Digital body language

In junior high, my Grade 8 English teacher came into my homeroom and started talking to my homeroom teacher, who was also coincidentally my Grade 9 English teacher. I don’t remember why this came up, but the Grade 9 teacher essentially asked the Grade 8 teacher — call her Mme. C. — about my personality. I was sitting right there, by the way (which they both recognized).

I found Mme. C’s response interesting.

She said I watch people very intently. Which, she added, is kind of a scary feeling when you’re teaching at the front of a class, though it’s nice to know at least someone is listening.

I didn’t realize it until she pointed it out, but it’s true. I like to sit at the back of the class so I can see everything going on, but I’m still really focused on what’s going on at the front.

I think it’s for the following two reasons.

I have really poor eyesight, and when I’m not wearing corrective lenses, I forget that people can see me, and how hard I’m focusing on them because I can’t see them very well. It sounds stupid until you think about it in child’s logic — if I can barely make out the blurry shapes and barely see them, then how are they able to see me?

I also find people fascinating. Communication is about so much more than just the words that we say, or the print that appears on the page. It’s about the way we move, the way we speak, the way we interact with people. In marching band, when we’re all in the same uniform and the girls all have their hair pulled back in the same style, I can tell exactly who’s who at a distance where faces aren’t recognizable, simply by the way someone holds themselves, the way they’re walking, or, if I’m grasping at straws, the instrument they’re holding.

So people-watching is an incredibly fun past time for me. I was just in Toronto, and a friend and I went down to Yonge and Dundas. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything scheduled going on, but people were still running through the fountains and just generally hanging about the square. (This is also the day it was 48 C with the humidex.) We’d been walking all day, and it was nice to just sit and let your mind wander; later we went up on one of the roof top patios and definitely switched tables just so we could lean over the edge and continue to watch the flow of people.

Now, in the digital age, I guess blogs are an extension of people-watching. It gives you an idea of the person, what they’re thinking, what interests them.

I really like the idea that Facebook is for the people you went to high school with, and Twitter is for the people you should have gone to high school with. I’ve found a ton of interesting (mostly language- and grammar-related) links through there (because my feed is largely journalists and editors) but blogs also get you thinking about ideas that can’t be said in 140 characters, or expand on an interesting link.

I love finding a new blog of an interesting person or interesting topic; I don’t even mind going all the way back into the archives, but I can only read so many posts before I start skimming and not really paying attention to the links that would normally catch my eye, etc.


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