Talk to a stranger on the CTA subway - you'll feel good about it!

So really, when was the last time you talked to a stranger on the subway?

And no, that time you were drunk coming home from the Cubs game on the Red Line doesn't count.

Now a recent research study suggests that maybe we should make the effort to talk a stranger on the subway, because it usually is a very positive experience.

The research was done in Chicago by researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, according to the Huffington Post:

Though people think that talking to a stranger during their commute will be a negative experience, they actually report greater well-being after doing so.

"This misunderstanding is particularly unfortunate for a person's well-being given that commuting is consistently reported to be one of the least pleasant experiences in the average person's day," study researcher Nicholas Epley, a professor at the university, said in a statement. "This experiment suggests that a surprising antidote for an otherwise unpleasant experience could be sitting very close by."

Talking to a stranger ended up being a positive experience, and it did not affect productivity. "Either people do not get as much done on the train sitting alone as they expect to, or forming a new connection comes to be defined as a reasonably productive use of time after having done it," the researchers wrote in the study.

So if connecting with someone is so much better than sitting by yourself, why do we negatively perceive interacting with others? Researchers found that one big reason could be that people generally think that other people have no interest in connecting, a product of behavioral norms.

Honestly, I don't see how you could get someone's attention on a subway without yanking their earbuds or covering their phone with you hand. But maybe people are so bored with Facebook and Instagram and texting that they truly are looking for another diversion.

So give it shot. Talk to that stranger squeezed into that seat next to you on the new 5000 Series train car.

Just don't start off with a comment on the size of his or her hips and shoulders.
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    Never, ever do I want a stranger to talk to me on the L or bus.
    They're inevitably some religious nutcase that wants to convert me to whatever they believe in.
    I repeat:

  • Interesting post, Kevin. It seems that in years past people spoke more to strangers. Less of that seems to go on these days. But when I do happen to chat with a stranger now and then, it is usually pleasant, like the research showed.

  • As Seth will tell you, the researchers don't ride the subway, because there isn't a station there. Also, anyone cognizant at the Booth school would say that more likely you would minimize your money on the subway than maximize your potential.

    I also wonder what kind of sheep are on facebook that commented on the Huffington Post article. For instance, there isn't a subway in Erie, PA. Another one says she is " is fascinated by strangers. She collects them the way a squirrel collects nuts." The rest are from Hogwarts.

  • In reply to jack:

    Is Booth housed in the Gleacher Center? Hypothetically, they could ride any of the subway lines since Gleacher is in River North.

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    Most of it is at 5807 S. Woodlawn. Gleacher is mostly for part timers going to business school on the employer's dime, unless something has radically changed, but the researchers are undoubtedly in the glass castle on Woodlawn.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think a few ride the 192 bus as it always has a few professorial types on it when I ride it. But most of those on the 192 are clerical workers at the hospital.

  • Extrovertist propaganda. Minding one's own business, disengaging and recharging, being alone with one's own thoughts, concentrating on something...oh, the horror.

    If I'm riding the L or subway or bus it's usually on the way to or from somewhere I will be interacting with people I want to interact with or for some other good reason. But for the dominant culture there's never enough mingling.

    And I occupy my time in transit--if I'm not looking out the window to observe what's going on in the way of new stores, construction, other changes to the neighborhoods, or just general typical street activity--by reading something known as a "book" on a Kindle. Neither trivial nor boring, I guarantee...

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    You posted "extrovertist propaganda" right before I saw this article about another, more typical type of interaction on the CTA. However, I guess hilarity does not ensue if a rider doesn't wear underwear.

  • I agree with ScooterLibby. NO! Leave me the hell alone!

  • Poor upskirting victim...she found out the hard way about no conductors being on CTA rapid transit.

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    I don't think lack of conductors had anything to do with it. At least under CTA, conductors didn't roam the trains, but merely stood at the door control. In some equipment, they had to cross between cars to get to the door control on the other side, but otherwise they stood in the car nearest the middle of the train.

    If one wanted to argue something, the live feed cameras on the 5000s might have detected something.

  • If I'm engaging someone, its probably because the bus is late, or there's some kind of "problem" with the train, causing massive delays. That's the only time I want to interact with Strangers on the CTA! Otherwise, you'll just be hassled by some homeless person with their sad story asking for money, some other homeless person drunk off their ass, or someone selling something, which I think is illegal. I don't care to be solicited.

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