.

In most of your daily interactions you are not regarded as a full person. You could be a patient, a victim, a customer, a co-worker, a colleague, a boss, a student, a voter, etc. This categorization dictates the overall set of mechanical sentences you will be hearing everyday from the people around you at the office, in the supermarket, at the bank... Add on top of that the effect of stereotypes, and now all of a sudden you're either a punk, a goth, a suit, an Arab, a 'hot piece of ass', etc. I might be pushing the envelope too far on this one, but that's just to say that sometimes it feels like people won't talk to you in person unless they have to. Often times they'll gladly respond to you through electronic mediums, but the barrier to face to face communication remains quite high, and it's not like humans have become shy all of a sudden. I think it's more a question of emotional intimacy. We got used to hiding behind impersonal digital mediums, and now we're having a real hard time recovering our ability to be intimate while looking in each others' eyes. In fact, the most probable time a person will allow the luxury of emotional transfer between you and himself, is during a sales pitch, a luxury even doctors can't afford.

So you feel like you're detached from the world around you. Don't worry, here's where it gets better:

Pepsi wants to be your friend.

Don't like Pepsi? No problem, pretty much all other brands are after you, this time not as a customer, but as a 'lifestyle partner'. Every brand you buy claims you as a part of its family. The brand cares about you, and gives you the chance to follow it on Twitter, write on its blog, add it on Facebook... Essentially, brands can be as personalized and friendly as people, while they really don't need to be - anyone in advertising reading this has just thought 'I disagree' - and people are becoming less and less personalized or friendly, when they really shouldn't. I don't think that's a coincidence.

So what now ? I know I painted quite a dark picture, and you might think it is much brighter than I describe it, I hope it is. From personal experience, and after repeatedly trying to 'poke around', the most common response I got was a cold shoulder, or a 'warm on the surface' response, but hardly ever any emotional connection.

So again with the question: what now ?
My personal tip, whenever you can, talk to a perfect stranger when he least expects it, and observe his reaction. Don't get discouraged by a few 'what the hell ?' looks, those either mean that stranger is completely closed off, or that you picked the wrong line to open with.
Let me know how that goes.

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