An Emotional Look At Gratitude At BC

Josh Coyne, CSOM ’14, has made quite a few members of the Boston College community shed tears in front of their computers the past two days. Coyne posted the video “A Happy Little Thing Called ‘Thank You'” on YouTube yesterday, and it’s already accumulated more than 1,000 views. In the video, Coyne has 30 BC students undergo an experiment in gratitude, with a surprise twist. Watch the video above, and read more about the experiment from Coyne here:

The Heights: Where’d you get the idea for the project?

Coyne: Interestingly enough, the idea of the thesis is rooted in a series of roadblocks. I didn’t want to do a traditional business topic for my thesis (though I was expected to, being in CSOM), but had trouble understanding where I could add value to the research landscape among topics I enjoyed like happiness or spirituality or purposeful living, etc. I also couldn’t find a faculty member in CSOM who would be my thesis advisor given that the topic was outside of traditional CSOM disciplines. Finally, I didn’t know what to do for the experiment to evoke a genuine, raw form of gratitude from participants.

After hours of conversations with numerous individuals, I was able to overcome these roadblocks and arrived at my thesis idea: could gratitude affect college students’ stress, self-love, and happiness? The idea of the experiment actually came from an old video on happiness I remembered watching that asked participants to write about and then call someone whom they were grateful for, and I thought it would be great to take the experiment to BC’s campus.

Believe it or not, the video was never an intention of mine. I fully planned to do the experiment with 30 BC students without any cameras, particularly since my smart phone just broke so I had no mechanism to even try to film with. It was only after talking to a few individuals prior to my experiment that I realized that it may be cool to film individuals’ reactions in the experiment. Luckily, I was able to borrow a friend’s camera and brought it with me to every interview. The video is simply a culmination of all the different interviews with participants over two weeks.

The Heights: What role is the video playing in your thesis?

Coyne: Grade-wise, it plays no role at all, unfortunately. It was more a project for myself. Thesis-wise, it became a sort of validation of my project and my intentions with it. I can remember trying to recruit people to be in the video, telling them that I was “trying to make them happier,” and they were so confused because I couldn’t tell them how. Can’t imagine how I must have sounded. But I hope this video is able to do the same with those who watched it—remind us of some of the small things that do matter, the things we often forget about that can go a long way.

The Heights: Did you do the experiment yourself?

Coyne: That’s funny you mention that, because a few of my friends actually tried to get me to do it. Unfortunately, not only did I already know what the experiment entailed (meaning I couldn’t do it anyway), but I also didn’t really want to be in the experiment. I wanted to showcase others. Everyone who I talked to had a story that could make your heart stop, and the video was simply my attempt to share those stories with the world – this interview should really be for those guys. Those are the ones who really made it so special. I just let viewers see what I saw.

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