Familiar Stranger: Intro


Familiar is defined as something or someone well known from long or close association.

Who is a stranger?

The phenomenon of the “stranger” is the unity of liberation and the fixation of space. A stranger is someone who comes today and stays tomorrow rather than a person who comes today and is gone tomorrow. Get it? Otherwise, they wouldn’t be strangers if you see them only for a day and then no more. Those are acquaintances. It all comes down to distance really. Someone who is close to you is really far way and someone who is far from you is actually close by. Strangers can be close to us to an extent if we share a connection with each other. Our human nature brings us together so to say, it holds similar pattern of activities.

When we put these two words together, it becomes interesting and not so odd to pair together. Little wonder why it was first conceived and coined in 1972 by Stanley Milgram in his paper The Familiar Stranger: An Aspect of Urban Anonymity. He defined a familiar stranger is an individual who is recognized from regular activities, but with whom one does not interact. It has become an increasingly popular concept in social networks if you give it a thought. It is a ‘visual but not verbal” relationship in which both parties maintain anonymity. These are people who aren’t totally unknown to us, but aren’t acquaintances either. Such individuals meet in an unfamiliar setting, for example while travelling. They are more likely to introduce themselves and get to chatting as opposed to staying perfect strangers. This is likely because the situation they find themselves in gives a background of shared experience(s). However, research has shown that the social implication of human patterns are largely characterized by our daily encounters. It notes that familiar strangers are a result of an individual’s encounter capability which is rooted in daily, behavioral regularity. Findings suggested that these repeated encounters established a strong connection over time, resulting in a large and imperceptible contact network.

Interesting, isn’t it? What does this bring to mind?

4 thoughts on “Familiar Stranger: Intro

  1. We pass strangers on a daily basis. There’s an assumed consensus that we maintain the required distance while at the same time acknowledging each other’s presence. We tend to take our role in those continuous and ongoing interactions for granted-never giving it more than a passing thought. A great post. 🙂

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