The paper uses examples from rural studies to demonstrate the relevance of symbolic interactionism for unlocking the complexity of contemporary society. It does so by making a case for a nonprescriptive theory-method dialectic. Case examples are drawn upon in support of the argumentation, including early interactionism and ethnographic work in the United Kingdom, and, in the second half of the paper, rural sociology and fieldwork. The main argument presented is that the traditional remit of interactionism should be extended to recognize how absence is increasingly influential. It concludes that interactionism is in tune with other new trajectories in the social sciences that take into consideration co-presence proximity both on and off-line.