As was made evident in the debate between Plato and the Sophists, the essence of rhetoric relies not on strictly right or wrong answers, but rather a combination of experiences, values, opinions and interpretations that lead you to make decisions. In discussing the topic of social networks and human interaction, I support the view of the Sophist. My initial response to the thoughts of Hector Carral was a lack of approval indicating I believed we should make efforts to interact with strangers more, but as I reflected on my own interactions, I concluded they reveal an attitude of complacency with staying in my own personal network. This inner controversy forced me to sit, think, and write down the pros and cons of each side to this argument.
Keeping to myself is typically the easier option of the two. Instead of engaging the stranger sitting next to me on the bus about how I just witnessed four people slip on the ice, I sit silently and tweet about it. When the bus stops and two passengers jump out only to have their feet swept from under them, it causes me to stop and think how I could have impacted the outcome of that situation. Of course, this is a made up example with a situation that doesn’t pertain to extremely serious content, but the point is that when we refuse to leave our own personal networks, we simultaneously refuse to share and receive information. I will not deny the fact that withholding from social interaction allows for a more comfortable and efficient trip or wait, but could it be possible that interacting with those in front of you could bring more benefit to society than interacting only with those you prefer? When we do not make an effort to interact with strangers, we not only reject invitation for interaction with others, but we cut out an opportunity to gain perspective and knowledge.
I am guilty of withholding from interactions with people I do not know, but in reflecting on this I realize I am always delighted when others initiate conversation with me. One of the primary reasons I seldom have interactions with strangers is because I am always occupied with something else, whether that is catching up with a friend, submitting homework, or ordering my lunch. With technology in this day and age, it is always possible to be doing something productive and that is both a blessing and curse. I read an article the other day about the expectations in the work place have changed and people are often held responsible for work 24/7 strictly because they have the resources to make that possible. My point is that while we have the ability to accomplish so much on our mobile devices, the idea of relaxation and slowing down has been nearly removed altogether. While participating in interactions with those around you takes effort and may cause awkward moments or rejections, it forces you to slow down and take a break from the hundreds of emails, tweets, and web searches open on your device.
With that said, I do believe there is middle ground to be struck. It is neither necessary nor realistic to expect every stranger to desire constant interaction with those they are surrounded by. It is perfectly understandable and reasonable that sometimes there are responsibilities of a higher importance, which must be completed in lieu of a conversation with strangers. In order to find middle ground, we have to make ourselves aware of both sides of the argument and then make an intentional decision to benefit more than just ourselves with how we choose to interact. I think it is possible for media to have a role in producing common experiences, and one way I see a step forward in that direction is through Snapchat’s geographical “my story” which pieces together experiences from users across one city or one campus and displays them for all user in that area to view. This not only allows local strangers to witness the same experience, but it creates a desire to be a part of it.