Archive for category Social Norm Violation
So there is a social norm in movie theaters. If it is not a sold out movie theater where there is plenty of available seating you NEVER sit next to a stranger. There is a social norm to sit at least one seat away from the stranger next to you. I broke this social norm on accident last weekend. My husband and I went to a movie and were excited to see it not full and a good seat was available next to some teenagers in the middle. I sat down a seat away and things started feeling uncomfortable when the other girls started looking and talking about me. Then, a boy came and took his seat again right next to me! He had just stepped out for a moment. I felt SO uncomfortable as I sat right next to a complete stranger. I felt uncomfortable because there were so many other open seats. This guy probably thought I was a weirdo. I told my husband about the situation and how I would be paranoid the entire movie if I stayed braking this social norm. Finally we ended up pretending to get popcorn and moving to another seat. This seams like a small social norm to break, but I am a shy person so that was enough to make me feel the social repercussions from violating that norm.
Most people have a bubble or a personal space that they do not like violated. I would definately include myself in this category. I was really hoping to make a video of my encounters, but like a typical college student my roomates and I never could find the time to get together and do it, so I did it on my own with out a camera.
Typically when you meet a person you shake hands. Jerry Seinfeld explains this social norm perfectly so take a look at the video.
So with these handshake norms, I put some to the test to see how I felt and how the others reacted. I experimented with people who I already knew and random people that I met for the first time. Typically I would introduce myself and offer to shake their hands, or just say hi and stick my hand out. I would try my best not to let them go until our conversation was done. At first it was hard trying to act completely confortable and come up with things to ask them while trying to note my behavior as well as their behavior, but it got a little easier after doing it a few times.
If there were other people around, most would look around them to see if anyone else though it a little strange that I had not let go of their hand. This is a perfect example of some of the things we have talked about in class. Oftem times people will look to those around them for information (conformity, social learning, helping and perceived emergency, etc.) It was very hard for them to focus on the conversation I was trying to have with them, and in some cases some people forcefully pulled away.
It was kind of fun to violate a social norm, but I can imagine that it wouldnt be as fun if I was the one receiving the experiment.
Social Norm Violation by Tatiana Herman
I go to the gym about two to five times a week and have been doing so for the last two years. It’s an unwritten rule that you exercise only in attire made specifically for exercise. This includes sneakers, sweatpants, basketball shorts, yoga pants, baggy shirts, tank tops, and sports bras.
I decided to violate this norm by wearing my sunday clothes to the gym. I wore a nice blouse, a skirt, and yes- heels. I also had my hair curled and unrestrained. I proceeded to walk and then jog (lightly for safety reasons) on the treadmill. After a few minutes of that, I walked over to the machines and used the ones that I could manage while remaining modestly covered by my skirt. I finally left fifteen minutes later as I couldn’t take the embarrassment any longer (and I was worried about injuring myself due to restricted range of motion).
As I went through this ordeal, I was hard-pressed to make eye contact with anyone. I couldn’t bring myself to look at anyone directly at first and just relied on my peripheral vision. Some people were either so absorbed in what they were doing or trying to be polite that they didn’t stare at me. However, there were also plenty of strange looks that came my way from other people. In fact, for a moment as I was stepping off the treadmill, one of the trainers looked like he was about to come over and say something but then changed his mind when I got off. I eventually looked at someone and they just gave me a bewildered look and looked around to see if anyone else was seeing the same thing.
I normally pride myself on not embarrassing easily and on not engaging in behavior that would elicit that emotion in the first place. However, this experience made me realize that as open-minded as I try to be, I have certain norms imbedded firmly in myself. By the time I left I was really glad I’d chosen a location that I don’t visit normally. While I am grateful for this eye-opening experience, I don’t plan on ever doing anything like that again.
My social norm violation was actually something I did on accident. I had just gotten done with a photoshoot and I needed to pick something up from the store…so instead of going home and showering, I went with the same hair and make-up I had on for the shoot.
No joke, it looked something like this…. except with WAY more lipstick and HUGE fake eyelashes. Yikes.
