For me, when I look at a person with body piercing, tattoos, new fashion clothing, noticeable shoes, fashion-glasses, unique hair, colorful nails, or I find a person practices interesting hobbies, writings, sports, etc., that person is, or may be, trying to avoid a sense of personal anonymity. Here is the logic for you to consider. After each person is born, that individual is indeed the center of their universe. This can have a profound effect upon any person to make them feel special. Many children being brought up are admired as being a “new born” by parents, relatives and friends and often times they are taken great care of as special individuals. But this special treatment wears off with time.
This sense of being the center of family, friends, and community gets dispelled over time because the self-sense of uniqueness dissolves into other people’s lives. Maybe another child is born into the family and, the first child feels less loved or feels less noticed. Children soon discover in school that they are just a class-member and way-less unique than they thought earlier. If a child is not at the top in the classroom and in sports, they soon discover that any notion of a predestination of being important they may have had is only a false impression or a dream with no basis in reality. It may take a while, but a child figures out that they need to work toward not being a grain of sand on the beach of life.
I have no idea how my dad became the way he was, but, whenever we went out to a restaurant he would ask the server their name and he would inquire in a gentle way about them — to get to know a little about the person. You do not do this in a fast food establishment or any situation where the server is pressed for time. By the time my dad paid the bill, my dad knew a few details about our server. I also noticed that when we returned to dine again, that server would recognize my dad and a casual sort of friendship often times would gain traction between them. It took years for me to recognize the concept-of-community that my dad created with people: he really was trying to raise the person out of anonymity. I have used this to great effect at my local Starbucks where the baristas take great care to make my Zebra drink the way I like it — and sometimes I get a small benefit — like trying a new drink or pastry.
Now as a father, when I dine out, with or without my children, I always ask my server’s name if they are not wearing a name badge. I get the server to make a menu recommendation and this sometimes reveals that the server is a vegetarian, or hates fish, or favors a type of dish. Every time I find an opening like that I tend to make some joke to make them laugh. I almost always find some excuse to find out something about the person. If they are young, I ask about school. If they make any reply like “you all,” I ask if they are from the South. I have a lot of tricks to get to know my server. When I come into the restaurant again, I sometimes get better service because the staff sees me almost as a friend.
I sort of digress a bit from the point I wish to make. I simply loath meeting anyone and not recognizing the person in some way. I want to lift BOTH of us out of that moment’s perceived anonymity. For me, I love to make people laugh and I can only do that if I get to know the person I just met in some way. The results compound. I feel good about what I did. The person I just met no longer treats me with anonymity. I in turn lift them out of the level of anonymity. Finally, I do this sincerely and not for any other reason. I now have fun trying to get people to open up. I do recognize the benefits for me and the person I am treating this way. It always seems to be a win-win for both of us: call it fighting anonymity — or expanding a sense of community.