In eight X/Twitter polls I asked how often we smile in this situation: Imagine you are walking down a sidewalk outside, or a store aisle inside. You notice an adult approaching you from the other direction, walking normally. It has been at least ten seconds since you passed another person.
I have lived most of my life in large cities and was a moderate smiler, with a quick, fleeting smile that only briefly reached my eyes. Just the rapid acknowledgment smile. “I see you” or “thanks” or “I’ve seen you before, stranger” smiles.
Then I moved to an exurban place, where people are nice but there’s a culture that some might consider “cold”. You leave strangers to their own business, and don’t exactly invite people to approach you if you can avoid it. Still, now I smile bigger smiles than ever, to practically anyone I meet, except on the busiest streets.
It started when I got in the habit of taking long walks in the woods. Where I live, there are paths where I can walk for 20, 40, 60 minutes without seeing another person, then meet someone and pass them so closely that our jackets almost touch. I noticed a surprising number of people I met (especially women, but also men) would hardly even acknowledge my existence while passing. It struck me as really awkward and weird to not acknowledge the only other person around, when we’re practically touching.
But I’m a big guy, and I can only imagine what an anxious woman or any person short in confidence might feel when meeting a stranger like me deep in the woods. So I consciously worked on signaling friendliness and purpose long before the smile even happened, and on smiling earlier and bigger, so it could be seen from further away, and basically just on making people feel secure. At first it felt a little forced, but soon it became natural, and it bled over into all my other interactions.
It has made me a nicer, happier, more sociable person who gets better service. And I get a lot more smiles in return too, which feels amazing. (Even though I occasionally still meet people who act as though I’m not there.)
I thought I knew about smiling, and being nice and friendly, etc. but I was well into my 40s before I learned the *real* power of an immediate, big and unprovoked smile with some eye contact. It’s pretty great!
I'm a smiler 😀 I figure if I can't muster up a smile (& mean it) for a complete stranger then I shouldn't be out in public.
People are so genuinely desperate to be seen and connect, I'm almost invariably met with a smile in return. Many people grab that smile like a drowning person grabs their would-be rescuer. Sometimes we even stop & talk, share some small connection. Men & women both as likely, it seems to me.
(I'm a bit OCD on people watching & details so... )
I'm a woman. I live in a middling small Australian town (but quite cosmopolitan with tourism), & it's not common for people to smile with abandon, though there are always some exceptions. These seem to be loosely equally women & men.
Most people seem too overwhelmed in their own world to smile at unknown people, many seem to be doing it as a kind of sheilding against any further stimulus. They're too busy or stressed or overwhelmed to even look, to notice if you were smiling or not.
I'll always return a smile, to either gender, unless maybe it's a kind of smarmy oggling, which also seems to happen across both genders😂 though more men than women(😂actually, that depends on whether I have short or long hair, funnilly, as to which gender does more so!).
Interesting topic. 😁thanks for prompting me to think about something in a different way😏.
How many respondents did you get / what was the demographic (other than Twitter users, I mean)? For simple analysis of averages like this, data is very sensitive to sample characteristics.
I am too, too in my head with genocide of Central Afrika through industrial mines, the cross state immigrant Fundamentalists banning books at my local library, and the coming CBDC in October.
I remember smiling honestly sometime ago.
Im a smiler but it’s a cultural thing. Where I’m from the numbers would be equal, and near 100% both ways.
If someone smiles, how often does a stranger they're walking past actually notice it? I don't usually look too closely at people's faces in that situation. If someone did informal "field observations" then they would be looking directly at people's faces 100% of the time, which would contaminate their observations. To be accurate you'd need to look at security camera footage.
Another big variable would be whether one person knows the other person. I bet most smiles offered in public are between people who already knew each other.