Sunday, February 24, 2013

Provo Rant #1: Happy Valley Does Not Equate Happy People

There's an irony that exists on BYU campus. Well, I'm sure there are a few, but this one in particular has caught my attention.

Walking across campus on my way home the other day, I noticed how many scowls present themselves in the faces of people you pass. Most of the people that passed by me seemed to stare more intently at the sidewalk or their feet as they crossed a stranger's path. No smile, no hello, no head nod, there is no acknowledgment of the existence of a passerby. There even seems to be a concerted effort to actively ignore others and avoid potential social contact. And the scowls so often seen on the faces of BYU students are not necessarily just relaxed visages, but often effortful, though slight, distortions of the human face - a warning to discourage any person presumptuous enough to strike up conversation or even a warm greeting. (There are, of course, a few exceptions.)

There are a few reasons why this phenomenon might be considered ironic, one being that the area where I now live is often referred to as "Happy Valley." If this valley is indeed so happy, then where are the happy people? Perhaps they heard I was coming...

Another source of irony stems from considering the values claimed as part of this great institution. One of the greatest of those values taught among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) world-wide is that of charity and kindness to our fellow men and women- to reach out and uplift others. It seems slightly ironic, then, that a stranger to our values and culture, walking through BYU campus, would be more likely to encounter a frown or a look the other way.

Changes in weather don't seem to affect the happiness of BYU students, either. I first noticed this phenomenon when I started last fall- when the weather was much more pleasant than it is currently.

I have also had friends (most of them coming from southern states, interestingly) who have had similar experiences. Where is the friendly, neighborly West?

1 comment:

  1. I noticed this while I was at BYU. I always blamed ipods and cell phones, but there were plenty of technology-free people that stared at the sidewalk and refused to acknowledge anyone's existence. Come on, people! Why so serious?

    So I made a point of it to smile and say "hello," even to the tops of people's heads. No one can suck the happy out of me!

    But don't hate on BYU/Provo too much. I love the place.