The Art of People Watching

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From VALLEY to you, here is a gift of socially acceptable stalking. Just kidding? Maybe?

Well, do not be too alarmed — you are not the first person on this earth to perform the act of “people-watching.” While the exact date of when the term was coined is unknown, the phrase has been around for at least a few years. The connotations of it is even unnecessary when everybody has engaged in the act of people-watching.

It is a simple performance, this observation of human behavior as people around you act unconsciously, and it is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Perhaps that is a dramatic statement, but undeniably, people-watching allows you to observe interactions between people and themselves. You can really learn a lot from this.

You do this in the grocery store. At a frat party. At a football game. At a restaurant. Inside a salon. At your friend’s house. Anywhere you are, anyone can be observed. It might be the most humane thing to witness, as there is no script, no expectations, no barriers.

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Notes From A Voyeur To Be a Perfect People Watcher

First, for this context, voyeurism has no sexual implications, so get those improper thoughts out of your head.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Step One: In order to be the best people-watcher the world has ever seen, you need to practice.

Become conscious when you people watch. Then, you will be one step ahead over the majority of people. Most people are not fully realizing the act they are doing, but once you do, you can learn to be introspective and pick up on those small details. Details such as a little girl tugging at her mother’s skirt, only for the mother to not notice because she is too preoccupied with talking to a neighborhood friend. The little girl looks sad for a second, then her brother gets her attention and all is right in her world. What this interaction shows is a little glimpse of unconditional love between a brother and a sister, a yearning for those who are comforting to you. Because in that moment, the little girl and you are in one the same. You understand why she did what she did.

Step Two: No judgement. It is not fair to those you people-watch if you begin to pass judgments on to them because of your biases. For those moments, you are just a mere observer obtaining a small piece of them that no one else is. Do not let judgment cloud you, if only for a few minutes. No one likes to be judged caught in a natural state, as you probably do not want the same.

Step Three: Do whatever you want with what you learned when people-watching. There are no rules to this — after all, it is in your mind. While you can become a master, there are no right ways to apply it. So do what you will with what you learned. People can really suck sometimes and that pain can be unbearably awful to handle, but a glimpse of softness once in a while can be healing. Humans are weird. Becoming used to that weirdness will only help.

Who knows why that girl scoffed at her friend? Why that teenage boy smiled so brightly at nothing? Why that woman told her friend to kindly leave her alone? Who knows anything? You do not. VALLEY does not. That’s the true beauty of this all — it does not matter.

People-watching is your way to get some peace. A much-needed peace of mind that you can rarely find in a public place. The next time you have the opportunity, take it and run with it.

Tweet @VALLEYmag your favorite moments you’ve witnessed while people watching! There have to be some good ones out there.


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