Joe Keohane: The Power of Strangers

June 24, 2022 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex St.
MA 01970
$10 Members; $15 Non-members
Salem Athenaeum

The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World

Joe Keohane
Photo by Diana Levine /

In our cities, we stand in silence at the pharmacy and in check-out lines at the grocery store, distracted by our phones, barely acknowledging one another, even as rates of loneliness skyrocket. Online, we retreat into ideological silos reinforced by algorithms designed to serve us only familiar ideas and like-minded users. In our politics, we are increasingly consumed by a fear of people we’ve never met. But what if strangers—so ofte

n blamed for our problems—are actually the solution?

In The Power of Strangers, Joe Keohane sets out on a journey to discover what happens when we bridge the distance between us and people we don’t know. He learns that while we’re wired to sometimes fear, distrust, and even hate strangers, people and societies that have learned to connect with strangers benefit immensely. Digging into a growing body of cutting-edge research on the surprising social and psychological benefits that come from talking to strangers, Keohane finds that even passing interactions can enhance empathy, happiness, and cognitive development, ease loneliness and isolation, and deepen our sense of belonging.

After gathering practical tips from experts on how to talk to strangers, Keohane tried them out himself in the wild, to awkward, entertaining, and frequently poignant effect, ultimately discovering that talking to strangers isn’t just a way to live; it’s a way to survive.

Joe Keohane is a veteran journalist who has worked as an editor at Medium, Esquire, Entrepreneur, and Hemispheres. His writing—on everything from politics, to travel, to social science, business, and technology—has appeared in New York magazine, The Boston Globe, The New Yorker, Wired, Boston magazine, and The New Republic. He also somehow managed to win a 2017 Screenwriter’s Colony fellowship for a comedy television pilot that remains tragically and unjustly unproduced. Born in the Boston area, he currently resides in New York City with his wife and daughter. The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World, is his first book.

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