This past weekend I volunteered as a welcome leader at a three-day orientation for first year SFU business students.
Over the course of the event I encountered and talked with hundreds of new students; exchanging names, mutual interests, past experiences, advice, and more.
So this begs the question, did I end the weekend with one hundred new friendships? Or are we all simply strangers with a shared experience
Upon reflection, I recognize a middle ground that exists in relationships. A stranger would be an individual that I may have met, but have never spoken with. However, anyone that I have shared conversation or an experience with, I would consider to be an aquaintance.
Moreover, a consistent accumulation of these shared experiences often leads to a deeper connection: friendship.
Typically, I am not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger, whether that be in person or online. I am introverted in nature, and tend to stick within the comfortability of interacting with those I already know ("acquaintances" if you will).
As a result of this trait, I find myself seldom interacting with strangers in online spaces, due to the increased ability to "pick and choose" who you initiate conversation with or who you reply to.
Contrarily, in real life you encounter strangers every day that you have no choice but to interact with, such as baristas, cashiers, classmates, passerbys, etc.
While I almost always enjoy and appreciate these micro interactions throughout my day, they are never something I purposely seek out, but instead a result of other strangers' kindness and initiative.
So in this case, why would I volunteer myself to spend three days initiating conversation with hundreds of strangers? I believe the main reason is that I enjoy helping others, whether that be friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. While this is mainly explained through personality, this behaviour can also be interpreted with the sociological concept of triangulation.
Triangulation is where strangers use something external that they can both relate to as a way to start conversation (Hamblin, 2016). Moreover, if I can see that another person would appreciate some assistance, this provides an easy point of connection, and is a unique occurrence where I will initiate conversation with a stranger that I otherwise would not have.
This concept can be observed with my volunteering this weekend. As a fourth year SFU business student, I have considerable knowledge of what the program has to offer.
Moreover, as first year SFU business students, these individuals are looking for as much insight as possible upon beginning their university journey. Therefore, this point of connection motivated me to volunteer so I could initiate these important conversations, that I otherwise would not have been a part of.
In summary, being introverted and reserved in nature, I rarely seek out strangers in real life and have a tendancy to avoid strangers in online spaces. However, given the opportunity to be helpful and a strong point of triangulation, I will occassionally assert myself into meaningful interactions with strangers both in real life and online.
Hamblin, J. (2016, August 25). How to talk to strangers. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/civil-inattention/497183/