By Lesley Hitson
Human beings fascinate me. I’m always curious as to what makes different individuals tick – simply for the knowledge to enhance understanding and compassion of others. I also find joy in discovering what ignites other people’s passions. Hearing someone talk animatedly, particularly in a one-on-one conversation, gives me life and energy.
At the same time, as an ambivert, I also relish in merely being a listening ear or simply an observer. Amidst my free time and brief work distractions, I often take the opportunity to people watch. Dependent on the location, person(s) and situation, my thoughts and reactions may be lighthearted or intuitive.
Occasionally, observing people is a conscious decision, such as when my roommate and I open our apartment window to watch students cross the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center bridge and tell them, “Beautiful weather we’re having!” We typically don’t receive responses, as most students wear headphones when walking around campus (classic anti-social college culture). But, about two weeks ago, my roommate and I accidentally scared a cyclist, which had us in stitches from laughing. Note: He wasn’t injured, only frazzled.
However, most of the time, people-watching naturally occurs – a person’s voice, tone, action, etc. steal my attention. It is in those eye-grabbing moments, that I can toss my contacts and glasses aside. I could spend my whole life seeing the same people over and over again yet never truly see them. I mean, only knowing a longtime co-worker’s basic information, i.e., first and last name, is quite different than being able to discern that same co-worker’s well-being.
Now, I know that people-watching may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Some individuals consider it to be silly or odd (to put it politely), which is perfectly fine. We all have a right to our personal opinions, so to this, I say to each his own. I feel many individuals who think people watching is creepy may have trouble seeing how it could serve a greater good. For example, in my life, studying people often serves as a reminder that we’re all human – awkward, beautiful, unique, funny, clumsy and interesting. We have many more similarities than differences. But, if more people made a conscious effort to study/observe individuals who differ from them in demographics and psychographics, then our world might have greater understanding and appreciation of all persons who inhabit it.
Hitson is a public relations senior