Small talk and other small things / by mirena

We do not need to communicate novel ideas in order to engage socially.  Often we use language to reinforce our current standing in the world and to reaffirm having something in common with others.  One of the great things about reddit is that I found out how many idiots just like me are out there which was very reassuring. I am saying that about reddit with affection as I have learned a lot about the world and myself through that little social media folly.  

/u/Prince_Jellyfish on the purpose of small talk. (

[–]Prince_Jellyfish 2689 points 6 months ago*x3: This will get buried, but I'll say it anyway in hopes that someone will find it useful:

Misunderstanding the purpose of "small talk." I have friends with poor social skills who say they 'hate' small talk, and find it pointless. I suspect some even consider themselves superior to people who engage in 'pointless chatter'.

They misunderstand the point of small talk is not explicitly in what is discussed, but in the subtext. The subtext of nearly all small talk between strangers is essentially: "hey person who is externally different than me: we are fundamentally the same! We are both people that experience life in the same ways. You're one way, I'm a different way; but there's many ways in which we experience life that are similar."

"Some weather we're having." "Yeah, boy, it sure got cold quick."

This is not an exchange of information about the weather; it is two humans drawing closer by emphasizing that both of their lives are impacted simultaneously by forces outside their control, and secondarily that they live in the same geographical area.

"Just got back from a few days in West Texas." "Oh, I drove through Lubbock a few years back. Real good brisket." "Yeah! It's amazing, right?"

Oh, you and I have different clothes, hair, and religious beliefs; but we've had a similar experience to which we reacted a similar way.

"Did you catch the game this weekend?" "Man, what a finish!" We've never met before, but we both invest in sports as a way to safely express emotion in a public space by using the triumphs and heartbreaks of athletic competition as a proxy for our experience; and we both experienced those same feelings together yesterday, even though we hadn't even met.

Advanced examples: "Did you catch the game this weekend?" "Oh, gotta tell you: I'm a Giants fan." "No! That's criminal! How can you support those bastards!?" "Well my grandpa was a fan, he passed it down to me" OR "well, growing up, I never followed sports. But one day I decided to follow baseball, and I fell in love with the game. Lived in San Fransisco at the time.."

You and I like different teams, but we both like teams and so are the same.

"Have you ever listened to the NPR show The Moth?" "No, I never have. Should I check it out?"

Person two is saying: even though we can't bond over this shared experience, even though we've only just met, I trust you with my time and attention. I'm interested in things you find important and take you seriously.

Solidarity talk:

Fresh off the presses - a great thread on reddit that shuttered my own Tuesday feelings of self-importance. If atoms are 99% 'empty space', how big would the universe be if we compressed every atom down to it's most space efficient arrangement, essentially leaving no space between particles?:

"...We are more like disturbances in the cosmic pool of probability and causation.." literally blew my Tuesday mind, I am gonna try and make it to the weekend without going insane.