Gonsalves: Just Say Hey
Saying hi often seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. And I know I’m not the only one on campus who feels this way — I routinely witness our aversion to a plethora of greetings, ranging from eye contact and a smile to “Hi, how are your parents?”

I will pretend to tie my shoe, suddenly have a conversation on my iPhone and pull a 180 just to avoid saying hello to someone I kind of know from class or a rowdy Wednesday night in a frat basement. This is the type of acquaintance who you’ve met at least four times but who pretends to have never met you. This may seem unkind of them, but you do the same thing — shake hands, say your names — while you both feel like sneaky liars and wonder if the other person really forgot the three other times you met. I have come up with what I think are a few potential explanations for this strange phenomenon of avoiding the friendly hello. First, we are introverts. I know Dartmouth has a reputation for being extroverted, social and so on. “Introverted” is certainly not a commonly used adjective. However, our introversion explains our excessive drinking, as socializing in chaotic environments isn’t exactly within an introvert’s comfort zone. However, there isn’t the comfort of Keystone when we walk between classes. Left to our own devices, we simply cannot muster the energy to say hi. Second, we are all so busy and overwhelmed that extending a friendly hello takes too much energy. Small talk is exhausting, whether you are introverted or not, and there are few people whose breaks are actually of interest to me. I’m sure others feel the same. Every minute is so precious that light chatter cannot even consume half of one. We also like exclusion. This isn’t unique to Dartmouth by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems that by excluding or disregarding others, we somehow put ourselves a notch higher on the coolness ladder. This is exhibited on campus with not only sororities and fraternities, but the hierarchies found within those groups, with one frat being “cooler” than another and some sorority considered a higher “caliber” than another. What really takes the cake, however, are senior secret societies. What is more exclusive than a secret club that only a fraction of campus can join? When we choose to avoid eye contact and not say hello, we are excluding that person from our intimate bubble, dubbing them unworthy of our attention. I always feel a huge sense of relief when I realize the person who I didn’t want to have to smile and address is suddenly consumed with his or her cell phone, making it clear that no interaction will occur. The relief seems entirely unwarranted as it isn’t that taxing to say hello in passing. But no one wants to be the first to crack the veneer of coolness by being friendly, especially if, God forbid, the person doesn’t remember you. Not saying hello stems from either our laziness or lack of self-confidence, but the difference that a friendly hello can make is remarkable. When people say hi and actually remember my name, I feel pleased, as if the one time we met, our interaction was meaningful enough for that person to remember me and feel comfortable addressing me again. In general, I could do without the small talk and would love an honest answer in response to “How are you?”  But mustering up the courage to just say hey is where that needs to start. If you do it with a smile, you will also benefit, as studies show that smiling boosts your mood, even if you’re just putting on a good face. It’s tempting to stay within the confines of our comfort zone, absorbed in technology as we walk to class and reserving conversation for our closest friends, but major improvements to our lives could be made on campus by making small changes to our daily interactions.
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