A Social Experiment in Smiles

I take public transit almost every day. I take the bus to school in the morning, to work in the afternoon and home at night. I don’t know whether or not this is true just of London, or if mass transit-goers in every city are the same, but no one smiles on the bus. What sort of misery wand does everyone have up their buttholes?

On the same note, this morning, while navigating the labyrinthian network of halls that is Fanshawe College, I noticed that no one was smiling. At least, they weren’t smiling at me (which is fine, considering they don’t know me and therefore aren’t obligated to flash their pearly whites) and while that doesn’t bother me, the general lack of teeth-twinkling I witnessed today struck me as something that should be rectified.

We should smile more.

Smiles aren’t just personal things. Humans don’t simply smile to reflect their feelings about something–whether they find it funny, entertaining, etc.–we smile to convey affection and hospitality. That’s why McDonald’s is all about the smile; burger with a side of smiles, smiles are free, I’ll smile at you so much it looks like I’m mentally unstable… you know. We all know how it feels to approach a cash register and have the person behind the counter, be they young or old, treat you like a nuisance. Put your money in my hand and fuck off. It makes you feel unwanted, neglected, rather like a puppy that just got kicked in the ass.

People like that, who are having a bad day, or perhaps a stretch of bad days in a potentially bad life, may improve their circumstances simply by smiling. You wear a visor and a polo and flip burgers to earn your living? That’s okay. I get yelled at by the most belligerent, inconsiderate people imaginable for mine, and I still smile.

We should smile more. In that spirit, today I’m launching a social experiment–one in smiles.

Take a look around the room you’re in. Look at the people that are sharing your space (if there are any). Are any of them smiling? Smile at the ones who aren’t and see how many smile back. Keep count, mentally, on paper, on your arm in pen as if it were a drinking game, and see how many smiles you illicit. Aim for more tomorrow than you got today. See how many people you can make smile.

Hopefully, those people will take your warmth to heart and pay it forward. Your smile may end up on the face of some sleep-deprived, mentally strained production assistant in Los Angeles who is on their last leg, late on their rent, and in a tiff with their boss. It may end up affecting someone who is terminally ill or struggling with a death, their sexuality, or a tough assignment. You don’t know whose life you’re going to change just by smiling.

Freeze frame. This isn’t just a social experiment. It’s a personal experiment, too. Many people are uncomfortable smiling wide, for myriad reasons. Some people think their teeth are too yellow or too crooked and some people don’t have teeth at all. When I had braces in high school, I used to cover my mouth with my hand whenever I smiled or laughed, and my self-consciousness diluted my engagement with the people around me. For the purposes of this experiment, don’t dumb down your happiness. Regardless of how you look, think, or feel, just smile, for fuck’s sake. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed or self-conscious or concerned with how you look. Smile because you’re happy, and smile because you mean it.

It doesn’t matter who it is — the person sitting alone at a table picking at a stale Fruit Explosion muffin from Tim’s, the elderly woman waiting to cross the street, the prof with the beaten up backpack on wheels rushing off to their next lecture — flash them a smile and see where it goes. Let’s inject a little positive energy into an increasingly negative world and see whether or not we can make our surroundings a little sunnier!

Smile wide, beautiful people, and may the odds be ever in your favour.

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