People-watching or, essentially; socially acceptable public-perving, is something we are all partially guilty of doing whether consciously or sub-consciously. It is evident to see a growing interest in other people’s lives. The birth of TOWIE, Big Brother, Made in Chelsea and Kim Kardashian’s back-side, highlights a consistent love of prying. Ultimately, we have become a nation of nosy neighbours.
So why so much eye-balling? Well there are numerous reasons. First and foremost, we like to judge; we have all dabbled in the judgement department and, in all honesty, we really quite enjoy it. For all of those who deny such participation, please remove yourself from your high horse and get acquainted with the ground. Great. Judging involves various levels; some partake on an extreme level, visually vomiting at the fatty devouring a KFC (this tends to spawn viscous mental notes e.g. ‘Sure you really need that love?’). Others partake on a more casual level, we’re talking, ‘ooh nice blouse, not sure about the shoes’. Other common judgments can include mental totty ratings (many of a sordid variety), scrutinising of behaviour and general self-comparisons. The judgements we make whilst people watching are generally used to massage the old egos. We revel in the critical comparisons we make between members of the public and our own fabulous selves.
Secondly, people-watching offers a degree of entertainment. Living in the colourful Town of Swindon, I have been fortunate enough to encounter a diverse amount of visual delights, all of which have constituted, what I like to call; prime-time comedy gold. Travelling via public transport alone has offered spectacle’s that would put Jeremy Kyle to shame. Swindon’s entertainment value transcends and exceeds much of what I view on TV, choosing a different location is like choosing a different channel, we’re talking Come Dine to Country File within a 15 minute drive. It also offers a more intimate viewing experience, to the extent where viewing can even adopt a kind of risk-element, actually threatening personal safety and well-being. Indeed, a thrilling watch for all you adrenaline junkies. Watching people who look happy, or drunk, or inbred fills us with a little bit of joy. Quite frankly we are fascinated by these priceless social snippets. People’s behaviour and appearance gives us a little bit of insight into other people’s lives. It is a potion which both probes at our curiosity and kick-starts our imagination.
Thirdly, I find people-watching has become a form of comfort-eating, like watching trash on TV. You passively watch knowing a few brain cells may wander and never come back but it feels kind of nice. We embrace the numbness and indulge in some voyeuristic ‘me-time’. People-watching has also developed into a kind of free (YES FREE!) leisurely hobby, something fundamentally unnecessary, but undeniably addictive.
And so, my dearly beloveds, I conclude; It is ok to be a nosy neighbour, or the ultimate public-perver. Please embrace the bargain that is bestowed by your society and treat yourself to some prime-time people-watching.