Public is so Private

With our smart-phones crowding our field of vision, it’s easy to miss what is right in front of us at times: real human beings. We care so much about feeling connected to the world by constantly updating our status and liking others’ photos, yet we can often miss out on connecting to the actual person standing next to us. Checking our news feed is a normal part of our daily activity nowadays, but this action especially heightens when we don’t have a companion by our side in public places. When we’re alone, it’s easy to disengage from the physical world around us.

A public space is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of Human Geography as ‘the areas of the geographical environment that are accessible to and shared by all members of the public. Such spaces include streets, parks, and wilderness.’ Places where private businesses run (like a cafe) blur the distinction,but for the most part are considered a public space because they are open to the public. Conversly, a private space is considered to be areas that are restricted in their occupancy and use (like a home).

With this is mind, after the lecture, I began to notice what we now do when we are waiting in line – in public spaces, especially here at UoW. Whether it is waiting to order a coffee in the line at Panizzi, waiting for a class to start or waiting for the elevator, we no longer have the patience to just wait there and take in the surroundings around us, or strike up a conversation with the person in front of us- we need to manage the anxiety somehow.

It is quite ironic how unsocial social media and always being connected  has made us become.  I think it is quite sad that the majority of us resort to hiding behind our phone in public spaces because we fear being alone.

Waiting for the elevator feat. phone

Waiting for the elevator feat. phone

This got to me to thinking that we shouldn’t feel intimidated or be afraid of rejection if we wanted to talk to people waiting around us; the reason for wanting to talk to the person beside us isn’t a form of weakness. It’s not because people need to feel welcomed or appreciated in the space they are in, but because we are thinking well beyond ourselves that we wish to focus our attention on another. Remove the fear of rejection in a public space, that may come from engaging with someone new and be the first to initiate a conversation.

I tried this myself, during the week and complimented the person behind me in the coffee line on the scarf she was wearing. We then talked about our favourite clothes stores and the line went much quicker! That was a lot more interesting than scrolling through Instrgram for the umpteenth time that morning!

Being present in the world is easiest when you are not buried in your phone. The next time you are in a public space and waiting for something, talk to the person behind/next to you.

Do you notice that you hide away into your phone when waiting?




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