Allow me to reenact a segment of a phone call to my desk at work:
Me: “Hi! How are you?”
Caller: “Fine. How are you?”
Me: “I’m good. How are you?”
Plus any indication of a sincere interest in her state of being is thwarted when it becomes clear that “how are you” has become a reflex. In the moment, it’s equal parts embarrassing and hilarious. In retrospect, it’s a little scary. What else do we say (or do) so much that it loses meaning (or we lose awareness of it)?