Eye contact is an essential part of our human culture that is dying.
Okay I know that might sound like a dramatic statement, but with the advancement of technology mixed with the fear of any kind of intimacy, what seems like the most natural action between humans is occurring less and less.
Have you ever talked to someone, and they keep darting their eyes away? Looking at the ground? I'm sure you have. I'm sure you've been the person who does that.
It's nobody's fault - it naturally feels weird to be looked at.
By the age of 2, children begin the early stages of self-awareness. They start to look at themselves in the mirror, and with recognizing that, they also notice when other people are looking at them, hence self-awareness quickly becomes self-consciousness. That's why you'll see a child hiding behind their mother or turning their head away from you after you ask simple questions like, "WHO'S MY FAVORITE SQUISHY BABY NIECE YOUR TOES ARE SO CUTE OMFG*" It's because they realize they're being watched and it embarrasses them, also known as "shame."
*They're not embarrassed by my shouting in their face about how cute they are, it's the mirror thing.
Now, you're currently reading this on a computer, tablet, or a smartphone (thanks for squinting.) They're awesome tools that are really just boxes full of colorful light which is very addicting and feels good to look at cause it shoots off DOPE-amine (amazing pun) in our brains. It's also a great way to avoid eye-contact.
Looking at our phones is what we do now, instead of hiding behind our parents. We are so dependent on our phones because they connect everyone around us, however if you've ever seen Black Mirror, you'll know that our phones are also destroying humanity.
. . .
OKAY SIDENOTE REAL QUICK: If you're going to start watching Black Mirror on Netflix, know that it's like the Twilight Zone - so each episode is it's own story & you don't need to watch in order. Therefore, start on SEASON 3, EPISODE 1.
!!!! DO NOT START SEASON 1 EPISODE 1 !!!!
For those who have seen Black Mirror, I'm sure it just made that Pumba gif really rough to deal with.
. . .
We take our phones out to make ourselves look busy. "People are going to think I'm weird if I'm just standing here. And I mustn't catch eyes with someone lest they think I'm indicating something." That's such a weird thought that I and a lot of women have- if I make eye contact with a strange man they might approach me aggressively . Because that's happened, and it can be really scary. There's a whole mess of reasons why we don't want to be looked at and it's a survival tactic. But it's actually really dangerous.
First and foremost, because we're looking at our phones, we're literally not thinking outside the box. We hardly focus on what's happening in our peripherals, and at any moment someone could attack us.
WOO! AWESOME ANXIETY- RIDDEN THOUGHT, JOY!
THANKS FOR THAT, JACKASS.
Even more so, we're missing the opportunity to make eye contact with those we love, and those we can start new relationships with. It's lessening the human experience, because we're not paying attention.
In improv, one of the first things we focus on is making eye contact. It just helps you get on the same page with others. I love doing exercises where people just breathe and stare into each other's eyes. It usually causes giggles and nervousness due to the intimacy of it - but the point is to just look at a person, feel that, and be OKAY with it. The goal is so simple, but the struggle of doing it is real.
We try not to miss a single thing in improv, because everything said and done is important! When you truly connect, you take in how things are being said, seen, or felt by your partner. You won't just "get the jist," it will be specific.
The more you practice eye-contact, the better you'll be, so rehearse this in real life! And be okay with the weirdness. Everything is fine. The person you're talking to may look away, but they'll get more and more comfortable looking back and they'll feel heard.
And perhaps this part of our lifestyle might not go extinct after all.