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- Psychology & Psychiatry
Resting Face Position - A Social Experiment
I recently had the idea to try out an experiment. This experiment is simple at it's very core, but the results will most likely prove to be very interesting. It occurred to me the other day while I was at work, undergoing routine work.
"Hey Joe, you really should smile more."
I guess I never really stopped to think what my resting face position is.
Let me explain. Resting face position, or RFP, is how your face looks when you're not doing any activity that might directly engage it. You know when you're talking to that girl you like and you're all smiling? That's not what I mean here. RFP is how you look when someone gets a surprise picture of you. RFP is how you look right now reading this.
So what if you controlled your RFP? What if you made the conscious decision to tell your sub-conscious mind to take a hike? What if you had the same stupid look on your face all the time? Well, that's my experiment. I am going to go a week keeping a fake look on my face. For my first face, I've decided to do a huge cheesy grin. The kind of grin you'd expect from that juvenile deliquent kid who his parents cannot control.
Some of the downsides I can automatically see from this is simply being able to keep up the facade. I think I'm a pretty jovial person by nature, but I know I won't be able to keep smiling 100% of the time. Not to mention the fact that it probably will be a little uncomfortable physically to maintain the FRFP (Fake resting face position). One thing I'm not sure of however, is if the situation calls for a non-smiley face, do I keep it up? This will probably be dictated should the need arise.
I'm curious to see how this is going to affect the people around me. I know you can force a smile out of someone, so maybe having a permanent smile will have a similar effect. I'm also interested to see how many people I run into on a daily basis begin to notice what's happening. Fortunately, my job allows me to see a huge array of different people. Oh yeah, we're all legit.
Let the facade begin!
Day 1 - Sunday June 19
As I sit down at the end of this day, my cheeks are kind of sore. I haven't kept up such a weird smile for a very long time. After only one day, I'm not so sure that this experiment is going to turn up the results that I want. But I did see a few examples of what could be considered progress.
I began my day bright and early as I usually do. I decided instead of going for my usual run around the block, I would go to the park. Even though it was early I still found a few people spending time outdoors. Thus began my long day of smiling.
There was an older couple out with their dogs. I was trying to decide whether I wanted to include a friendly chat with these people in my routine. I decided against it, so instead I just walked past them, with my huge grin, staring them down. I must have appeared quite weird to them; in all honesty they turned away from me as if I were scaring them. I saw another lady out jogging, and I decided to start jogging in her direction, armed with my cheesy grin. This was an exercise in futility as she didn't pay any attention to me at all. I was wondering if this experiment was worth it.
I had plans to meet up with some friends at seven this morning to hang out for a little bit. As I pulled up to the house, they were already there waiting for me. I stepped out of my car, armed with big cheesy grin. One of my friends, we will call him Tom, started laughing.
"What's with the smile?"
"What can I say? I'm happy today."
So no, I didn't really rhyme. But the conversation went down something like that. I decided it was best not to expose what I was really doing, so as not to tamper with my findings. Every time someone would look at me, they'd laugh, but the morning drug on and nobody really asked what I was doing.
Then it was time to head off to work. This is where I figured most of the excitement would begin. As I walked into the store where I work, I was quickly greeted by one of my co-workers. He didn't say anything bout my grin, but he did start smiling himself. That was a plus. Hadn't had any sign of something positive yet.
As my day continued, I kept having the same experience. Either someone would take notice of my cheesy grin and laugh or comment on it, or someone else wouldn't say anything, but I'd notice they couldn't help but smile. Of all the people I interacted with, I would wager that over half of the people's overall happiness increased. They just seemed to be in a better mood. I'd say my experiment was successful. But I have 6 more days to keep it going.
Monday - June 21
I would never have guessed the things I could accomplish with simply a stupid smile on my face. When I began this experiment merely two days ago, I never would have guessed that with a smile alone I could make others happy. Let me explain.
My days begin at 4. Monday through Friday I work at a local hardware store from 5 til 10. This last weekend I just so happened to have to work Sunday as well. But the place that I work at is a perfect setting for this experiment. I run across several people that I have never seen before and will never see again. But I also have contacts which I see on a daily basis. This lets me see what kinds of reactions I get from both new acquaintances and co-workers alike.
