No, not really. But I have long been intrigued by the act of smoking—particularly the social aspect attached to it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about technology and my growing fear that it is (among other things) crippling our ability to interact with other people. People nowadays have increasingly less opportunities for face-to-face, human-to-human interaction. The reasons for this are widespread, from improved technology in the form of self-checkouts at grocery stores, to the fact that many of us now have our primary friend groups spread out across the world, so that social media, etc. are our primary means of communication.
I fear that in a technology centered economy, people are inevitably going to lose at least some sense of how to interact with other people. Sure, the argument can be made that we are becoming more social and we can interact with exponentially more people because of improved technologies, but the opportunities for real face-to-face interaction seem to be declining.
In the middle of all of this, however, I find that one of America’s finest cash crops continues to aid in churning out some damn fine socialites. Now, I’m not a smoker. I still get a headache like a 15-year-old boy if I attempt to smoke one down to the filter (different story if I’ve been drinking), and I still want to strangle the guy smoking at the top of a set of 144 stairs near my house when I run up them—not what the body wants when you can’t catch your breath.
BUT, I do find that smoking is one of those activities that generally contribute to a larger set of social skills that seem to be waning like an old moon.
People who smoke have a reason to step outside at any point with anyone else and have a conversation. It creates an instant connection with someone, and a perfect opportunity to shoot the shit. A good friend of mine has told me many times that this is why he smokes—or at least why he started. Doesn’t matter who it’s with: Having a hard time hearing someone at a bar? “Hey, lets step out for a smoke.” Need a break at work? “Hey let’s step outside for a smoke.” Need to smoke? “Hey let’s step outside…” Ok, you get the point.
With fewer opportunities to connect with someone face-to-face, smoking is hanging around as one sure-fire way to do so. I hope I’m not advocating too much for a drug that is responsible for a plethora of health related issues, but I think the issue of decreasing human interaction is very real.
The skills that one develops with random peer interaction is invaluable—which I will delightfully refer to as the ability to bullshit. The ability to bullshit about the weather or sports, and the ability to share stories about yourself and actually listen to the other person lends itself to a plethora of other abilities. Think of a salesman: if someone immediately cuts to a sale script, you might find yourself much less inclined to buy their product than if you feel as though you’ve made some sort of connection with that person. Or consider having to go to a meeting at work: when someone opens up with a bunch of bullshit, it not only makes the entire meeting a little more lighthearted and fun, it also serves to put the group at ease.
There are many aspects of the art of bullshitting that are important, and will most likely continue to be. I know that there are more ways than smoking for people to hone in on these skills that are so crucial to socialization, but smoking is certainly a good one.
I don’t really know what this article has accomplished, but at the very least, I hope that guy who smokes at the top of the stairs between 18th Street and Pius Street in Pittsburgh is reading this. And I hope he stops. Please, do yourself a favor and go smoke with someone else to further develop your social skills.