We live in a very fast pace world. Technological devices like our iPhones, iPads, ear pods or buds make it easy to block out the world that exists around us. But we are people, we are social creatures who need human interaction, something that doesn't necessarily exist on your screen regardless of how many likes and comments your Instagram picture gets.
I have always been a proponent of kindness and smiling at people, even if those people are strangers. You never know how that single smile, how that random act of kindness might impact someone's day. A friend recently told me about a book titled "Social Excellence: We Dare You" by Matthew Mattson, Josh Orendi, and Jessica Gendron Williams. Goodreads writes "Social Excellence is a philosophy--a lifestyle. Characterized by handshakes, deep, meaningful conversations, and heart-to-heart connections, people who choose Social Excellence understand that human connection is the key to changing the world." Essentially the book dares its readers to say hello to random people they encounter during their day and attempt to engage in meaningful conversations with people.
Determined to partake in this social experiment, I decided I would try it in one of the harshest, most abrasive cities in the country, New York. Yep, that's right. While I was on a trip to the city that never sleeps, where everybody seems to be in a rush I took this challenge.
Despite being the middle of May, it was freezing in New York. Freezing and raining, and every one frankly seemed miserable- myself included. Nevertheless, I was determined to partake in this social experiment. I became increasingly conscious about the number of people with their necks craned down looking at their phone; headphones in and the world out. I started this social experiment slowly. Instead of sitting next to a random person on the subway and striking up a conversation, I smiled at strangers and casually waved as I walked by. Not everyone was friendly. Some people looked at me like I was crazy, and to be completely honest, I would look at someone the same way.
However, as I settled into this routine, I began to strike up conversations with people in lobbies, uber drivers and taxi drivers simply by saying "hi." Did I have meaningful and enlightened conversations with everyone, no. In fact, most were surface level where we discussed the weather, my time in New York and sometimes we crossed into other jobs and my major of choice. These conversations might not have made my day or changed my life, but they did help distract me from the mind-numbing cold, and it was a nice use of time where I was able to have a dialogue with someone instead of sitting on my phone.
I would love to try this challenge again, hopefully when it is warmer out. I encourage everyone to try this, whether on your campus or around your town during the summer. You have no idea what meaningful types of conversations you may have. And just like the authors, I dare you!