So I stroll into the store not really thinking anything of it, until I get stared at. A whole lot. Then I realized that people probably legitimately thought I did my hair and makeup like that since my outfit was completely normal. My favorite kinds of stares are the ones you get from two people mid-conversation who stop what they’re saying just to look at you, but try to do it in a very discreet manner. This one guy did a quadruple-take. Man, did that make me feel good!
Breaking this norm violation at Smith’s in Provo was an awesome experience. It made me realize that we can be caught off guard by someone who doesn’t look a certain way SO easily. Something as small as hair and make-up caused a scene! I am so aware of how I look at others, now. Allow others to embrace their individuality.
Not going to lie, it was pretty entertaining to see the reactions, though. I’m so glad I accidentally stepped into this situation.
When searching for an idea of things that could be done to break a social norm my thoughts went to something that is the “least risky”. I had heard stories of things people had done and although many were funny. I didn’t have the desire to ruffle as many feathers as they did. So when seeking a normal situation I came across the wilk and the terrace where everyone eats lunch and decided this would be a great spot to do it. Seeing that most people sit in groups of friends I thought it would be breaking a social norm to go sit at a table with a few people on it and talk to myself out loud so they could hear.
After sitting down at the table after each bite of food I would give a recap of the bite. Things like “wow, the cucumber really showed in that bite” and many other sayings revolved around my food and how it tasted. The looks I received were not very kind as many looked and pretty much scowled at me. I was clearly breaking a social norm of keeping to myself in a group I didnt know anyone in and it was not going over well. I did this for my meal and the people left at about the same time I was finishing my meal. They didn’t say anything to me directly but the awkwardness they felt was obvious in their expressions and how they would talk to each other after I got there compared with before I got there.
It felt very weird to break a social norm. I would say the weird feelings were more in general as to what was happening rather than the specific act that I was doing. I didn’t really enjoy my time breaking the norm but it did help me realize that it is not that big of a deal to do something different. I did something I would never do by choice and if I saw someone doing I would think was very weird and no one even said a word to me. They did harmless rude things like glances and such but nothing that actually mattered. Overall it was a good experience, planning it made me nervous and anxious to see how it would play out but now that its done I realized it was no big deal. While I don’t plan on being a regular social norm breaker I now realize if I need to do it occasionally its no bigs.
Sidewalks are fairly useful things. They lay out a path for which we can walk safely. Sometimes, we choose not to use the path laid out for us, but when we do, a strange thing happens. There is a universal and unspoken agreement that you stay on your side of the sidewalk, and I’ll stay on mine. And, whether you have noticed it or not, people tend to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. When someone breaks that agreement, confusion ensues.
For two weeks I walked on the left side of the sidewalk and tried to see how people reacted. Most of the time I had someone else with me to observe the passerby’s reaction, and the responses I got were interesting. Most of the people would be walking towards me, look confused, and then just move for me. Some people would walk past, then look back with a baffled look on their faces as if to say “how dare she do that”. Once my roommate even gave me a weird look and asked me why I was being so weird. And then there were the few people who I had to have a battle of the wills with (I only lost twice).
At the end of the two weeks, I concluded that people get terribly confused and sometimes even angry if you walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk. There is definitely a mindset of “my side, your side” with a line in the middle that you shouldn’t try to cross.
One of the interesting norms of our society is how people should dress in given situations. Factors such as modesty, weather, flamboyancy, gender, and many others, all contribute towards what is ‘appropriate’ attire. So, for my social norm violation, I decided to disobey the rules of dress.
When me and my friends went out for dinner, I donned a Greek toga instead of ‘normal clothes’. I wore an over the shoulder greek toga with gladiator sandals. I also had a leaf crown, though I did not wear it the entire time (it was uncomfortable). This outfit was slightly immodest, too breezy for how cold it was, and incredibly flamboyant/out of place in the restaurant. In other words, it was a clear violation of the norms of dress.
