Opinion: The Impact of a Smile

“A smile, in simple terms, is just a facial expression that we make to showcase feelings of pleasure or amusement. However, it is so much more when interacting with people on a daily basis.”

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Flashing a smile to someone may not mean much to you, but it could mean so much to them. Credit: Francesca McKernon

Many do not think a smile will have a huge impact on their day, but for me it does (and I am sure others feel the same way). A smile, in simple terms, is just a facial expression that we make to showcase feelings of pleasure or amusement. However, it is so much more when interacting with people on a daily basis.

As a new college student going through her first year, several challenges have presented themselves to me, from constant pressure to go out to events and make friends to balancing work and school and having a social life on a 24-hour time table. During this 24-hour time slot, I interact and talk with so many people whether it be customers at work, strangers on the street, or simply fellow peers.

During the day, I try my best to smile or at least say hello to whoever may be crossing my path. This is because of something insightful my mother once told me: “By saying hello or acknowledging someone, it may cause a shift in their day to which you brightened it.” Growing up these words really impacted me because, being an only child, I really wanted to make an impact each and every day. So it was important to me to make my presence known because I was out there representing me, and I wanted to do it well.

Recently while talking with a friend I voiced how I felt when someone doesn’t smile back at me. Now, nothing against these people, but I know that when you try to interact with someone you don’t know, it can be hard. However, I still try to make the effort and engage. Specifically, to oust myself even more, I am taking COM 201, a public speaking class. In this class, the professor handed out an interesting article from the New York Times that brings up the disconnect that society is facing as we all become more and more dependent on our cell phones and other technological devices.

After reading the article the professor had us break into groups and discuss it even further. To no surprise, we all agreed that, yes, we do use cell phones, laptops, earbuds, and tablets to distract and hide from the real world. Some reasons for this typical behavior may stem from the general shyness people feel, the feelings of anxiety of interacting with a stranger, and the most common reason of all, a reason to avoid an awkward encounter with someone else. While these are reasonable explanations for the lack of social interactions, I believe that initiating a hello is not as scary as one would think and is worth the extra effort.

I believe that technology, while it has its negatives, has paved a grand path for society to communicate both efficiently and effectively through various social media platforms. However, it does bring attention to the fact that while we are all becoming better communicators, we are wavering in our duties to be better connectors. This lack of connection is obvious from the tensions that arise in today’s issues such as politics, race, and wealth.

These arguments showcase society’s lack of empathy towards one another. Our interactions are becoming very transactional nowadays and it is sickening to see. It seems that no one is getting to know anyone unless they wish to get something else from someone in return. So in order to change this transactional social approach,  I challenge each and every one of you to take the time to either smile or say hello to someone in passing, because while it may not do anything for you it sure could brighten someone else’s day up.

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