TED Conversations

larissa green

junior copywriter, TED

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In an individualistic world where autonomy is a requirement for human-involvement, should conversation be mandatory?

As a 23-year old female, working at TED with amazing people and amongst the greatest of minds, I find that when one introduces themselves to another, our personal walls dissolve rapidly. From watching speakers cheer each other on during auditions, and watching the personal connections develop in such short time, it's almost as beautiful as watching their brain's dendrites connect all sorts of seemingly impossible things during presentations.

However, walking around my neighborhood of South Williamsburg, my soul burns when the eyes of my peers pierce it with their unrivaled fervor of judgement and apathy [that I secretly hope is false.]

Within all of us, young and old, is the drive and will to connect--so why do we give blank stares to the glow of our phone, instead of smiling back at the faces across from us? Why do we put so much weight on assimilating to the standards of others in order to feel accepted?

I want to ask the TED community to start a conversation where we can all be honest about how we generally feel speaking to others in public. Because, as a former journalism student turned creative-writing graduate, I wonder if we would all be happier knowing that everyone we pass by is a potential friend, lover, or soulmate.

We tell our most painful secrets to strangers in stream-of-consciousness outbursts, but refuse to communicate wholly with the ones closest to us. Why?

Why do you choose anonymity or intimacy?


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  • Jun 26 2012: I love this topic. Empathy, compassion, is really what I believe allows us to create relationships, care about each other, love, motivate us to help each other.

    I think that the general norms of judgment in our society have played a large part in leading to this scarcity of stranger-engagement in our culture.

    The culture part, I believe, is important to point out. It is not as though all people who do not engage with strangers are apathetic.
    There seems to be a common uneasiness in personal engagement with those one doesn’t know, putting one’s self out there among those who do not. It’s scary, especially because it’s uncommon; the more common it is the more often people would be influenced to do it.

    Contemptuous judgment is the root problem, the reason why our culture has become this way. It’s an extreme barrier to empathy. And I argue that any judgment that allows one to de-value a human being is not only morally wrong, but logically as well. And morally wrong because it’s logically wrong.

    Sorry, I’m a little long-winded (:

    But, I posit this question: which should we judge a human being based on: the biological factors that were genetically pre-disposed without choice from the being, or the environmental factors that happened to affect them to make them who they are?

    Would you judge a person with a severe genetic learning disability for not being able to talk coherently?

    Likewise, don’t we all act and believe what we do because of the environmental factors that happened to affect us? Isn’t that why we see the trends we do across groups? These environmental factors are almost always impossible to trace, which I believe has led to this belief that people “deserve” the judgments that they receive. But all our actions and beliefs and thoughts were influenced by some environmental property. I grew up to be racist because that was the culture. I grew up to abhor racism because that was the culture. I grew up to abhor muslims because of 9/11 and the culture’s

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