Alone in a Crowd

Have you ever felt very much alone while surrounded by a multitude of other people? In her article ‘Alone in the city: How we create personal space in the madding crowd,’ Erin Taylor discusses this phenomenon in regards to people who live in or work in New York City. According to Taylor, those who are used to constantly being surrounded by other people have developed natural tendencies to be ‘antisocial’ through actions such as avoiding eye contact and using phones more than usual.

However, as George Zimmel and other sociologists have written about for many years, people are not conducting such actions for the sake of unsociability (humans are actually inherently social); they do so to avoid being completely overwhelmed by the multitude of events taking place around them and to achieve their goal, which tends to be getting from one place to the next. Anthropologists, including Taylor, understand these actions as physical and social rules unintentionally created to allow humans to avoid such a sensory overload.

The idea of purposely ignoring others immediately stood out to me. As a ‘country bumpkin’ of sorts, I grew up in an environment where it was seen as rude to give anything less than a friendly nod to any passerby. Through the article and other anthropological studies, people from different geographical locations (myself included) can begin to understand the variances in social interactions based on a large-scale aspect of cultural differences.