Proposal: Butt bumps as a default for physical greetings

As Tim Urban explains in The Great Perils of Social Interaction, greetings are hard.[1]

I’ll be 90 and I still won’t have figured this out. There are different rules for everyone and nothing’s clear—Do I shake my grandfather’s hand or go for the hug? How about my friend’s father? Old friend? New friend? Opposite-sex acquaintance? Longtime work colleague? Sibling’s good friend who I’m meeting for the second time? It’s unbelievably complicated.

And there aren’t just two options you’re choosing from—there’s the high school bro handshake/​backslap douche possibility, there’s the vertical, loose-hand high-five that morphs into a weird springy-finger tension thing as you snap away, there’s even the easy but taking-yourself-really-seriously non-ironic fist pound. And even if you both go for the hug, there’s a question of duration and firmness and who’s in charge of those decisions.

Frankly, I’m embarassed that we still haven’t figured this one out. We’re rationalists, after all. We understand coordination. Aren’t we supposed to WIN?

Yes. Yes we are. I refuse to consider us The Kind That Can’t Cooperate. I refuse to lose to barbarians.

That’s why, today, I am taking action. Instead of sitting on my hands, I shall stand up and do something about this problem.

I propse that, as a default, universal greeting, we adopt the butt bump.

Why? We could instead go with something like “the elbow”...

...but, well, that’s just a little boring. Butt bumps feel like a more fun theoretically sound solution due to a variety of properties they possess.

In everyday situations, they are quick and easy to perform.[2]

If, however, you want to add some flair to it, you can include a namaste.

If you are celebrating an achievement, you can jump, aiming to bump butts in the air.

If you are in a good mood and have your party pants on, you can get a little jiggy.

And of course, if there is ever another pandemic, we’ll be well prepared.

I also predict that, being an unusual form of greeting, they would enhance feelings of ingroup connection. Think about people who have secret handshakes.

Imagine yourself showing up to a meetup for the first time. You see one other person standing there and approach them to say hi.

Eye contact is made. The physical distance between you and them is closing.

You slowly start to swivel your hips, hoping desperately that the other person reciprocates.

Imagine the sense of belonging you’ll feel when they do.

As an actionable next step, assurance contracts seem like the right tool for the job. Please reply with your username to this comment if you agree to the following vow if 100 others agree, and this comment if you agree if 1,000 others agree. If you agree to the former it is implied that you agree to the later.

I {username} vow to, for the next three months, when greeting a person for whom I am reasonably confident to be a rationalist, swivel my hips clockwise in an attempt to initiate a butt bump. If they reciprocate, I will proceed to perform the butt bump. If they do not reciprocate within three seconds, I will unswivel my hips and proceed as I desire.

  1. ↩︎

    And of course, Tim is likely standing on the shoulders of other giants.

  2. ↩︎

    If it seems too “touchy feely”, consider that, as a greeting, Moroccans give one kiss on each cheek together with a handshake.