Admit it, our lives are built on it. Even online. After weeks of snow, after every storm, there are still hundreds of pics saying "look at my snow". When we get to work, we say how's the weather by you, rough ride? Plenty of little bit all day - like How are you? (when you really don't care) and have a great day. That new haircut looks wonderful on you.
Why do we do it? Or we just mindless automatons who just spout out the words because we have to or is it something more. I think it is a little more. That meaningless chatter is the grease that holds it all together. We're social animals and we all like to be acknowledged in some way. Those simple phrases you offer do that and open the way for more. We all seem to take it badly if we are ignored after we say hi.
So it opens doors, acknowledges others and makes them feel good. It also fills those awkward silences I tried to explain this to my daughter who is shy but trying to reach out. She was surprised that the guy she liked didn't get turned off by her asking "So, how are you today" because it was so cliche. Even works for GenY.
Hey it even works when you don't want to talk. So you offer the grouch in 2 cubicles over a (forced) smile and how's your day when you walk past her desk, if only because it keep you from strangling her but you know later you will need her help and you might as well not start trouble. Maybe she is the who holds the keys to storage room and you know you need them.
Does the internet remove the need for small talk? Actually it just adds to it. Pictures of lunch, silly updates are all more small talk. The like button is the smile you give back. How many did you click like on friends' baby pictures even though they post one daily but you know it makes her feel good. We give a little and we get some back.
It comes down to the small talk leads to real talking, real laughs and smooths the bumps on the road. It is like the soothing lotion to hold down the rough patches and to lead to more. So next time you think it is just inane blather, think about what happens when you do just stare and say nothing.