Sunday, July 18, 2004

Something happier (diary)

Note that I have added an image to my profile. It looks exactly like me, except for the age, weight, hair presence (head and facial), and glasses-ness.

I have noted that many of my recent posts have been negative or angry, and talk about such topics as things I hate, things that frustrate me, things that are stupid, etc. I have decided I'll write about something happier.

Are you familiar with the Mean World Theory/Syndrome? It essentially states that if people are exposed to unproportionally high amounts of violence on TV and in the media, they will act in society as if there actually is that much violence, creating an atmosphere in which that violence is more likely to occur. (Yes, I do find it ironic that I start a 'happy' post by talking about something as depressing as Mean World Syndrome)

By extension, if everyone you see on the street either doesn't look at you or gives you a 'mean' look, then you will believe that everyone hates you, that you live in an unfriendly place, or something similar. Subsequently, you will not smile at others, and they will also feel this way.

Well I have the opposite. Often times when I'm going around town quickly, I will paste a solid frown on my face and go to wherever I'm going as quickly as possible. But there are some exceptions.

If someone looks at me (and they are not in a car) and is frowning, I automatically smile. Similarly, if I am walking or on my bike, I will smile and nod at those cyclists and pedestrians (and joggers) I pass. I also always smile to the bus driver, and usually greet them as I pass by.

When I do this consciously, it acts on the same premise as the mean world syndrome: If I am friendly to others, people will perceive society to be a friendlier place, and I will have more friendly experiences with others.

A case in point of this is that I was cycling on the pathways a while back with my Dad, from whom I inherited my stolid facial expressions. I was cycling in front of him and I smiled at every passing person, and many times they smiled back. Although he is not the kind to smile at strangers (or even at all in most cases), I could see in my rear view mirror that my Dad saw these smiling strangers and smiled back at them.

So where did I pick it up? I have to give all credit to the Pathway Patrol. When you're on a patrol, you are encouraged to smile at people you meet or pass, and say 'hi'. This has conditioned me to essentially be a more friendly person. Go figure!

If I were preachy, I would say, "Try it! The next time you're out on the street or on the path, smile at people you pass by, and you'll feel happier!" but I won't because I'm not into telling people what to do and I think that it's corny.

- RG, a leader in social conditioning.

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