I identify myself as an observer. I often find myself watching more than participating. I find enjoyment in analyzing human interactions and discovering subcultures. I think it’s why I spend a lot of time in public places, even if I don’t necessarily interact with anyone. If I have a few hours, I’m more likely to go to a coffee shop or the library or ride the bus downtown than to stay at home. There are probably multiple reasons for this. One could be that going somewhere subconsciously makes me feel as if I’m being productive with my time, a sense of accomplishment in a way. Whatever the hell your definition of productive is, sometimes to me it’s just doing something with my time that seems intentional. What I mean is that sometimes the effects of an action don’t matter as much as the act of doing something itself. I might go somewhere to write a paper and in two hours I leave with a little less than a page. By many people’s standards, arguably even my own, that time was not productive. However, because I left the house and packed my backpack up and got out my notebook and laptop and fucked around for two hours doing who the hell knows what, I deem this time as productive. I’m not saying this logic isn’t as fucked up as it sounds, but it seems to be how I work.
Another reason for this could be that there is some sort of social value on observing other humans. I don’t think I’m contributing to my social wellbeing simply by showing up in a place where other humans reside. However, I think that being in the presence of other humans who are having their own interactions or working on their own assignments, doing their own work, I seem to absorb their energy as my own. They inspire me to get off my phone and actually write that paper or send those emails.
I think it’ important to note that I mean productive loosely. I simply couldn’t find another word that meant what I was trying to convey but I struggle with the word productive greatly. I’ve written about the concept of productivity before and how our generation’s obsession with productivity has instilled a sense of inadequacy in many of us, including myself. In the context of this article, I mean productive as simply spending my time purposefully.
Back to the point of observation. As odd as it sounds, I love researching sociology. I’m not logically minded so statistics don’t hold a lot of value in my understanding of concepts. We as humans have a very difficult time applying statistics to the human condition. What I mean by this is that when we read statistics, whatever they may be referring to, we see them simply as numbers, not as the humans that those numbers represent. More on this concept in the video link below.
One of the coolest things about sociology research is that it starts seeping into other parts of my life. I find myself applying the social exchange theory to my everyday life. I think about different cultures and the way that they compare to my experiences. I become aware of the interactions between strangers. In my everyday life, as I’m observing the world around me through my personal, very limited lens, I absorb the energy of others and subconsciously add it to my collection of influences and is then later revealed in my own interactions. In this way, I find value in my tendency to leave the house and participate in seemingly meaningless activities. I consider myself, at least partially, an introvert and I find comfort in this idea, that even as I keep to myself, observing interactions of others, I’m somehow still growing.