MuchMoreThanMuscle saidI'm noticing this is the way that people are becoming. This is especially the case in professional settings. Whenever I walk into a store or even my gym most of the staff greet me with their head turned away from me. They don't smile, the almost never look at me so if I look at them and see that they're not looking at me I just ignore them. I only acknowledge people who who look me in the eye.
Our culture is going to pot. Everyone's text messaging everyone, hiding behind phones, behind computer screens and now when they greet you in person they can't even look at you.
Once in a blue moon, when I ignore someone for not looking at me directly they'll exclaim indignantly, "Hey! I said hello!" To which I swiftly retort back with, "I had no idea you were talking to me since you couldn't make the effort of looking my way while you were speaking."
Eye contact is so vital when making any kind of connection with another human being. I actually tell people off if they don't look me directly in the eye when they are talking to me. So annoying !!!
I'm going to have to go with the cultural suggestion that it varies from culture to culture. But even beyond that, there are other factors that play into eye contact or lack thereof. Personally, I've never found eye contact (or even smiling in response to certain cues) to come very naturally to me. Incidentally, I happen to fall on the autism spectrum and this is typical among manifestations. I know explicitly by cultural expectations that it is polite to make eye contact, and I will take the effort to do it where it's necessary (e.g. at work) but in general social situations, eye contact makes me uneasy. It can seem particularly threatening, and may overload my physical senses. (Speaking of sensory overload, I used to have a phobia of balloons because the popping noise was so disturbing to me). Telling me to "get over it"...right. Just like you can get over being gay and turn straight. I can't shut off my sense perception, I can't stifle adrenaline rushes no matter how hard I try to calm myself down.
Eye contact is a cultural hypocrisy due to a double standard. If someone were blind and you were talking with them, you'd understand that those who couldn't see anything would not understand the nuance of eye contact. They may face in your general direction from hearing, but they won't make eye contact.
I'm not angry that it isn't understood to most people when I may lack eye contact in social settings. What angers me is this Western implication that not making eye contact indicates dislike, indifference or disrespect. The Western World does not know who I am, how I function and interpret the things I witness, it cannot explain my vivid perceptions, memories and absolute pitch. A musical pitch is like a color, and it seems second-nature for me to tell pitches apart like colors. But most people can't. Why is it so uncommon to distinguish pitches by hearing alone, but universal to distinguish colors by sight alone? It is clear I function mentally very differently, and I fear it will be both my success and my ruin...