How did people avoid potentially awkward social situations before cell phones?

Thanks for A2A.

I was raised quintessentially British. One didn't speak to a person until introduced.

At school, I was at the bottom of the pecking order, so I was usually found in the Library, and in High School, the Computer Lab (a solitary computer, Wang 2200, on loan in the district).

During the bulk of my work career, I commuted long distances, and on Interurban trains a library-like atmosphere was maintained -- minimum talking, and even then in hushed tones.

When getting involved in a social group, one is usually introduced to multiple people very quickly and this sort of isolation is dropped. While I was in the 'entertainment' industry, after-parties were a duty. One didn't go to have fun. The purpose was to be seen. Although, in a party environment, I will usually become actively involved in group conversations.

Lifts, and outdoor smoking groups (Australia was an early adopter of banning smoking in the workplace), were usually places to ignore other people. I'm notorious for using eye-contact as a form of greeting without anyone but the contactee being aware of it.

When I was DJing, I would often nip out with the smokers to have a no-cigarette just to have a brief conversation. I used to carry an ancient laptop that kept my catalog on it. Someone misinterpreted it as an mp3 system so, at that suggestion, I was very early adopter of computerizing my playlist and could leave the system unattended for a period of time.

Lifts allowed for conversation when all the parties were known to each other. When a 'stranger' entered, conversation stopped, and even today's experience, this is still common. People distracting themselves with a phone is not uncommon these days, but conducting a conversation in the presence of others inside the lift still attracts frowns of disapproval.

Because I was accosted in a public toilet, I don't care how well I know you, any conversation is suspended whilst inside the facilities.
No. There were no "social crutches". In those days you'd just move on when you didn't want to talk to someone. You'd greet and then go your ways. In an elevator you'd just say "Hello" upon entering and then turn around facing the door. Then you'd just look forward and kept your mouth shut if you weren't interested in small talk. Sweet and simple.
Those were times when people just ENDURED situations. It wasn't like living hell or something similar... If you were bored then, well, you were bored. If you didn't want to be bored you either had to observe your surroundings or think of something. Use that thing where you put food into. You know: The head. I'm not sure if the people at that time thought more. I have my serious doubts about that...  BUT: IF you had to endure certain situations where nowadays people just "whip out their cell phones" THEN you either had to be patient and just endure it, observe your surroundings  or bring a good book or a magazine, bore your ass off OR just use your head and think of something worthwhile...
Ah, THOSE were the days... :P
Ah, you are speaking to my generation that didn't have cell phones to avoid awkward situations.  If on a plane or other transportations,  I would  read a book to prevent conservations.  In an elevator I would look up and away from passengers and pretend I didn't hear them. Eye contact was to be avoided. Other times, I would feign ignorance to avoid continuing uncomfortable conversations. Body language was used more often.

Today I am grateful to have all the advantages of a cell phone. I use my earplugs while listening to my music to avoid any conversation that I choose not to have. Times haven't changed, technology has. Nor have our bad manners but that's the way it goes.
People socialized then just as much as today, if not more. They would have a go-between to help them. I know one who did. He's my brother. He was very shy (no cellphones then, in his time). So he always had to ask a friend who knew a friend, to get him into a meet-up or a group activity. Back then, people looked at each other and met each other's eyes more often because they didn't have cellphones to distract them.
Back in the past, we just stuck a Marlboro between our lips and flipped our Zippo on it. Then we'd hitch up our Levis, test the cleats on our cowboy boots, and look meaningfully over the top of our sunglasses to make sure nobody wanted to mess with us. Then we'd flick the Marlboro down a sewer grate and replace it with a toothpick. Before you know it, the bus arrived and we all lined up to get on. Those were the days.
I do not know. I was born in 1975 and I had my firs cell phone when I was 21.So, I guess, my upbringing was extreme from today's point of view .Probably, avoiding any unpleasant situation was done in a different way .Maybe, I do not know, by sticking in your ears these big headphones from ones Volkman.I do not believe that technology alone has to do with the choices of being detached or antisocial.It is always about who and why, about motives and motivation that is.
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