A lot of people stared. Okay, everyone stared. Everyone who saw me shot me a questioning glance. This sometimes was followed by a chuckle, sometimes a high-five or congratulations on my clothing, or a look of disgust. Some people seemed so perplexed that they just couldn’t stop staring, with no visible reaction at all. Most of all, I was surprised by the amount of complements I got. Many people said they liked my outfit. It was not exactly the ‘violation’ I expected–I expected it to be a little more controversial.
Despite the majority of positive feedback I received, I still felt a bit uncomfortable. I have never been a big fan of many eyes on me at once. So I felt a bit hot and out of sorts throughout the evening. Every so often I would let out a nervous laugh when given a compliment. However, I eventually enjoyed it. I may not be an attention seeker, but I definitely enjoy going against the norm. It was hard to think up what to do for this project because I so often go out of my way to be ‘different’ (in a good way, I hope). I am a low social monitor, so I probably violate norms quite often. But this was such a big, intentional, and odd display, that it helped me feel that discomfort I used to feel when I was younger. When violating norms meant more to me. It got me thinking that we all have our comfort zones, and unless we push past them, violating a norm won’t bother you much. But this did push past my comfort zone, and I could not help but feel a little embarrassed.
The elevator is a modern invention designed to quickly and efficiently transport people from one floor to another within a physical structure such as a building. Any other purpose, besides that of transportation, is basically non-existent. However, as I sat pondering on the blessed creation that the elevator is to us in this modern day, I began thinking of other uses it might have for the general public. After some consideration as to the extent of its utility, I resolved to using it as a study hall.
As I walked into the HFAC (Harris Fine Arts Center), I headed to the north elevator and, finding it empty, I stepped inside, sat down, pulled out my laptop and other studying materials, and began to…well…study. Ah, but wait! My headphones! I promptly took these out as well, and made myself more comfortable on the elevator’s cushy floor. As other people got on and off, although I did not look directly at them, I most certainly noticed that they noticed me seated on the elevator’s floor. One certain fellow stepped on at the second floor with his cello and rode with me up to the fifth floor, all the while half looking at me and half staring at the ceiling, so as to distract himself from the awkwardness of my presence.
Overall, the experience of sitting on the floor of the northern HFAC elevator was, especially at first, embarrassing and uncomfortable, but after some 25 minutes, I felt right at home. I especially enjoyed the young man that couldn’t quite keep from noticing my being there. Perhaps the best part of all, however – I finally got some good quality studying done!
As most of us know, but don’t often think about it, there is a social norm about personal space — don’t enter into someone’s personal space uninvited. So I’m taking an introductory photography class next term, and so I needed to go to the HFAC and ask around about what’s required for cameras. I found out roughly where I needed to go, and lurked about for a little bit, waiting for a stranger (a male—it would’ve been awkward if it was a girl, because I’m married!) to ask for directions.
The subject appeared behind me, walking the other direction, so I called out to him and began walking up to him and closing the distance between us. As I was asking for directions, I kept walking right up to him and eventually got within a foot of his body, but on his left side. When I finished asking my question, he paused for a moment, and he seemed kinda frozen—like he didn’t wanna look at me or make any sudden movements. After his extended pause and freeze, he walked up the hallway and pointed out a lab to me where I could ask someone else for directions. I thanked him and left his personal space.
I had to work at keeping a straight face and not smiling while pressing upon him. Like I said, he seemed kinda frozen for a moment, and (typically male) didn’t make eye-contact. Afterwards, I tried to approach the person I was directed to up close, but he was sitting down, and I wasn’t brave enough to squat down or get on my knees and sidle right on up next to him. At least with the first guy I was able to move closer in, pretending like I was trying to look down his arm to see who he was pointing out. I didn’t mind being that awkward. If I had to choose between saying something I think is funny that no one laughs at later and doing something I think is awkward that gets laughed about later, I’d rather do something I think is awkward.
I think in our culture it might seem a little strange to offer and accept food from strangers.
At least this is the impression I got one day when I offered some peanuts I was eating.
