Imagine: you’re sitting at a little table at Maude’s Coffee, pounding furiously on your laptop keyboard — surely whipping up one of the most brilliant analyses of Moby Dick known to man — when you notice that girl from that party walking towards you.
You watch her, waiting for her eyes to meet yours, so you can exchange witty banter about the upcoming season of “Girls,” or at least give her the obligatory head nod, but that moment never comes. She looks in your direction and then looks back at her friend, or the ground or whatever surface she deems more interesting than your face. You feel flushed, and you think, “Did she not see me? No, she saw me. She definitely saw me.” You look back at her, by now your face contorted with a frenzy of emotion and confusion.
Hide your gaze, my friend — you’ve just been ig-knowed.
Ig-knowing is a term my good friends, Amy and Emily, and I created to describe those instances of being consciously ignored by people who acknowledge you in other situations. They know they’re ignoring you — they’re ig-knowing you.
I first witnessed this phenomenon when I moved to Gainesville more than five years ago to attend UF. On the first day of my Introduction to Buddhism class, I befriended Stephanie. We sat together every class, making snide remarks and slurping smoothies that only my meal plan flex bucks could afford. Then, on a day when we didn’t have class, I saw her walking through Turlington Plaza while I was sitting near that poop sculpture. I stood up and smiled, thinking she’d stop to talk, but alas I was ig-knowed. She looked me right in my face, didn’t smile and kept walking. It happened every so often that year; sometimes she’d see me and we’d chat excitedly, but other times I was a stranger to her.
Maybe it’s the transient nature of our town — some people only live here for a few months out of the year when school is in session — that perpetuates ig-knowing. Maybe it’s because our twenty-something egos won’t let us risk rejection. Whatever the reason, Gainesville is definitely Igknowsville, USA. I’ve been ig-knowed in the most bizarre situations.
At coffee shops, old classmates will sit down a table over, facing me, and not look up from their laptops. At shows, acquaintances will stand next to me and not turn to me after I say hello. Walking downtown, I’ll approach a group of people I know and maybe half of them will acknowledge me with a nod or a smile.
My friend, Emily, has been ig-knowed at supremely close distances. While at a party, standing in a circle of friends, someone who had smiled and introduced herself mere minutes ago was now avoiding Emily’s gaze and speaking to everyone but her. Emily says being ig-knowed can have an emotional toll.
“It’s an extremely effective tool to make someone feel like a worthless human being,” she said. “When you’re ig-knowed you feel personally responsible — ‘What did I do to make them hate me?’”
Perhaps it’s a mix of shyness and an inability to communicate IRL (in real life – get the ‘net) that creates these non-interactions. Maybe we’re just too lazy to whip up some witty monologue to impress people we barely know to begin with. It’s also probably true that ig-knowing is a two-way street. Maybe we’re all just waiting for the other person to make the first move. But what do you do if you’ve been involved in an ig-knowing relationship for days now — months, even? (If it’s been years, you should probably just give up now.)
Every time you are ig-knowed, you have a choice. You can bow your head in shame and go home to post a thousand Tumblr posts about how we’re all so alone in this world. Or, you can take a deep breath and say hello. Close your laptop lid at the coffee shop and loudly say the ig-knower’s name until he looks at you. Stop him on the sidewalk with your body and smile. I hate to get all Smokey-the-Bear up in here, but honestly, only you can prevent ig-knowing.