Anyway, my second day back at work with this new smile, the first couple of co-workers I interacted with had to ask what was going on. I just said I was really happy. As per the terms of the experiment, I shouldn't just willy nilly tell people what's going on. But they laughed and said that they knew something had to be going on.
One of the first customers I had helped also asked me what was going on. Again, I told him I was just really happy. He started laughing, but I can't say for certain whether it was my own cheery tude or if he was already happy.
For the rest of the day, there weren't any really interesting experiences to share. Suffice it to say, at least without solid evidence, that my "cheery" attitude has helped at least put a smile on the faces of most people I meet. I require further proof to feel comfortable taking the credit for that.
Tuesday June 6
Today I had a minor setback.
I got up, fake cheesy grin as usual, and decided to tackle the day. However, things quickly went downhill. I went to work, and was going about my usual business. Seems that the initial shock factor has worn off of the people I see daily. But my first customer saw my grin and decided he wanted to ruin MY day. We were out of a certain item that he "needed".
"Do you have any more?"
"No sir, sorry, we're all out."
This preceded him deciding to yell at me for 10 minutes about how the store never has what he needs. Not only was it the worst store in the world, I was the worst person in the world for working there. It constantly amazes me how myself as a person comes under fire whenever we are out of a particular item. But needless to say, I couldn't keep my smile going. I could barely keep myself contained. Finally he was tired of yelling and left the store.
In the name of science, I decided not to let it get me too down. So my smile went back up. At least, for a second. In quick succession I had another customer who decided he needed me to explain to him why our stupid store has the worst prices in the world. I wasn't about to deal with him and called a manager. I felt like hitting someone, but again, in the name of science, I had to put my game face back on. I decided I was going to have a better morning.
But things kept getting worse. I was helping one of the other associates fix a safety issue when the pallet we were taking down to re-wrap fell apart at the shrink wrap. We lost half the pallet on the ground. I had about 10 minutes before I had to clock out or I'd go over the time limit. As I was running around trying to find someone to help out, I was stopped by a woman who needed help loading plywood. She was going through the pile picking out pieces. That part wasn't so bad. But then she needed 2x6'es and again she had a critical eye. We went through the entire stack of 100 boards and she couldn't find 7 that would pass her "standards". At this point I was well over my limit, and my smile was barely hanging on. I punched the clock, only to find my boss there, upset that I had again gone over the 5 hour mark, even though only by 2 minutes.
So rather than me hoping I could spread a little joy simply by wearing a smile on my face, I had a terrible morning. I didn't spread any cheer, and what's worse is I barely held it together myself. The rest of the day I haven't had any real interactions with people. But this morning was a bust.
Wednesday June 22
Today the most unusual thing happened.
I continue to walk around with my cheesy grin at work. But today, one of the managers came up to me.
"Hey, what's with the grin?"
I was a little uneasy. "Do you need to know or are you just curious?"
He laughed a little. "I'm just curious."
I kinda chuckled back. "Ask me Saturday, I can't tell you until then."
He kind of got a puzzled look on his face. "What's Saturday?"
"Saturday is when the grin goes away."
He got a half-serious look on his face. "You shouldn't. All of the other associates talk about it. It makes us laugh."
This is exactly what I set out to do! My coworkers are talking about how stupid I look with my cheesy grin plastered on my face all the time. It's giving them some sort of happiness, even if it is at my personal expense...
Anyway, I can almost right now call this experiment a success. But it got me thinking, what other things could I influence without any words, without any real direct involvement from me? Hmm, I think I just might continue this experiment...
Thursday June 23
I had a hard time maintaining the smile today.
After four days, it is seriously starting to get old. Amongst my coworkers, they are starting to get annoyed with my antics. Some of my regular customers have noticed and told me to knock it off. I am still seeing results amongst people I don't have daily interactions with.
I am a little disappointed. I wouldn't have figured that my little experiment would cause an uproar amongst my friends and coworkers. They act as if what I'm doing somehow hurts them. Maybe I am. Maybe they see my smilie and it reminds them how much pain is in their life. Maybe it reminds them of when they were happy. Maybe they just think I'm a douchebag.
Yeah, gotta be the douchebag thing.
So I begin my day with this look plastered on my face. Honestly my cheeks are a little sore.
Just to clarify, I only keep the look up when I am around people. It doesn't matter who it is, even if it's just my family. I keep the smile on. But when I'm alone bathing or sleeping, I don't keep the smile on. I wonder if this has screwed me over? Perhaps it gives me more of the feeling of insincerity.