I know that I hate it when I am sitting in class hungry and the person next to me is chowing down! I was eating some peanuts during class and simply offered some to the people sitting around me. Because they did not know me perhaps they were confused or wondering what was wrong with them. I just wanted to politely share. Maybe it is the norm to politely turn down food. (Whereas in South America or Latin cultures it is extremely rude to turn down food.) I think because I have had a taste of both that I am in the middle but at the time when everyone turned it down I felt silly!
I think it is conforming though. There was one time when I offered everyone around me and everyone laughed and said no.
There was another time when I offered my food and after one person accepted, those who had politely turned my food away asked for a bite.
I think when people got more comfortable around me then they were more likely to accept the food.
The social norm I decided to violate for this assignment involves entering another individual’s apartment. Typically one knocks on their door and waits either for someone to open the door or yell “Come in!” before they enter the apartment. I decided that I was going to enter an apartment without knocking beforehand, but acting like I was comfortable enough with the inhabitants that I can just make myself at home.
I decided to break this social norm with my friend Alan’s apartment (to ensure that I did not get arrested for entering a stranger’s home). I had only been to his apartment once with my other roommates for an FHE activity, so it was obvious that I was not a frequent-enough visitor to be comfortable enough to simply enter whenever I wanted.
When I approached his door, I was worried about what would happen after I entered. His blinds were closed so I could not tell if he was even home or if I would be entering on his roommates who I rarely talked to. After standing outside his door for an extra minute or two, I summoned enough courage and finally entered.
As soon as I had entered the room was silent. It seemed like his roommates were in the middle of a conversation and had no intention of continuing it when I was present. After a few long seconds had passed I asked them if Alan was home, which luckily he was. One roommate left to get him and I was left with the other who still had a surprised look on his face that I was still in the living room. He actually seemed quite annoyed now that I reflect on the experience. As soon as Alan entered, I made up a question that I “had” to ask him and quickly departed the awkward apartment.
Throughout the whole experience I felt awkward and ashamed of what I had done. I had no idea that such a small action of knocking before I enter an apartment could have such a severe consequence. Later that night I explained the situation to Alan and I hope that he passed the information from this assignment on to his roommates so that my reputation can be salvaged.
When this assignment was assigned, I was dreading it. I am typically shy by nature, but I have already had to do this once before in a previous sociology class. We had to violate five social norms of eating in the cougar eat. The experience was not as bad as I expected, and the people that were around me were actually very nice. One experience in particular blew me away. I went up to a perfect stranger and asked him if he would mind me having a bite of everything on his plate. I expected him to look at me like I was crazy, but he kindly smiled at me and offered me his sandwhich. I was even more embarrased and quickly explained that I was doing this for a class and that I really didn’t want a bite of his sandwhich. In relaying that experience to some friends they said that he was probably an exception because he was a guy, I am at BYU, and that I probably asked too nicely. So, in order to see if I could have a different experience, I attempted this same act on a girl, in the food court of the mall, without smiling.
I went up to a girl sitting by herself at the food court at University Mall and very abruptly asked if I could have a bite of her pizza. The girl looked like she was in her late teen years. She gave me the strangest look, and before I could say anything else she grabbed her food and quickly walked away, looking back over her shoulder to make sure that I wasn’t following her!
This experience was much different than my first attempt. It was so embarrassing for me to violate this norm. I felt so uncomfortable and left the mall immediately after. The girl probably thought I was not all mentally there. It is amazing the power of norms, and how these norms really do dictate our decisions and actions. This is not a norm that I wish to violate again.
Social norms are behaviors that are expected within society. When these behaviors are demonstrated in public people look on them with acceptance and satisfaction. When they are not people get confused and become annoyed.
I violated a social norm by dressing up in a skirt, nice blouse, and nice dress shoes, instead of active wear, and going for a run at the BYU indoor track. I headed over to the indoor track early in the evening and, carrying my purse with me, ran around the track. Lucky for me, there was a basketball sports camp going on at that moment, with hundreds of kids and dozens of BYU basketball players and coaches. As I ran around the track in my dressy outfit and carrying my purse, I got very strange looks and a few laughs. It was very uncomfortable and I could not help but laugh at how ridiculous I must have looked and at how I felt, which was very uncomfortable.
