Of Party Strangers and Party Conversations

It's easy to attend parties, a high energy setting, with people you already know... but what about those complete strangers?

by Jacob Garcia Zambrano / Garnet & Black

Ah, parties. Some would argue that they are an integral part of college life, and others would say that they are a waste of time. Regardless of the opinion you may favor, there is no denying that parties are a perfect setting for some incredibly interesting conversations to occur.

Most of the time, people attend parties with their friends—the people they know. The people they are comfortable with. They usually cling to them, engage in conversation with them and essentially spend their night laughing under colorful LED lights with familiar faces. There is nothing wrong with that; it’s natural for people to want to hang with others they've already established connections with. 

But what happens when someone attends a party where they do not have that core group to hang onto? Maybe they’ll stick to the corner, or a nearby couch, and pretend that there is something absolutely riveting on their phone. This tactic may work most of the time... until that one stranger comes by and strikes up a conversation. It may be dramatic to call this exchange fate or a point in two people's timelines that cross over perfectly, but this situation is surely where those peculiar, hilarious and sometimes deep conversations are born.

I was introduced to a word called "sonder" a few months ago, which is defined as, "The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it," according to Wiktionary. In other words, this word explains the concept of being aware that strangers also have a life as complicated and interesting as ours. This seems like it would be a given, but it is very easy to fall into a mindset that places our experiences as the only experiences, even if we don't mean to. But when these party conversations happen with strangers we have never met before, and when we don't have our lifeboat of friendship, sonder may begin to kick in. Even for just a moment, we take a dive into someone else's complex life and take a break from our own.

A few UofSC students were willing to share their anonymous experiences with party strangers, providing an array of different themes within these exchanges.

Some of these conversations were more scandalous, almost like they were sitting in on a live gossip column. "I had a conversation with someone who thought her roommate was an undercover republican and wondered if she could still be friends with her," one student remarked, which sounds as dramatic as you could imagine. Even though those two may have never interacted ever again, they shared a slice of time to discuss something so personal yet so pivotal.

Not all conversations must be so dramatic, though. Another student shared a time when someone yelled, "Look at this cool box I found in the basement!" There was nothing in that said box, it was just an incredibly large box. It may have been a short-lived moment, only a minute, but it was a minute in time where everyone in the party shared their attention to one moment, one incredibly large box. It was a small interaction, and most likely will not impact any of those party-goers lives in the future. But, for that moment, it was the most important thing that needed to be discussed.

"I threw up over a balcony and then promptly had a conversation about flawed religions," one student comically shared, while another fondly remembered how their friend "tried to tell me that their name rhymed with tangerine. It definitely did not."

These stories, both deep and silly alike, may not be impactful nor extreme. Honestly, strangers can be a hit or miss, they can either engage or ignore. But when they do not ignore, and we can get out of our heads and take a dip into someone else's, conversations can seemingly bloom from nothing. These talks might not be something to go down in history books, but they are most certainly a point in time that brings together two people who have never experienced each other's lives before.

So, next time you may attend a party, certainly enjoy it with your friends and the people you know. But. . . if you find yourself in a lonesome corner or couch, put the phone down. Maybe Candy Crush won't be as interesting as something a stranger has to say to you.