Despite all of the rattling, screeching, and beeping that composes the soundscape of London’s subway, all of its passengers are relatively silent. Most Londoners generally are, I’ve noticed, and really only speak to people they know. Perhaps it’s for safety reasons. Perhaps its because the subway is noisy. Regardless, this lack of socialization makes the idea of accidentally bumping into “the one,” striking up a conversation and riding off into the sunset totally obsolete.
Although this isn’t an expectation I personally had upon coming to London, it’s a romanticized idea that seems to exist in just about any big city. When surrounded by so many people all the time, it must be natural to make acquaintances or friends on a daily basis. Right? Match.com, a popular dating website in both the States and England, seems to realize this idea is totally incorrect. Their advertisements appear only in busy areas of the subway, like crowded carriage cars or the bustling escalators, and they exploit the romantic idea of magically bumping into someone. They ask passengers to imagine how nice it would be to casually connect with the person beside them, or to strike up a conversation while leaving the station. However, because Match.com’s presence it totally online, the company doesn’t expect Londoners to actually participate in that experience. Instead, they want passengers to go home, log on and create an online persona.
Once they’ve made a connection with someone, whether online or otherwise, Londoners aren’t nearly as shy as their silence suggests. We’ve seen plenty of couples casually holding hands, or showing their affection in…well, let’s just say less casual ways while waiting for the train. For one reason or another, public displays of affection are more acceptable than initiating conversations. Maybe, because relationships are somewhat difficult to come by, Londoners appreciate any occasion to celebrate them? Anyway, I’m still trying to understand whether this phenomena is specific to London or if it’s a reflection of a broader technological movement. London could simply be an example of a new romanticized idea, in which couples disappear into a chat room rather than a sunset.