Urban Overload-Exploring Urban Social Behaviour

London-since 2 month!

Although I grew up in a very international environment, Frankfurt doesn’t even come close to the overload of possibilities, people, cultural diversity…and simply EVERYTHING else that London has to offer! The hunt for adventures, my curiosity and entrepreneurial mind made me pack my bags and move to this epicentre of stimulus satiation!

And although I love the opulence….I find the similiarity among city dwellers-the fast pace, tired look and “don’t look at me face” is somehow startling. I searched for the rules behind these city dynamics.

Psychologist Milgram was among the first to develop theories about what he coined as urban psychology. He assumes that the way we behave in cities or busy urban areas is a natural response to information overload. In the city our senses are continually stimulated-there are too many sights, sounds and other people for us to process properly.

This is both the attraction of the city and its downside.

Due to this constant stimulation you get tired and exhausted faster and after a time you switch on your flight mode in order to counteract this loss of phisiological and psychological tiredness.

City dwellers, therefore, try to conserve their energy:

  • They don’t care about helping each other-they are too busy with their own to do list. A fun experiment I usually do when I see many exhausted, angry-looking people on the streets: I smile at them! The reaction is interesting to observe-most people don’t do anything and keep their grim face, some smile back and many are just confused!
  • Inpatience-they keep moving and transact any business they have as quickly as possible (there is usually no time for a nice chat with strangers inbetween)
  • Social niceties like apologising for jostling are skipped because city dwellers have less spare processing power available.

Of course, this is just a generalization!

But overall, in the city the norm is anonymity and the unwritten rule is: I’ll pretend you don’t exist if you pretend I don’t exist. City dwellers aren’t bad people, they’re using rational strategies to deal with information overload.

The question now is-how can people in big cities counteract this circle of overload and fatique?

A few things that worked out very well for me so far:

  • don’t get infected by angry-looking faces and rudeness…keep a smile on your face and help people (small deeds like opening a door for someone-stay true to yourself instead of copying all the others in their rush
  • slow down-if your not under time-pressure, try to take the slower, less crowded parallel streets
  • engage in small talk with the staff at shops and cafes…it’s just a small, meaningless chat but it helps to see the cordiality among all the grim faces which also refills your energy storage
  • Call a friend if you’ve missed the bus instead of getting angry and frustrated

What is your stretegy to survive the urban overload?

4 thoughts on “Urban Overload-Exploring Urban Social Behaviour

  1. Batrepreneur says:

    You are right. I felt this in my home town Berlin as well as when I was in London for 5 month. You gotta love spirit that is around but at the same time it’s frightening to see how “fast” people live. I don’t know if there is a specific strategy to avoid this lifestyle. Actually I would just try to deal with it. Otherwise you can choose moving to the suburbs 😉
    By the way, what are you doing in London?


  2. Ajit Ranade says:

    Marina Zayats, you express your experiences in a superb way …it’s always good to understand and learn from other’s experiences and how one can correlate them to our own ..this small article has certainly given me a different perspective in looking at things ,people and city I live. Thanks.


  3. Marina Zayats says:

    @Batrepreneur: I would agree-most of the time you can’t change the circumstances, but fortunately, you can change your attitude and “deal with it” as you say. I’m doing my master in International Business for one year. After that: many possibilities-let’s see =)


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