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My Social Experiment

I subscribe to a newsletter for photographers, which gives helpful instruction on writing.  One day, the newsletter invited us to sign up for some Super Secret Missions via e-mail. Intrigued, I signed up, not knowing what I'd gotten myself into.

The first mission was pretty straightforward, to thank someone we had never explicitly thanked for specific, meaningful ways they have influenced us. I chose to thank a friend of mine, Dan, who was a mentor to me early on when I was learning photography, and who continues to be a great friend today.

The second mission, though, was baffling. And terrifying. And embarrassing. We were to wear something very odd out in public where at least two strangers would see us. And she didn't tell us why we were doing this. The deadline was set about five days away, so there was plenty of time to mull it over (and procrastinate and get plenty of butterflies about it).

(On a side note, I've re-written my About page, which you can read here. In it, I talk a bit about the fact that I'm an introvert.)

For this mission, we could wear makeup in a strange way, or wear our glasses upside down, or wear a cape. We could carry an umbrella indoors when there was no sign of rain. We just had to wear something odd and in public. And we were not allowed to explain to anyone what we were doing. After much deliberation, I choose to wear this:

social experiment
social experiment

I love these toe socks, by the way, but I would never wear them with sandals! I thought I'd get it over with quickly by walking into the Walgreens down the road. As I noticed all the cars in front of Walgreens as I drove past, my courage took a nosedive. That's when I remembered the gas station a bit farther from my house. I really did not want to see someone I knew. Walking into the Valero, I was very nervous and embarrassed.  Not a soul was in sight as I sneaked over to the candy aisle for some gum.

That's when the employee came out of the back.

She approached me from the end of the aisle, greeted me, and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her look at my feet and do a double-take. She did not laugh (though she did smile), nor did she point or ask me why the heck I was wearing those funny socks with sandals. She did, however, tell the other employee about it. (I know this because as I was about to walk to the cash register to pay, he came out from behind the counter to take a gander at my feet.) By this time, I was holding my laughter in like a beauty contestant holds her stomach in during the swimsuit competition. I could not make eye contact with the guy at the register, either. After paying for my gum, I quickly exited the store, got in the car, laughed for a good couple of minutes, and removed my toe socks.

The explanation came in the following day's newsletter. The purpose of this silliness was to prove a point. People's reactions in the store really weren't a big deal. They did not point, laugh out loud, or make fun of me. The newsletter stated that we care a lot more about embarrassing things than anyone else does. People are all wrapped up in themselves, after all. They don't have time to give much thought to strangers.

So, next time you realize you had a piece of spinach stuck in your front tooth when you stopped in at the drugstore on the way home from work? Probably, nobody noticed or cared.

The other thing I hadn't expected about this exercise? It was actually liberating. I cared about what people would say or do, but when they didn't say or do much of anything, I was delighted and relieved.

I am free to take little risks sometimes without so much fear about what people will think.

Have you ever done something like this? Post about it below! Want to try it? I'd love to read about what happened.

Thanks for reading!