Social Grooming: We Nitpick Because We Care

It doesn’t take much scrolling through Facebook posts to find an inspirational quote superimposed on a serene backdrop to ponder over for a moment or two. One recent post left me pondering a little longer than that: “Actions speak louder than words.” I found myself thinking about this as it relates to the social act of “nitpicking.” (I can’t help myself. I’m a nitpicker!) Animals know this mantra on their own, especially since they can’t actually use words to speak. Primates characteristically groom each other as a way of bonding emotionally, to create a sense of security and also to maintain social order. It’s known as “social grooming.”

Primates continuously, meticulously nitpick! They’re helping each other stay healthy and comfortable by removing bugs from one another—most likely in the form of lice, ticks and fleas. If you think about it, it doesn’t take long to go from “eww” to “aww” when you realize how sweet it is, really.

Social grooming is such a commonplace occurrence you barely notice it happening. Yet there it is every day, and all around us. It could be as simple as picking a stray hair off a friend’s shirt or wiping dirt off a toddler’s face. These loving acts are not necessary for survival, although with each instance we do a little bit of bonding and become reassured that others are looking out for us, however small the gesture.

The more complicated side of grooming finds us hovered over a child’s lice-infested head, painstakingly combing hair from root to tip. For us humans, head lice removal takes social grooming to new heights of showing you care. One trait the various members of our Lice Happens team have in common is the need to nurture.

Usually when we think of grooming, it is like being pampered. We imagine it with a sense of calm and in a pressure-free environment. But head lice can change all that because families can become so overwhelmed with anxiety that it diminishes the emphasis on grooming. The nitpicking is important, of course, but it is also important to comfort the individual suffering from a head lice infestation. That’s where our compulsive traits and knowledge really come in handy—providing that focus when families can’t and helping them get it back.

Nurturing and professional head lice treatment: They go hand-in-hand at Lice Happens. Perhaps this practice of social grooming is what makes my work as a Lice Treatment Specialist so rewarding and fulfilling: the emotional bond.