That was my experience violating a social norm.
People take refuge in their shopping trips. It is a time to be focused solely on the task at hand as well as the few people that might be in your company. There is a strong norm where you do not interact with other shoppers. We even go so far as to avoid eye contact of others and in essence ignore their existence entirely.
So naturally, I had to break this norm. While on a shopping trip at City Creek, I spent some quality time dancing all around others that were shopping and breaching their personal space. Some people tried to ignore me while others weren’t quite sure how to act. As some people made eye contact with their friends they were with and gestured with a head nod over to me, I felt slightly awkward and stupid, which is a rare feeling for me. A few people appeared to be unphased, but the majority of shoppers were visibly uncomfortable.
Doing this made it clear to me how strongly people abide by different social norms.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that sharing is caring. However, sharing is not always caring; sometimes people would rather not share. Especially when it’s items that they specifically selected from aisles of shopping marts. It is a social norm that you don’t go shopping from other people’s carts. Violation of this norm can sometimes end violently (for example the fights that break out on Black Friday). Luckily, when I violated this norm, it produced annoyance rather than anger.
I decided to violate this social norm in Walmart. My thought process behind choosing Walmart is that there are so many weird people at Walmart, I might be able to blend in a little bit. I violated this norm by selecting a woman in the shampoo section and asking for an item in her cart. I saw a nice looking older lady and decided that she would be my target. I walked up and asked if I could take her milk. She looked like a nice grandma that would easily give up her fat free milk…oh how I was wrong. She gave me the weirdest look and said, “Um…no. Why do you think I would give my milk to you??” Yes. Not only does aging bring wisdom, but it also brings sass.
I could tell that my violation of a norm made her feel uncomfortable and annoyed. Little did she know how uncomfortable I felt violating the norm. I hated every second of it, and I hated that she turned me down! I can now clearly see that violating social norms has consequences for both parties.
In our culture, it is typically impolite to constantly interrupt someone when that person is talking. Doing so may be considered rude and even selfish. So what happened when I chose to interrupt those who attempted to have a conversation not just with me but even around me for an entire day? That’s right. All day I interrupted people who were having conversations. I started out with those who were talking with me. They would get a sentence or two into what they were trying to say, then I would interrupt with a semi-relevant comment that turned into something completely off topic. Those people tended to get back on subject when it was once again their turn. However, after the fourth interruption, the majority of people gave up trying to hold a conversation. Towards the end of the day, I also began interrupting other people’s conversations. For example, I got home and my roommates were discussing dinner, and I immediately popped in. This was not as bothersome at first, but by the end of the night when I had interrupted every conversation they attempted to have, they went for a walk.
The common initial response to being interrupted was understanding. People understand that others want to get a word in, and I think in our culture, that is alright. However, once being interrupted became a pattern, frustration began to fume, and people left the conversation as quickly as possible. I initially felt uncomfortable violating the norm simply because it was rude, and I genuinely am interested in what others have to say to me. I apologized the next day to all those I interrupted and even offended, and they were very understanding.
For my social norm violation I had a lot of ideas: wearing blooded and torn clothes and asking people if they’ve seen my pet Velociraptor, using the boys restroom, etc.
However, I wanted to violate a norm in a way which was very subtle and not so over the top. So I decided to bring two of the Harry Potter Puppet pals on campus with me!
(If you don’t know what a “Harry Potter Puppet Pal” is then watch this video)
My goal was to act as casual as possible, like it was no big deal that I had a puppet on my hand. I figured that if I acted like nothing was out of place then other people would do that as well.
I brought them to class with me and then afterwards I walked around on campus asking people, “Will you take a picture of us?” This was really funny because EVERY TIME that I asked that, the person would say ,”Sure.” and then look around for other people. Then they would look at the puppet on my hand and then look at me with a really confused look on their face.
