How come we talk to random strangers while traveling from place A to place B, Its easy to talk to strangers asking for direction but there are few neighbors, I know them for a decade now but haven't had a conversation till now. Is this the fear of initiating the conversation??

  • This might be a question that is more relevant on psychology and neuroscience SE. psychology.stackexchange.com Welcome in any case. Sep 2 '18 at 17:42
  • 3
    interpersonal.stackexchange.com would be the perfect place for this. I've asked mods to migrate.
    – user935
    Sep 2 '18 at 20:53
  • @Frank Hubeny: Why so - isn't this an aspect of alienation? Sep 3 '18 at 22:05
  • @barrycarter: ditto - see comment above. Sep 3 '18 at 22:05
  • @MoziburUllah These other sites may be able to give a better answer. -- I just saw you answer. I think one could answer the question here, but on these other sites there may be research studies that are better known and could be cited. Sep 3 '18 at 22:16

It could be cultural.

I was reading a book on Africa where the author (who was white British) pointed out that people barely acknowledge each other's presence or say hello in London and when native Africans were told this they were shocked and incredulous at such a basic lack of human decency:

Back at home in London I sometimes ask visiting Africans what strikes them most about the way Londoners live. Suni Umar, a journalist from Sokoto in Northern Nigeria, gives a typical answer: 'People walk so fast. And they do not talk to each other. I came to the office in London and the people working there did not even greet me or each other.' And the most puzzling thing? 'I was lost and I walked up to a man and asked the way. He did not reply. He did not even look at me. He just walked away. Like that.'

When Suni goes back to Nigeria and tells that tale they will not believe him. There they know that some Europeans are not kind to Africans but to be so trivially inhuman to each other is shocking.

Even on London or New York or Paris, Africans do not easily lose the habit of catching your eye as you pass. Raise an eyebrow in greeting and a flicker of a smile starts on their lips. A small thing? No. It is the prize that Africa offers the rest of the world: humanity.

Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles - Richard Dowden

Here's a more personal anecdote. I was doing a physics class at a well respected college in London. And during the classroom you could hear a pin drop. At one point a member of staff came in and said - try to speak to each other. After she left there was a minutes hubbub of conversation as people tried to make conversation with their neighbours and then they lapsed back into tongue-tied silence.

It would be interesting to work out why. Is it due to the nature of competition for example? Or perhaps due to the atomisation of society (aka flexibility) in order to make it more 'efficient'? Or just indoctrination by an education system that doesn't promote interaction because they're so busy cramming students heads? How does the nature of education change when so many facts can be looked up rather than memorised?

Also it's worth pointing out that both Marx and Hegel theorised on alienation and this might have some bearing upon this question.

  • It would be nice to know what the down vote was for - as the answer is consonant with the question. Sep 3 '18 at 22:03
  • Because the question is clearly off topic and writing an answer to it only promotes the idea that it's a good question for the site.
    – Not_Here
    Sep 4 '18 at 12:36
  • @not_here: Like I've pointed out alienation is a common theme in 20C philosophy. Can you tell me why alienation is not on-topic on a site to do with philosophy, broadly construed? Sep 4 '18 at 12:40
  • The question is not asking a philosophical question about alienation, the question is asking an explicit interpersonal skills question about how to talk to people. You are giving an entirely too generous reading of the question. I agree that, broadly construed, alienation can be a philosophical topic (although its closer to the other social sciences such as sociology and psychology, to be honest), but this question was not engaging the topic from that angle, it was asking for interpersonal advice. Again, you were too generous in reading your own interpretation into what was being asked.
    – Not_Here
    Sep 4 '18 at 12:52
  • @Not_here: If someone doesn't know the term alienation and nor is philosophically educated then it stands to reason that a question by such a person on this topic won't be construed in this way. Sep 4 '18 at 12:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.