As I’m waiting for the L train, all I see around me are beautiful faces. Each one is so unique, and so interesting in its own way. They come from all walks of life, and paint so many different, vivid stories. These faces don’t look back at me, though. They don’t laugh or smile. They glow, but only from the illuminated screens that they are peering into. Most of these people may not even realize that I exist, and that I am here right in front of them. They are consumed by the other realities they are staring into.
You could call me somewhat of an old-school people watcher. Nowadays, it’s easy to stalk anybody’s life on social media to find out who they’re dating, what school they went to, and, if you really want, you can usually even find out what they ate for dinner last Tuesday night.
As for me, I like more of a challenge. When I get on the subway, I can’t help but process the people around me. I check out what everyone is wearing, who had a rough night and who is headed to their first day of work, and I always make funny faces to any of the kids that aren’t glued to a tablet or phone (side note- why do seven-year olds need tablets and phones?) Then, I usually seem to fixate on the same few people my mind auto selects for me during my commute. I start to think about what his or her life is like, and what their apartment must look like. I imagine what it might be like to know these people for a day or two: to go with them to their apartments after work and crank the heating for a winter’s night of movies and popcorn. I imagine what it would be like to have coffee with these people and hear all of their thoughts on any topic they wish to tell me about.
I see how easily I could have intertwined with various people who zoom past me in train cars and subway stations. I imagine how my life might be different if I did have connections to some of the people I spot and think of for a few moments, as my mind paints an abstract work based on the loosest reality. Who knows if anything I think of when I analyze these people is actually true – although I like to believe it is.
I like to think that it might be that simple for us to come together again as people. It could be as easy as meeting someone on the subway and sparking a connection that catapults your life into one of the most beautiful love stories you’ve ever imagined. Or even starting a conversation with a random stranger in the terminal, that ignites a friendship that could stretch far into your life. The only reality that actually matters is the one that we can touch and feel: it allows us to hold on to the connections that we cherish, and to let go of the ones that don’t belong.
It’s impossible to create any real connections in this reality by being plugged in all the time. And while you’re staring off into cyberspace every single day as you travel to wherever your day is taking you, why would you want to see the same things day in and day out? Facebook posts from people you can barely remember, and pictures of people you are still following for some reason taking the same exact selfie for the past year.
If we’re all so consumed staring into a galaxy of pixels, we’re going to keep missing the connections we might have made to those beautiful faces waiting for the L.