Not talking to strangers is potentially a good thing when we’re children, but once we get older we tend to keep up the same habits. Especially in societies like ours where most adults tend to discourage children from talking to strangers for what they believe to be safety reasons. But imprinting societal biases such as “all strangers are a potential danger, stay away from them” can create fear of talking to someone new as an adult later.
We become afraid of starting a chat with strangers, and it tends to require drastic situations for us humans to engage or bond with each other. Strangers are just new friends you haven't met yet ;-)
According to the social baseline theory, humans can only function in a healthy way with the right social support system, suggesting that us humans are biologically designed to connect with each other, rather than being independent. Being open to engaging with others is key to reaching a critical mass of people who are not afraid of meeting and chatting with strangers.
That’s where the Experience T-shirts come in.
The messages on the T-shirts are designed to make it easier for people to start a chat or meaningful conversation, and meet strangers in everyday situations, like waiting for the bus or going grocery shopping.
Planting the seed to talk to strangers
Finding a unifying message that would get people to talk to strangers was the goal when creating the Experience T-shirts. They are a way to break an invisible barrier that keeps people isolated, afraid of starting a chat with strangers.
I started an experiment in 2016 to figure out which messages create spontaneous interactions between people.
During the experiment I randomly wore groups of 4 T-shirts, consisting of combinations of statements, questions and directives in different font sizes, number of words and varying languages, over the course of 6-8 months.
I expanded and elaborated on the shirts with the messages that received the most positive reactions and interactions, trying to understand which part of the message caused the reactions.
“Hello Human”, “Love each other!”, “Make eye contact” and “How are you?” are just a few of the messages on the Experience T-shirts, and each design triggered a different reaction from the people reading it.
Find your own way of meeting new people
No matter what the reaction however, each Experience T-shirt starts an interaction between people who were strangers before. Whether that is a conversation or simply the recognition of the T-shirt, it’s important the person wearing the Experience T-shirt connects with its message to respond to any type of reaction or interaction that’s created. Different people will get different reactions when wearing the Experience T-shirts, based on how they wear them.
Body language plays an important role in human interactions, and can change the reactions towards someone wearing these messages. The same goes for how someone combines the T-shirts with the rest of their outfit; wearing sunglasses for example can discourage potential eye contact. Someone passing by a lot of people on the subway on their way to work will get a different response than someone encountering only a few people who are actually able to read the message.
What kind of interaction would you like to have today?
How would you like to start a chat with strangers?
Try different messages and find the ones that work best for you, and how you want to connect with others.