I want to propose something. I know that it’s radical, dangerously so, but, with any luck, some of this world’s problems could be solved with just one simple change in our daily lives: we should look at each other. How often do you pass someone on campus, just casually walking by, and they simply refuse to look at you? Perhaps they’re beamed a sudden divine impulse to check their phone, or they jerk their head to the right to check out a frolicking squirrel with an abruptness normally reserved for crashing 747s.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about people you find attractive, or people you know. I’m just talking about people. Most of them just won’t look at you. I often contemplate painting my face orange, or getting a hickey the size of a baseball or holding up a large neon sign that says “I’m here! I’m human! I can make your retinas happy too!”
Sometimes I pass someone that will look at me, just for the tiniest, tiniest possible moment, and then look away. “Shit! Did I just look at her? She probably thinks I’m creepy.” Yet, to be honest, I don’t know why I care. There’s just something dehumanizing about the whole situation, like I’ve been reduced to the status of a clipboard–wielding proselytizer haunting the Compass. “Just keep walking. Head down, eyes forward.”
Perhaps this particular mission is too ambitious. Looking at strangers, after all, doesn’t necessarily help you very much. But imagine that guy or girl that you “kinda” know. Maybe you always sat a couple seats away in Chemistry. Or you happened to be in the same conversation at a party, but never got introduced. In that glorious moment of recognition, you see him on the Walk. “I met him once. I’m doing it. I’m looking at him. Wait, is that him? He didn’t look. It wasn’t him. Or it WAS him and he saw me 20 feet ago and didn’t look on purpose.”
In all fairness, I can empathize with the other side’s point of view. Friendliness can backfire. There will always be those who think that a prolonged glance or a friendly hello is an overture of intimacy. But that’s not true for most people.
I could bore you with vague notions of the plight of the individual in an increasingly impersonal society, but what I’m proposing, plain and simple, is that we just give it a shot. When you’re out today, leave the headphones in your pocket. Quit pretending the architecture is interesting. Stop texting while you walk — that’s what class is for — and just look at people. For bonus points, flash someone a smile. It might make their day (and yours) in the process.