Body language (not the Queen song)


I don’t even believe that “eye contact” is even a real thing between people. But the entire notion of “eye contact” with gadgets, cameras, things that don’t even have eyes, is somehow actually an even worse idea.

Facial Fitness PAO: weighted rubber wings you put in your mouth and waggle up and down

It is.


That might be enough to convince some people…

I know about eyes and how people see, but it has never been explained to me how anybody “contacts” what they see, so it seems whimsical. Not unlike how where I am, people speak of “looking at” rather than, for example, “looking towards” or “gazing upon”. One is certainly not AT what one sees, despite the image of it appearing in your head, you and the object of sight are at different locations. The idiom gets my wondering how many weird assumptions people make about basic sensory perception.

For better or worse, the phrase “eye contact” evokes for me thoughts of something like The Three Stooges where somebody pokes a person’s eyeball, which does not sound pleasant.


“Contact” often implies action at a distance, e.g. “in radio contact with”, “contact was lost with the ISS”, “I attempted to get in contact with the Apple Press Office.” I’m not sure if your first language is English (?) but AFAIK all languages have plenty of words which have partly metaphorical or variant meanings as well as literal ones. Picking the nearest dictionary to hand I note that “contact” in English has to be translated by about five different verbs in Russian in different contexts.
“Eye contact” means that you are looking at someone and they become aware that you are doing so. We seem to be adapted as a species to be very good at detecting when an eye is looking in our exact direction.
Pardon me if my assumption about your first language is incorrect, but “eye contact” is a sufficiently common idiom I’m surprised you haven’t met it frequently before.


The English language is indeed my first language. The difficulty is that I don’t always share the same assumptions as other people. Especially when most are averse to explaining them! I can be aware that an idiom exists without accepting the basis for it as being noteworthy to me, ir even conceptually valid. Often (“sunrise”, “dialing a number”, “shooting footage”) it represents something which was a real concept, but was superseded while speakers neglected to update their conceptual and lexical models accordingly.

I am sure that people can and do become aware of each other’s proximity, but am uncertain as to why it is usually relevant. Some people speak of instances of eye contact as being terribly significant, whereas if one walks through a crowd exclaiming “I detect humans!” one would be dismissed as a flake. I suspect that while people do use their sensory organs to communicate, that many often equate sensing somebody with being communication in itself. Personally I trust language far more, so for me visual communication means text, while communication in person is auditory. On some level I think people equate communication with behavior. As if to say that because one always embodies a behavior, that one is always “communicating”, even if there is no content. But I classify communication as being deliberate, rather than inferring something only because one is observed.


interesting thinking! So eye contact in the strict sense is when the eyeballs touch, no?

Sheila made eye contact with that handsome stranger on the subway. The other people in the car thought it was a bit weird.


This is an autistic thing. I either don’t understand idioms or I take them too literally. An idiom is never just an idiom to me.


I agree that it is an autistic thing, but I think that the label also pathologizes a cause in a recursive chicken/egg dynamic. Do I embody a pathology because I don’t uncritically internalize their social weirdness? Or is it simply a convenient label to stick on people so that they can dismiss critique of social routines they prefer to not be conscious of?


It’s clear that I fit this label, in ways that go far beyond the idiom thing. I’m not normal, I never was normal, and I never could have been normal, so I may as well celebrate it. It’s unfortunate that people pathologize it, but none of those people have any real power over me anymore.


And speaking of autism, the device in the OP looks like a poorly misguided attempt at ABA. I swear to fucking Christ if the next person tells me to smile…


Body language can communicate even more than words sometimes. Like when you’re on a date. And it’s different for different cultures. And it’s one reason I don’t like phones, because you hear the person’s voice, but don’t see their physical reactions. Voice over the phone triggers the clue that body language should be there, but it isn’t, so it feels weird. Of course, email and social media are even worse, but at least there you can take the time to carefully write down everything you mean. Not all people do that, and it has big limitations too. But at least email is so different that it doesn’t push that “something’s missing” button.

Used to be when I took off my glasses, I felt weird talking to someone; my vision was so bad I couldn’t see their facial expressions, and saw only vague outlines of their bodies. Got cataracts and IOLs which fixed it (yay).

ETA: one thing I find amusing about such products is the fake sciency stuff that goes with it, like all the straight lines that indicate some sort of something or another, and the “technical distance” label for something. Lots of balonium there.


That’s why I avoid going on dates! For me, communication REQUIRES intention, semantics, and syntax, otherwise there is no message, it is something else. What is missing for me is people being willing to talk about what they think and feel, and it seems that lots of fidgeting makes a poor substitute for that. Besides, it allows them to be more dignified.

I can relate. Unlike in my 20s, with my current eyesight I can barely see people anyway.

I was puzzling over what those illustrated overlays were supposed to represent!


I agree; I think that’s really important. What I’m talking about is the physical stuff that’s left over before speech developed. I see my cats doing things like closing their eyes part way when they’re content, and they seem to like it (but who knows?) when I do it back. For people, a lot of this probably goes on subconsciously.


To be fair, though, not everyone can read that communication well. Some of us are adept at reading body language and others aren’t.


Under special circumstances Contact may consider contact under Special Circumstances.


but it has never been explained to me how anybody “contacts” what they see,

@Enkita explained it, how has your perception of this idiom changed?


Contact can imply action over a distance, but it implies that distance is somehow closed by the action undertaken. A person knowing that they are being gazed upon does not somehow become socially closer than if they weren’t gazed upon, or not aware of it.

If a somebody likes to feel that it does is fine, but that does not make it more meaningful generally for others. It sounds like an idiom representing a whimsical sort of notion which many people are apparently invested in, and so like to assume is universal. If it’s real enough for you is fine, so long as people don’t assume that it is real for me.


They kind of do.

It’s a measure of interest: if someone is looking at your eyes, they are probably trying to initiate social contact with you. If you are having a conversation, where the other person’s eyes are looking is a decent indicator of their thoughts, and if they’re looking directly into your eyes, they are probably giving you their full attention.

In addition, how a person reacts to another person looking into their eyes can tell you a lot about what they think about the other person. If they immediately look away, they may be shy, or guilty. If they smile at you, or frown at you, or wink at you, and then look away, each of those can have specific social meanings. And if they refuse to look away, that can signal an attempt to assert dominance, or an attempt to initiate conversation, or an inappropriate level of interest.

I’m not very good at interpreting body language. I tend to avoid social situations, so I don’t get much practice. But eye contact I mostly understand. Humans, in general, rely on their eyes far more than any of their other senses, so if someone has their eyes set on yours, it’s a good bet that they are taking in information about you, and thus that they are thinking of you.




Well, how real is your hallucination of the world in comparison to your hallucination of the agency of the other?