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??
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.