Saturday, August 6, 2011

Raffles: the scourge of social interaction

You're deep in a conversation, deconstructing and reconstructing a complex subject, when suddenly the dreaded voice floats above the crowd, "We're now starting the raffle". All conversations die a sudden death, social interaction replaced by silence as everyone focuses on the person with the microphone. Neurons associated with greed, probability theory, jealousy and memory of the prizes spring into action. Neurons associated with free thought, dialog, critical thinking and human interaction shut down.

Prizes flow to a few people, while the others become more and more resigned to their prizeless fate as the top pieces pass to undeserving hands. The mood darkens as the final little-desired beads and trinkets are announced, a vain effort at consolation.

The raffle ends. The winners greet each other, since they're now members of the exclusive People Who Win Raffles club. The vast majority of the audience finds excuses to be elsewhere, anywhere, and leaves, all social opportunities quashed by the dark mood engendered by their loss of the Super Cookbook, case of wine or other Desired Object.

Why do potlucks and other events so often have raffles? Do they think their event is so onerous that they need to draw people in with a gimmick? Why can't they spend the effort that went into the raffle to make the event more interesting and find ways of encouraging people to mingle and interact face to face. To actually make them put down their smart phones, stop texting and start talking.

I've come to the point where any event with a raffle makes me cringe. I dread sitting in a crowd of mostly disappointed people, captive to my own expectation of winning something useful combined with my dread of having to accept something useless. Overlay this with brutal probability that predicts I'll likely get nothing and I'm wasting my time. Twenty or more minutes of my life gone, wasted, submerged in lower emotions of greed and envy without even a lousy mug or refrigerator magnet to show for my attendance.

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