At first I felt really self-conscious and had my sunglasses on and ear buds in. After a while I relaxed and just didn’t care anymore and I took off my sunglasses and ear buds and just walked around smiling. I find that there was a sense of freedom in not caring what strangers thought. Carrying a toy around made me really miss when I was a child and I would make a doll from a bunch of grass or a grenade from a seed pod and played freely (with sound effects) in public. When a full grown adult is doing this kind of behavior it isn’t a huge norm violation or elicits a big response but it still catches people off guard because adults are supposed to be more mature and self-censoring.
Personal space is an unwritten courtesy that most everyone dutifully respects. We each have boundaries- that if crossed- seem almost like an attack(depending on the severity of the violation). Our personal “bubbles” are a safe-zone- a place that is entered only by our invitation. Keeping a comfortable amount of distance between ourselves and strangers when possible, is something that is understood and followed by almost any civilized American. I say “American,” because this norm of personal space may be unique to Americans. Other cultures may not have the same expectations when it comes to personal space.
I didn’t set out to break this particular social norm- but the situation presented itself and I grabbed it. One Sunday my boyfriend and I decided to spend our sunday afternoon outside at Rock Canyon park. We drove to the back of the park where it was empty of people. We got our blanket out and proceeded up the hill to the perfect spot- hidden behind some trees. As we got closer I realized that we weren’t the only ones that had taken advantage of this great spot. I had to stop my boyfriend from almost walking straight into them. There was a couple laying side by side on their picnic blanket – enjoying their privacy and seclusion. We walked away laughing that we had almost walked right into them. Then I realized- “hey- this is a great opportunity to violate a social norm!” It took some convincing to get my boyfriend to go along with it. We decided that we had just as much right to enjoy the perfect spot as they did. We walked back up to the hidden nook behind the trees, fluffed our blanket out and placed it about 5 feet away from their blanket. After a couple of minutes, my boyfriend started reading the scriptures out loud and then I went over to them and offered them some sunflower seeds that I had gotten for free at the Bees game the night before. After almost the longest 20 minutes ever- we picked up and left.
This social norm violation was quite uncomfortable. This couple had clearly picked this secluded spot on purpose- to avoid being next to anyone. They were enjoying their alone time together and didn’t want to be disturbed. I could understand that. When we invaded their clearly marked bubble- I could immediately sense the violation. They communicated their uncomfortableness through their body language and frequent glances- wondering “what is this weird couple doing?” Honestly- I don’t think they even knew how to react to us- it was so out of the norm- that I know they were stumped as to how to respond. When I tried to be friendly and offer them sunflower seeds- it made the awkwardness in the air even more apparent. They seemed almost worried as I clearly was not socially inept. I almost could sense that they felt sorry for us. It was really weird. It took everything not to start laughing and quit- but I stuck to it even though it was terribly uncomfortable. It felt odd to be encroaching on someone else’s space- and to do it so forwardly. Until violating a social norm- I had no idea how powerful and ingrained they are in me and in society. This experience has taught me to be aware of and possibly question the norms that I unconsciously follow.
In some cultures, greeting complete strangers with a hug and a kiss on each cheek is not only normal, but also expected. Other cultures find it completely normal to stand very close to someone you don’t know while talking to them. If either of these things happened to us in America would be shocked and probably very uncomfortable. In America, personal space is a social norm that will definitely receive negative sanctions if violated. Our “bubble” is shaped something like an egg with us in the center facing the wide end of the egg. When someone is facing us, they must be a certain distance away or we begin to feel uncomfortable. At the same time, if they stand too far away we also feel uncomfortable and begin to wonder what is wrong with us. We aren’t bothered if people are standing a little closer than normal as long as they are behind us.
