August 23, 2021

How I’m Using the Power of Social Connection for Good.

I’m the catch and release person for office spiders.

Every job I have ever had, I have explained, “If you promise not to kill it, I promise I will take it away.” I don’t know how I managed to “social engineer” these different groups of people, but they have all complied with my request amazingly enough. I have a dedicated paper cup labeled with a Sharpie for these transactions. If someone sees a spider, they will come and get me; I guess because the option of not killing it is on the table.

Sometimes I wonder how this social engineering even works. In the middle of August, I went to a wedding and determined that my monochromatic black wardrobe didn’t have anything suitable for a summer wedding. Besides, you don’t wear black to a wedding. Black is for funerals.

In true eco-girl fashion, I went to a thrift store and found a cute lavender flowered dress. I’m 5’3” or 160 cm tall and the dress was way too long, but it was cute, and I could hem it. I stayed up late one night, pinned the dress up, and shortened it quite a bit. It hit above the ankles in just the right spot and I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Social connection

When I went to this New York wedding, I was the only person among the wedding attendees not wearing black—even the bride’s mother was wearing black. It occurred to me that my own cultural background, based in the southern part of the United States, did not apply on Long Island.

I definitely looked out of place not following their social norms, and I have to admit I felt uncomfortable with not having chosen one of the many little black dresses that I own. I’m not going to lie, I was also annoyed that I spent a good bit of time on this project when I didn’t have to do that. At core, humans are social creatures, and we want to belong or fit in with the group. Our compliance with the social contract, in some cases, is key to our survival.

As I was musing over this whole concept during the wedding reception, I wondered if it was possible to use this thing built into us all and exploit it for good. For example, some sites I work in have a social expectation to recycle and use dishes from home. They don’t even blink when I ask where the recycling can is located. Other places have an office stash of disposable cutlery and plates. People tend to just go along with whatever is there.

But I am at core a sh*t stirrer. I bring my lunch bag with the llamas on it, dishes and all, explain that I can actually taste plastic, and it is better for the planet when I wash my real dishes. The excuses range from “it’s just one cup” (what is the yearly consumption for the entire office?) to “I don’t feel like washing dishes all the time” (really? That’s all you got?). I can tell as we are talking that they are either carefully considering what I do, or they are completely dismissive, but there is a reaction.

In my mind, I have planted a seed—the concept that there is a better way. Maybe at some point, the seed will grow into a new social norm. I’ll leave a dishcloth under the sink just in case.

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