I have written about this many times, my proclivity for people-watching. It is a natural extension of my curiosity about humanity. I’ve always done it and it has been brought to my attention more than once and I have come close to being punched over it. Note to self, when a large drunk at a bar says “what are you looking at?”, don’t say “you don’t know either?”. I barely talked myself out of that one. Generally speaking, I don’t mean anything by it I’m just very aware of people. I study them.
It has occurred to me recently that people-watching is situational. Sometimes it is just observing, casually playing the guessing game.
What does that guy do for work?
Is she happy or just pretending?
Is that dad a good dad or not?
Sometimes I dig a little deeper and in a more melancholy manner.
Does that guy playing on his phone while out to dinner with his family know that he is missing out on a memory right now?
Does that clearly harrowed professional-type at the bar know (or care) that he is killing himself for a job that would replace him if he dropped dead tomorrow?
Is that older gent sitting on a park bench at 11 on a Tuesday enjoying the day or missing someone right now?
The great epiphany I recently had was that my inquiries and observations were based on the place I was in at the time mentally. To be more specific, was I in a good mood or bad? Was I healthy or ill? Was I feeling good about my place in life or battling with the ever-present-in-my-life inferiority complex. That revelation opened up a whole new line of thinking for me. I realized that much of it, and this brings me no joy at all, was a comparison/contrast. In other words, how, if at all, do I compare to them? This extends to Social Media as well. Am I the only person to ever see someone’s profile and wish my life was as good as theirs? Sure, there are people who give credence to this…
But there are also people who really do have a great life and their FB is accurate. While I genuinely try to be happy for everyone and I enjoy the aspect of FB that allows you to see what people you know and like are up to, depending on where I am at the time I am capable of comparing notes and subject to the green-eyed monster known as envy.
This was never as bad for me, in real life as well as scrolling Social Media, as when I was sick on dialysis. I was broke, sick, and depressed and everyone’s life looked better than mine. Despite not really believing that my current situation was in any way a result of bad choices but instead illness, I people-watched as a jealous fucking teenager.
When I recovered from my illness, I people-watched from a much better place both publicly and on Social Media. I was outwardly and genuinely happy for people and able to study people in a more objective, superficial, and harmless manner. On social media, I mostly marveled at the apparent failure of the educational system for graduating people with no knowledge of spelling and sentence structure. In public, I was drawn more to the happier people and focused on what their secret to happiness was. Any negative observations were mostly focused on negative and angry people. I also identified with the unhappy. I will always be the champion of the unhappy among us and will always want to understand. Maybe to identify causes that I can understand, definitely to help. Any envious tendencies would focus on the physical; mainly guys in better shape than I because I will always, always, always want to look better. This damn body dysmorphia will never go away.
I could, but won’t go on and on. You get the point (I hope). I am pointing out that people-watching, as in life itself, depends on the perspective from which it is being viewed. It is just another layer to contemplate as I watch my fellow humans on their journey along this giant spinning rock…
From what place does this observation come from, where is it going and what can I learn from it?