More and more, I see the “little things” losing their meaning and place in our society. If I had a nickel for every time I saw two people walk by each other and look down—as if they were afraid of what the other person might think of a smile or a “hello”—I would be a millionaire. I see it all the time here at the University. Students seem to be overly self-conscious of what others might think of them, no matter who they are.
I’ve seen doors closed in students’ faces. I’ve seen groups of guys slide in front of girls trying to get into a building. I’ve seen students cut each other off at a stairway and not even acknowledge it. I’ve seen people bump into each other by accident, look at each other with no emotion and then move on. I think I’ve seen enough.
I’m not here to be a social cop or anything like that, and I’m certainly not saying that the University is the breeding ground for our society’s waning manners and basic interactive behaviors, but I believe that our social discourse has reached a point where our motives are completely wrong.
For example, when a guy likes a girl, he calculates his every move and tries to be as polite, friendly and mannerly as possible (the inherently good guys are like this, at least, and I believe most of the guys on this campus fall into this category). He’ll often ask how the girl is doing today, tell her he likes what she’s wearing and hold open almost any door that
the girl walks through if possible. If it’s just another girl that he doesn’t know that well or isn’t romantically interested in, this whole act seems to go out the window. Oftentimes, he won’t even smile or he’ll try to avoid eye contact altogether. Instead, he’s only worried about sending the wrong signals if he does something as outrageous as flashing a smile.
Saying thanks takes less than a second, and it doesn’t cost more than
a breath. I guess people are worried that someone might think they’re “weird” or “not cool” if they actually thank someone. For a while, I think I may have fallen into this trap, but now I make sure I at least give some recognition. After all, saying “thanks” is one of the most basic manners there is.
If everyone would just be themselves and let their friendliness come out in whatever ways are most comfortable to them, we would live in a happier environment and social fears would go out the window.
I’ve started to focus on it more. I shoot smiles in passing whenever I can, I say hello to those I know and I try very hard to always recognize people who do something for me, with a smile and a genuine “thanks.” My hope is that all University students can take this article and focus on doing these things as well.
Even the smallest acts of social kindness can go a long way. It might seem crazy that asking someone how he or she is today can save a life, but it really can.