If Facebook Can Experiment, So Can You

Change up your own social algorithm and see what happens.

The Many Faces of FacebookThe world has been aghast lately at the revelation of Facebook’s creepy social experiment. Sure, it’s weird at best and borderline unethical, but it got me thinking: what if we took a cue here and did some experimenting of our own? Can something good come of this?

Smile More

In the past few months I’ve been making the conscious effort to smile more at others. I travel on business regularly, so I’m constantly in front of zillions of service or travel industry workers, whom I’ve been smiling at more so lately just to see what happens: simple grins and a little eye contact for everyone — not weird, extended fake smiles — just friendly, quick expressions at a drive-thru, coffee counter or lunch table.

And you know what? I’ve seen more smiles as a result. So what if it’s a conscious effort on my part? It’s simple enough and is a basically effortless way to give & receive some positivity.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about my informal experiment, but it’s interesting to me that I’ve been doing some content altering of my own here lately and have gotten some useful qualitative feedback, especially in light of the latest Facebook debacle. Here are some more non-scientific but interesting examples:

Making people smile on the London underground

What about you? Ever changed up your routine or made a conscious effort to see how a certain behavior makes an impression on others? Let us hear from you in the comments.

4 thoughts on “If Facebook Can Experiment, So Can You

  1. Bob Stocking

    I too travel a great deal, and I have developed tremendous sympathy for travel industry workers. It looks like they get many more negative than positive comments, so I will take every opportunity to smile, make eye contact, use their first names (they all wear those name tags, might as well use them), chat a bit, and do whatever I can to humanize the transactional nature of travel. Just this week a customer service rep on the phone remarked on how nice I was being to her–clearly the exception to the rule for her.

    I am especially nice to airline folks. I know the industry has lots of work to do to improve its overall reputation, but I also feel like there is a cultural meme that allows travelers to treat them with utter disrespect. [My theory is that many of us have deep fears about sitting next to strangers, with little personal space, in a metal tube in the sky, and we discharge those fears by venting on the people who represent the institution that has put us in this situation.] As I deplane I will thank the flight attendants for their service, thank the pilot for the ride, etc. It is a no-risk, high-reward way of treating other people, professionals on whom I depend greatly.

    1. rsmithing Post author

      You, sir, are a gentleman. Kudos to you for lifting people’s spirits!

      I’ve been known to fist-bump a pilot when deplaning. Always gets a smile.

  2. Photobooth Journal

    Yes, have done so on numerous occasions, mostly to cope with surly people that I have needed to have contact with on a regular basis. Being extra patient and friendly with the grumps pays huge dividends for both parties. I am naturally a smiley person, so generally get positive feedback from most people I deal with, so don’t normally have to make a big effort.


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