We build walls around ourselves to separate us from others. We look down at phones perched in our hands or put on headphones in an attempt to establish boundaries between us and strangers. But the problem is that strangers can’t actually see the walls, and sometimes they can’t seem to stop from entering your personal sphere.
When a stranger enters your own personal zone something in your brain is triggered inciting a physical response that ultimately leaves you feeling unsettled. While it varies, on average a person needs ten inches of space to feel comfortable. When this intimate space is invaded, it leaves you feeling violated in some way.
Ideally, we’d live in a world where people don’t touch each other without permission, or where people are respectful of personal boundaries. Instead, the world is full of shared space that is often too small for the amount of people sharing it. Everyday on Boston’s public transport, people are crammed into packed train cars; it becomes a faceless horde of bodies pressed too close together, of bags rubbing against bystanders, and hands accidently grazing as they seek something to grasp for support.
Even competition for sitting space is fierce as people manspread and disregard the subtle indentation obviously meant to separate seats. This is a clear indication of one person thinking that they deserve more space or being woefully ignorant to those around them. Whether it’s people wearing bulky coats during the winter or swinging large bags, we have to fight for every inch possible in order to be comfortable. When we can’t get as much space as we want, we do what we can—dirty looks, maybe an elbow jab, or we try to ignore it and go back to our phones.
Text by Courtney Major
Photography by Adam Ward