When I set out to break a social norm I decided to violate people’s personal space and see what kind of negative sanctions I received. I devised a fake survey that consisted of three questions: are you from Utah, how many kids are in your family, and where do you fall among your siblings? These questions just gave me a good reason to go up and talk to people. The first person I asked was sitting on the half wall outside the library. From a normal distance I told her that I was doing a survey for one of my classes and asked if I could ask her a few questions. When she agreed I moved very close to her and asked the questions. I did the same with the next person. The third person was standing and I moved progressively closer with each question.
When I violated people’s personal space, I received quite a few negative sanctions. First, people would look down to see how close I was to them. Then their expression would become uncomfortable. Then they would start to move around or step back. They would give me judgmental looks. This all happened in a short amount of time, so people became uncomfortable very quickly. Needless to say, I was quite embarrassed during the whole process. I did not like being so close to complete strangers. I was awkward in my speech and my body language. I phrased the questions as succinctly as possible so that I wouldn’t have to stay long. I didn’t interview as many people as I would have liked to because I would get nervous to be in such an awkward situation. This experience made me realize how much our behavior is governed by social norms.
For my Social Norm Violation, I wanted to do something a little more intense than usual, to really get a feel for the people I surround myself with. How would good ol’ Provo react to something they saw as crazy? So, with the help of two friends, we went to Macey’s grocery store, and I can honestly say even I was shocked by what happened there.
Basically, I decided to walk around holding hands with another girl, my friend Becky. This was a norm violation in that same-sex couples aren’t very plentiful around Provo, and certainly aren’t affectionate in public. We didn’t speak to other people or each other, didn’t make eye contact with anyone, stayed out of everyone’s way, etc. We just wanted to be a presence, not a nuisance, and see how people reacted to just the sight of us. Our other friend, Whitney, was a trooper and volunteered to walk about 20 feet behind us – looking like she was alone, and able to observe us without people noticing. Keep in mind, we were doing nothing besides walking with our hands joined. Here’s a list of what happened:
1. A boy and girl couple pointing at us, laughing, and the boy saying loudly “That’s disGUSting!”.
2. A girl busting out laughing at us (nervous laughter?) before ducking into a different row to avoid walking by us
3. 2 different groups of girls following us around, both whispering audibly about “the lesbians”.
4. General stares from 80% of the shoppers – they would look at us, then instantly look at the floor, as if looking at our “sin” was a sin in itself.
5. A few people would walk past us, and then approach our confederate Whitney, saying things like “Wow, can you believe that?” or “So gross, huh??”.
Oh – did I mention we were there for 5 minutes? I was definitely appalled, and felt so ashamed, worrying if I had ever treated anyone like that and made them feel so uncomfortable. I can truly say this was an amazing, eye-opening experience that gave me so much more appreciation for people’s differences and the braveness with which they display those.
I get very nervous about violating social norms. Mostly because I feel so incredibly awkward that I have a meltdown. That’s what happened last time I accidentally violated a social norm. So, I picked something easy.
I was in the Wilk near some couches. I spotted one that looked especially comfortable, but I saw another girl going towards it first. She was a lot closer than I was. To violate a social norm, I walked at full speed towards the couch, trying to “beat her.” It would have been socially acceptable and normal if I had found another seat and let her have the couch because she obviously had claim on it. But when we both reached the couch, I sat about 1 foot away from her, violating another social norm of American’s need for personal space. She put her Ipod in and sat crunched up on the couch because she obviously felt uncomfortable. I sprawled out on the rest of the couch, and I felt so incredibly awkward. I couldn’t stay for more than 10 minutes. I had to bolt because I felt so self-conscious. What if we have a class together, or what if she moves into my ward? She’ll think I’m crazy and tell everyone else. I left after just a few minutes of sitting rather close to her. I just pray that I never see her again.
This experience led me to realize that I am highly socialized by societal norms. Who knew.
A few days ago, a young man came to my door and rang the bell. I didn’t know him, so I decided he would be the perfect person to help me with my social norm violation.
