Monday, March 3, 2014

Nice to Meet You!

Have you ever met someone who, immediately after the introductions, has said to you, “I’ve heard so much about you”? Even when said with the most legitimate, innocent intentions, there’s a slight edge of creepiness there, right? Maybe it just feels kind of weird or uncomfortable or awkward for someone to know more about you than you know about him or her, especially if you’ve never met before. 

I wonder if maybe that uncomfortable feeling arises from an imbalance. Person A knows all about Person B, but none of the information was directly from Person B, and Person B knows essentially nothing about Person A. What you know of each other is unequal.

After watching the Oscars last night, I wondered what it would be like to meet someone famous. (OK; confession: I have wondered about this a lot—especially meeting all of the musicians out there whom I admire.) This would be the ultimate “I’ve heard so much about you!” situation—a non-famous person meeting a really famous person. Fans of celebrities and even people who aren’t big fans, just follow media, would know quite a lot about these people quite easily. Many of us have probably come to the point where we recognize their voices, have seen them close up on the big screen so much that we can’t help but know all the minute details of their faces, and have watched interviews and read articles about them so that we know what they like, what they do in their spare time, what they wear, where they go, what they are passionate about. (And this is not considered creepy, since it’s basically common knowledge: it’s information released to the general public).

I further wondered what it would be like to be the famous person being met by a non-famous person. Regardless of how the conversation went, there would always be this underlying imbalance in the sense that the famous person knows nothing about the non-famous person, while the non-famous person has been over a period of time, privy to many details about the famous person. What would that be like? What would that imbalance feel like? If I were the famous person, would I feel like I should ask several questions about the person I know nothing about to help level the scales off?

I realize that this sort of dynamic comes with the territory of being famous. But it has to be kind of strange, right? Could a conversation between non-famous Person A and famous Person B ever be completely “normal”—i.e. comparable to a conversation between two non-famous people? I kind of hope it would (although by my own experience, I know that I can get a teeny bit star-struck in these types of situations).

What about two famous people who meet each other in person for the first time? I wonder what that would be like. I mean, those two people conceivably know a lot about each other, especially if they are fans of each other/each other's work, but to still just be meeting for the first time after knowing a lot (albeit, the media’s filtered output of the information) about each other—what would that feel like? Would they skip a lot of the typical introductory questions that non-famous people ask other non-famous people (asking about family/who they’re dating, what do they do, whereabouts do they live, pastimes, etc.)? I guess they probably would, right? Would it be weird to skip to other stuff? Would it be weird to not talk about certain topics under the assumption they already know all of those introductory details?

You could even take this a step further and figure that even if two people who meet for the first time and know relatively nothing about each other, we can very easily, within moments, build a preconception about that person, which could affect the way we talk with that person, almost as if those preconceptions are a way that we trick ourselves into thinking that we know that person, when in fact we do not.

Anyway, it’s interesting to think about the little nuances that flavor the conversations we have with the people we meet, flavours that differ based on how much each person actually knows about the person they are meeting, and how those nuances can affect the underlying tone of a conversation.

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