No interesting stories to share today. Just so happens that this experiment isn't as cool as I thought.
Friday June 24
Today the cat seemed to be out of the bag. My coworkers finally figured out that there was some particular reason why I was rocking a stupid grin on my face. So everybody I talked to had to take their guesses.
"You're doing a project for school?"
"You lost a bet!"
"You're a creepy loser with no life!"
Sadly the last guess was correct. But what I am really doing this for is in the name of science! Not to mention my crazy obsession with human interactions. Maybe that's why I like languages so much?
Anyway, I had two interesting interactions today.
I was helping a gentleman and he is one of my regular customers. Now this man is a jerk, but he has been dealing with me long enough that he's not so much of a jerk to me. Needless to say, he had to comment on my grin.
"What's with the grin?"
"I'm just happy today." Bologna Sandwich.
He said that his life wasn't going so well at the moment, but seeing me being happy in my dead-end job made his day.
Now who's turn was it to call shenanigans?
My second experience was again with my boss.
"Well, you said Saturday the grin was going away. But you don't work tomorrow. So...."
He wanted me to tell him what was going on.
I said I couldn't tell him, it would mess with things.
Needless to say, he wasn't too happy.
So my experiment with the cheesy grin backfired. I made him upset with it rather than what I wanted to do.
Saturday will allow me to go out and hit the streets. Yes that's right, I'm going to actually take the time to go out on the town and see what I can accomplish. I'm thinking about bringing a video camera for real fun... I'll have to try to find one...
Saturday June 25
For my last day with my cheesy grin, I decided to do something special. I actually decided to go out of my way to greet people with my stupid smile. I went up to people I didn't even know, and said hi, how you doing? I actually had a few interesting experiences.
The first fellow I talked to was an older hispanic man. Seeing an opportunity to also practice my spanish, I went up to him.
"Good morning sir!"
He laughed and asked what was up with the stupid grin?
I told him that I was just having a good day and wanted to spread my joy. He laughed and said it certainly had gotten his day off to a good start.
The next person I tried it on was a young woman, out jogging for the morning.
"Get away from me creep!" was her response. I don't know if this was a good or bad thing.
My last experience was with this older gentleman. I have never actually talked to him but I see him almost every day. He lives up the street from me, and every day he walks from his house to target about a mile and a half away for a cup of coffee. He also started doing a lot of running. I get the feeling that this man doesn't have much of a social life. So I walked up to him.
"I'm Joe Flagostomos!"
"Howdy." He says.
"I've seen you jogging every day for the last couple of years. I've never actually said hi. I just wanted to meet you."
He introduced himself but said he needed to get going.
Now to be fair, I didn't actually accomplish anything with my smile. But it finally gave me the coruage to meet this man who has been essentially a part of my daily life. I mean I see him every day. He's as much a part of my life as anybody else. So now I finally know him, and his name.
Sunday June 26
I want to apologize firstly that I didn't post the days as they were occurring. I was rather busy. After reviewing the data I collected this week, I would have to say overall that this experiment was a slight success, however like most things it has it's drawbacks. I will post my final thoughts tomorrow.
Tuesday June 28 Resting Face Position Wrap Up
Finally, after a week of fun, I have all of the results I need. I must say that when this idea came to me, I had no idea what kind of success I might have. I started this experiment because somebody said I needed to smile more. And it took off like nobody's business.
Some of the first things I noticed was people just smiling when they'd look at me. I can't say that it was the grin, but it couldn't have hurt. Other people started talking about it amongst themselves so that at least it became an inside joke. While I might not have the respect of my coworkers anymore, I can safely say that I got the discussion going. My bosses took note and realized how much of a positive impact I was making. At least they didn't get on my case. :D
My regular customers kept asking me what I was doing. The ones I saw more than once told me that my stupid smile got their day off to a good start. One even said he was having a bad day and something reminded him of his stupid hardware store associate that had helped him with his project.
The other customers that I interacted with, some of them took note, others didn't, others took note in a negative manner. I actually had one gentleman get on my case because I was being a nuisance to him. However I feel I can safely write him off because he is just a bitter old man who comes into our hardware store to make trouble for the associates.
All in all, I can say that the experiment was a success. I learned a few things about human interactions while at the same time I learned something about myself. I learned I can indeed be a happy person.