When I woke up this morning I had a plan: to not purposefully say anything funny all day.
My rational for performing the experiment was this: I had noticed that as summer school has progressed since the beginning of June, I have made more and more jokes in the classroom and with my classmates. Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. (Unless they’re bad jokes but mine weren’t, of course.)
Recently, though, I listened to an interview with Judd Apatow. He talked about how he learned to be funny as a child as a social crutch, of sorts. What he said was that he tried to make his peers laugh because “if you’re laughing, at least I know that you don’t dislike me right then.” For him, making people laugh was a way of constantly reassuring himself that he was still liked, or at least tolerated, by the people around him.
I don’t think I use humor in that way but I certainly derive some return or pleasure from it or otherwise I wouldn’t do it. So, with that idea in mind, I set out to investigate just what role humor plays in my social relationships.
Here’s what I discovered:
(1) It’s hard to avoid humor in everyday conversation. Even if I wasn’t making jokes, other people would make jokes to me and not to continue joking back would have been extremely akward.
(2) I noticed other people (and their humor) more. When I was consciously restraining myself from interrupting class with a comment, I was more aware of other people’s jokes and I appreciated them more. Any competitive element that might have existed was removed because I wasn’t trying to make jokes too.
(3) I felt like I had a lower profile. Whatever else making joke might do, it does draw attention to oneself.Today I felt like I listened more and thought about myself less.
My experiment didn’t turn out to have as dramatic outcome as I expected. I thought I would feel more disconnected from people because I wasn’t making jokes. But, what I discovered is that in person-to-person conversation it is really difficult to avoid joking, facetious comments and good-humored teasing. This isn’t an experiment that I want to do, but I think that if I also avoided in participating in that for a day I would feel alienated from the people around me.
Simply giving up joke-making in class, though, didn’t make me feel disconnected. In one sense, it made me feel more connected because I wasn’t constantly distinguishing myself from the rest of the class by calling to attention to myself through joking. I was, moreso, just one of the crowd. I don’t think I’ll continue the experience past today, though, because class just wasn’t as much fun, for me at least. I don’t know if anyone from the Ed program reads the blog or even noticed a difference today (this is a somewhat egotistical experiment, after all, which assumes that I have a significant impact on the class environment) but I would be curious to find out their opinion.
What do you think, reader? Do you consciously use humor in social interactions? Have you ever done any amateur sociology experimenting yourself? Would you?