For some of us, making eye contact — especially with a stranger — is akin to staring down the barrel of a gun. It elicits the same physical reactions: racing pulse, sweaty palms, mild panic. For others, looking deeply into someone’s eyes feel like opening a window into their soul. In any case, it’s harder than ever before to catch someone’s eye, and one group is hoping to rebuild our sense of shared community by bringing it back — at least for a minute.
Liberators International, an Australian peace movement, is organizing The World’s Biggest Eye Contact Experiment, happening tonight, globally. Over 90,000 people from more than 115 cities have signed up to simultaneously sit in an iconic plaza or square to share a minute’s eye contact with strangers.
The group hopes the experiment will help to “rebuild our sense of shared humanity. Our global society has become thirsty for true connection and this experience allows you to be the change you wish to see in the world by creating an authentic, loving and respectful platform for human connection to flourish in public,” reads its website.
“There’s all sorts of amazing benefits of sharing a moment’s eye contact,” Liberators founder Peter Sharp explained.
“Differences start to fade, and you just feel this deeper sense of like you almost know the person somehow just by stopping and sharing a moment’s eye contact,” he said in a recent interview with ABC.
In my hometown, Montreal, close to 6,000 people are planning to attend. “It’s just a moment’s time to regain human connection,” Julie Landry-Moreau, the organizer of the Montreal event, told Daybreak Montreal. “The idea is to focus, go inwards, towards the heart, and see the person who’s in front of you for 60 seconds.” Landry-Moreau said that in past experiments, people have left as new friends or lovers. “It creates intimacy on the spot,” she said.
Footage from tonight’s events will be submitted, edited and shared, with a goal to inspire more people around the world to recognize the power of authentic eye contact and to try the experiment for themselves. While I’m down with humans connecting, if I’m being honest, extended eye contact is my Everest. But hey, at least nobody’s challenging me to answer my phone, right?