How-to: people watch

We all do it, now learn to get the most out of it with some simple steps from a not-so-creepy student group.

“Look at the beard on that guy!” says local student group. PHOTO COURTESY CAMPUS PEOPLE WATCHERS

Thomas Q. Johnson

You look a few seconds too long at that odd looking grad student walking across campus, at that kid on a leash at the mall, at most everybody, really. ItâÄôs just part of human nature and thereâÄôs one group on campus that wants to let you know that your otherwise creepy hobby is more than alright. In fact, itâÄôs a useful tool that they can help you develop. The group, the Campus People Watchers, or CPW , which began early last year, has grown steadily in notoriety and reputation. The online magazine Suite101 even named it one of the most unusual student organizations in the county last year. More than 50 curious students showed up to the groupâÄôs first meeting of the year, held on the second floor lounge of Coffman Union âÄî a good place to people watch.âÄù âÄúI feel good because I know other people are doing it too, so itâÄôs not so creepy,âÄù Michael Bierlein, a physics and art history first year said. This year, the Campus People Watchers have more hands-on people watching projects on the docket. âÄúSocial experimentâÄù is the groupâÄôs preferred term for what seemed to be mostly different forms of punking, creating stunts to elicit variable reactions in passerby. Wearing Packer jerseys outside of a Vikings game, guerilla posting of knit covers for street signs and just plain âÄúintimidating peopleâÄù were up for a vote as SeptemberâÄôs group activity. Though theyâÄôre all amusing in their own respect, these âÄúsocial experimentsâÄù make up only about one-third of what the group does, said group president David Shaffer. Scott Luisi, a sophomore at the University, serves as the groupâÄôs Chair of ethics âÄî or as he describes it, the person who âÄúmakes sure weâÄôre not creepy.âÄù According to Shaffer, there is a misconception that people watching is a creepy pastime. ItâÄôs not about hiding in trees with binoculars, or collecting information by sneaking around as much as it is about what you do with the information you gather. HereâÄôs a simple four step guide to help you people watch on par with the CPW. When done right, you too may find yourself experiencing daily epiphanies on social behavior and noticing things you never have before. 1. OBSERVE âÄî This is the first and most important step when it comes to people watching. Most people think of people watchers as sitting on a bench for hours at a time with naughty grins on their faces, but according to Shaffer this isnâÄôt so. âÄúThe best people watching is done moving around, not sitting downâÄù âÄî and probably best done without the creepy smile. 2. EVALUATE âÄî Take what you saw and evaluate it against yourself. To do this, you must be constantly asking yourself not only âÄúWhy did they just do that?âÄù but also âÄúWhy would I do that myself?âÄù Try to bond with the person youâÄôve seen. 3. MAKE AN INFERENCE âÄî Try to explain what youâÄôve just seen by putting together patterns that have emerged. 4. REFLECT WITH OTHERS âÄî This is where the value of CPW can come in handy, says Shaffer. Share what youâÄôve learned about others with the group to pool the new insights about human nature youâÄôve just observed.