Instead of answering the door, or even just ignoring it, I went and looked through the window in the door. I stood there staring at the boy while slowly eating chips. He could see me, and he knew that I knew it. He knocked on the door again, and I continued to eat chips and stare. He started to get angry and pounded on the door. I continued to eat and stare. He started to shout, “I CAN SEE YOU!! ANSWER THE FREAKING DOOR!!” I continued to eat and stare. After maybe five minutes of this he made an exasperated sound, kicked the door and stalked off.
The social norm I violated was the American social norm to answer the door if you are at home. It’s considered inhospitable to not answer the door. It is an unwritten rule that if you are home, you answer or you stay out of sight so the person at the door thinks you’re not at home. By not answering the door and putting myself in view of the boy, I violated the norm. He knew I was home and I didn’t answer the door.
There is a norm that in the mall you shop, walk and sit, you don’t lay down, you don’t read a book. You are there for a purpose and those things are more reserved for home or the library. The mall is the wrong place and context to do homework and lay down on the bench. So in order to violate this norm, I went to work an hour early and just laid down on the benches and read my textbooks. I was alternating positions from laying down, putting my feet on arm of the bench, etc. much like I would do at home.
At first it was really hard to bring myself to lay down on the bench. I was really concerned about what other people would say and I was embarrassed to break this social norm. But once I did it, it was easier to keep doing it. I was still embarrassed each time someone walked by though. I felt really awkward as well.
When I first laid down, I was pretending to read my textbook, but I was watching the reactions of the other people around me. Most people stared at me and gave me dirt looks. They gave me the “what is that girl doing” look. If they were with someone else, they usually whispered to the other person to look at me. If I made eye contact with anyone, they looked away and pretend like they were looking at something else. The best reaction I got though was from a mother with about three kids. Her kids asked her if she wanted them to sit down on the bench. Then she saw me and said “yes, we’ll sit down on the bench, but not on this monkey bench” indicating to her children to not sit by me. It was really funny. I could tell by how I was feeling and other people’s reactions that something as simple as laying down and reading my textbook in the mall is definitely socially unacceptable.
Coning: The norm that I focused on was food handling, in this instance, handling an ice cream cone. When one purchases an ice cream cone, the social norm is to take the ice cream cone from the cone end. In order to violate this social norm, when handed the ice cream cone, I grabbed the ice cream part of the cone. The following two pictures are some examples of coning.
The reaction of the ice cream server was hilarious! His eyes instantly widened, and he said, “Oh my gosh!!!” He backed away from the counter, as if to get far away from me. As I walked away with the ice cream in my hand, the other worker there turned to the guy that had handed me the ice cream and said, “Did she really just do that?!”
Throughout the social norm experiment, I felt pretty silly. I felt a little anxious as the guy server was scooping out the ice cream, knowing what I was about to do. When I actually did it, I felt pretty good about myself. I was with three other friends, and they were all shocked that I actually did it. The entire time I was walking away from the ice cream counter, I had a satisfied smile on my face. It was very fun, in my opinion, and I might just do it again sometime just to see the shocked reactions again.
On Sunday, I broke what I’m going to call the “Intimacy Norm.” I have a dress that I cannot zip up all the way without help because my arm can’t hyper-extend. Neither of my roommates were home so I started walking to church not all the way zipped up (I was still modest, however). On the way to church, I saw that a girl was sitting on the stairs by herself. I approached her, asked her “May I ask you a strange question?” and then proceeded to ask her to zip my dress the rest of the way up. She gave me a strange look, but complied. After she zipped up my dress the rest of the way, she told me that she had a bracelet that she called her marriage bracelet because she couldn’t get it on by herself, and would probably only wear it when she got married so she’d always have help. We then parted ways.
I consider this to be a violation of the “Intimacy Norm” because getting help with clothing, whether while trying on clothes at a store and asking a stranger how you look, or just needing a stranger to help you zip up your dress, is something you do with someone you are more intimate with (such as a friend or family member).
The girl that helped me clearly felt awkward at first, and then was empathetic because she had a similar thing happen in her life. I felt a little awkward having to ask for help, but my need to be completely presentable for church (complying with a different social norm) overrode the awkwardness of talking to a stranger.
Good luck everyone!
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