Teacher tucks away her phone and tries ‘Talking With Strangers’

Experts say a healthy community is one where people feel they belong, and that can include a smile a and brief chat with a stranger, perhaps in a grocery store line-up, or at a bus stop.

But these days, as St. Michaels University School teacher Tanya Lee points out, “people are really losing the ability to talk with strangers, because we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to do that anymore.”

Lee teaches a communication class at the school.

Her grade eight students have never known a world without social media.

“They’re no longer engaging with strangers, and they never have a bored moment.

“They always have this thing in their hand that can entertain them.”

To help them understand the importance of engagement, Lee began a social media experiement, “Talking With Strangers.”

“So I just sort of made the personal vow that if ever the opportunity presented itself that I could engage with my phone, or I could engage with the person sitting next to me, I would opt for the human interaction.”

She shared her experiences on instagram, and with her students in class.

“How can we use social media in a way that promotes a positive message?”

The class agreed to try a digital detox weekend.

The students had interesting comments about the experience.

“Well at first” said one student “I kinda thought, like, this is a really bad idea. I do not want to give up my phone.”

But, as the weekend went on, Kyle discovered “you kind of got used to the fact that your phone wasn’t always there.

“I was doing chores around the house, and helping out and stuff, and we had, like, a family movie night, so, it was kind of a good change. It was fun.”

Grace liked the idea of a ‘digital detox weekend.’

“There are people who do rely on their phone because there’s nothing better to do, so I think it was a good idea, and I think it should be done again.”

Although it felt strange at the beginning of the weekend, Callum also found the experience a positive one.

“I hang out with friends more, I go to the park more, because usually I just played soccer in my backyard, but now I go to the field or the park to meet up with other people to play soccer.”

Because while social media has it’s place, these students have seen, it can never replace social interaction.