I’ve never had the skill for small talk, and believe me, I’ve tried. My problem is that I can’t find things to say. And lately I’ve also found that I just don’t have the energy to talk with strangers about, say the weather.
It may have to do with my pragmatic nature. Or maybe because I was raised in a country where small talk with randos on the street is not usual (still can’t understand the need of some people to talk to those around them). But needless to say, I’ve (or more like, we’ve all) heard and overheard many conversations from totally random strangers when riding any kind of shared form of transportation, sitting at a public space without wearing any headphones, or just walking by the street.
Yes, I am a curious man, but that doesn’t mean I’m nosy. It’s just impossible to close ones ears and ignore a conversation happening next to you, especially when they are talking to each other as loud as they can, and you are not able to go anywhere else.
Here are some examples of the kind of information I’ve been able to gather from fellow citizens just by the fact I was sitting/standing within a 30ft radius from them:
- Detailed travel plans, with addresses, names and disposable money for the trip.
- Previous work and yearly income.
- Amount of cash being carried on themselves.
- Email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses… With names.
- Bank account info.
- SSN’s (yes, a couple of times I’ve heard people spell it over their cellphones to someone else).
I’m not kidding when I say we gotta be aware that a public space is, indeed, public. And whatever is said out there, stays out there.
Please don’t think that, just because you’re not talking to a particular someone around you, that someone is not listening. Especially if you’re in a train, plane, or subway… Or on a sketchy greyhound bus.
And yes, not everyone is ill intended. The people whom I overheard are lucky I really didn’t care about what they were saying. But you never know who may be paying close attention to what you’re saying.
So, if you’re concerned at all about your privacy and information safety, be the first one to make it private and safe. You may already be telling the world way more than anything that Facebook could sell from your profile.