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I Despise Small Talk, But I Understand Why It Exists.

·398 words·2 mins

As I write this article, it just snowed back up North, where I’m from (I’m currently living down South for professional reasons). It’s kind of late for that, seeing as it’s late April. But it’s not unprecedented of course.

When I grew up in Maine, we had a few May snowstorms. I can’t remember one ever happening in June. But late April? Annoying? Yes. Weird? Yes.

But it certainly happens.

Nevertheless, my social media feeds are full of overnight snow pictures with captions peppered with dismay and shock.

And I get it. Yes, it happens — but not often enough that it ever stops being shocking. So I look over all these photos, smile, and close the app. But as I do, it occurs to me that a different sort of person might be an ass about the whole thing. Because any time we have a big snow event down South (where there aren’t snow plows or road salt — let alone the other infrastructure that usually is found in regions that have cold winters), I inevitably find friends posting jokey memes about how we close everything down when it snows. How we can’t handle winters.

Every time this happens, I scowl. I grew up in rural Maine. I have lived through snow. It’s just not a fair comparison. And the jokes are a little played out. They’re not funny.

I make myself some tea after signing off social media. Sip it as I stare out on a sunny day on a beautiful tree-lined street. And as I do, I find myself wondering why we move in these tired circles — playful mocking, us and them for recreational purposes.

Oh, sure, I could come up with a dozen social psych reasons, having been a researcher once upon a time. Throw around phrases like ingroup/outgroup. Social comparison theory. Attraction-similarity hypothesis.

But there’s also the fact that we need something to talk about. Obligate social creatures, humans want to connect with one another.

And while part of me lashes out and says, “Well, why can’t we talk more about things that matter?” kindly, authentically, without ego — I also recognize that this level of vulnerability could be exhausting and terrifying for a lot of people.

So we have conventions like small talk and humblebragging about bad weather.

As much as I despise small talk, I understand why we have it.


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