When I imagine a ‘random encounter’ I almost don’t feel like it is random per se, more like an encounter waiting to happen. My image of a random encounter, online or offline is browsing Facebook and realizing someone you know also knows someone else you know but you didn’t realize they knew each other. This same scenario also happen offline especially in a University environment when you are likely to have crossing circles of acquaintances. But like I said, I feel like there is not so much ‘randomness’ nowadays because circles and networks are becoming so intertwined and online connections are just becoming more global.
The second question is interesting and so difficult for me to have a straight answer. Because on one hand I want to say yes, of course we (I don’t even know what I mean by ‘we’…) can approach the “other” with an open mind because if you can’t have an open mind then how are we ever truly going to progress in society. Though it can be so difficult when you feel you are trying to empathize with someone but they are not reciprocating, or even trying to understand your own perspective. So, I believe it is definitely possible but if there isn’t reciprocation it becomes an emotional draining interaction. BUT without it there is no progress so I guess we have to start somewhere.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to think of positive random encounters. The one that sticks out in my mind was a professional development workshop where I was grouped with a man who was my complete opposite, politically and personally. He was very scowl-y, negative and very outwardly conservative. Another table mate brought up her experiences with undocumented students and he refused to engage and he didn’t “understand why we had to talk about it.” Working at a public university this is something that is often discussed because at least at the University of Washington we emphasis the importance of supporting ALL of our students so this was a bit shocking. These are the types of encounters that are very draining, you try to express your opinion but then they won’t budge or even pretend to budge on their own agenda. This is what keeps the polarization. Going back to the second question, having an open mind is absolutely necessary at least to try to build a better understanding of one another.