Social Norms

Social norms are rules of certain kind of behavior that society uses to evaluate the population and provides normalcy. When it comes to responding to the breaking of social norms people have different ways to cope or react to it. Some reactions can be pleasant, some could be horrible or even judgmental. Some people believe breaking a social norm could be needed to help govern or control the society. On the other hand others believe breaking social norms are un-normal and that no one should break those rules. There are so many social norms that sometimes it feels impossible not to break any. Many social norms like walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, talking to yourself in public, or even not wearing the same clothes everyone else thinks is cool could be a tremendous norm broken in today’s young society. An everyday norm would be wearing a clean shirt, but when you break that norm by not wearing a clean shirt, it was a drastic shock to the people that are stuck in the societies mold. What if wearing a stained shirt was the normal thing to do for a certain person or group of persons? Are the people stuck in societies mold wrong for thinking their norm is correct? There really is no wrong or right answer to those questions because my normal way of looking at things may not be the same as the next persons. When doing my experiment of “breaking the social norm” by wearing a stained t-shirt I wasn’t really sure what to expect from most people, especially from the strangers. Most reactions I planned on receiving were all negative, let’s face the facts if you’re not up to par with society then you’re bound to get looked down on or belittled. The negative results outweigh the positive any day but there were positive and helpful reactions. I was really baffled from some of the positive reactions because I wasn’t expecting them. Some people reacted in a very stereotypical way that most in society would have reacted. My first reaction took place in the local Wal-Mart. As I walked into the store on February 26, 2014 around Five-thirty, I walked passed many gazing eyes that seemed to have confused looks on their faces. Well the stain made me feel like a target with an X in the middle. The feeling of being stared at I was certainly ready for. Just like in chapter one the sociological imagination connects to the personal troubles of public issues, which in this case my shirt was the public issues and norm I broke. People’s first reaction was to talk about me as I passed them. For example, one man about six feet tall, white, and stalky asked his
wife “if I was blind and didn’t see the big stain on my shirt”. His reaction was a norm in itself. Peoples normal reaction when they see something that’s not normal is to gossip or talk about one another. My second reaction or run in happened in Wal-Mart also the same day. I walked into the milk department a young African American lady about five feet tall, long hair, and employee at Wal-Mart. She stared for a second and started to giggle as she giggled I tried to keep a straight face but at the same time I laughed a little bit myself. In her words she then asked me” if I knew that I had a hideous looking stain on my shirt”? I then replied with a shocking what are you talking about and kept walking. As I left the store there were still those gazing eyes as if I was a killer or some sort of illegal object. My first reactions to the people’s opinions in Wal-Mart were mutual. I went in already knowing people were going to talk about me behind my back so I didn’t really take the talking about me to heart. The situation with the young lady by the milk was a much unexpected reaction if you asked me. I’ve never had anyone I didn’t know really laugh at me in my face because of my physical traits or clothing. I feel that the man with his wife should have let me know something if he really wanted to help me out about getting the stained shirt cleaned up. Someone who wants to help to fix a problem will be very truthful with you but that’s only if they truly want to help. Another reaction happened in my neighborhood on February 28, 2014 around six o’clock. My neighbor and older man about sixty years old thought had been kicked out my home and was physically hurt. He didn’t say anything to me as I walked passed his house a few times until the last time I walked by he asked “if I needed him to call 911”. Now I was truly shocked at these accusations from the man because I never thought anyone really mistake the stain as blood. My reaction to the man’s comments were very brief because I didn’t want to give away that it wasn’t real. I just let him know that I was fine and didn’t need anything. I walked to a local 7-11 also to see people’s reaction that was familiar with my face. Some people even offered me money during this part of this test. As I sat on the ledge next to the store many people walked by with very disordered faces as if they saw a ghost. A young girl maybe 14 years of age walked up to me and offered me money and a sandwich which really made have a confused look on my face. I knew I wasn’t poor or homeless but the stain and the disorder of my outfit made the young
girl feel bad for me as if I was homeless. I was shocked but then again I wasn’t because most people do stereotype against others sitting outside of a store with nasty looking clothes. So I didn’t really take the charity to heart but I didn’t accept the money either. While experimenting on breaking social norms I had reacted different on every occasion and I received some sort of different reactions from all of these strangers. I didn’t agree on all of the reactions but I had to suck it up knowing those were normal everyday reactions from people. The live reactions all connected in some way to the previous chapters and notes that were reviewed in class. The reaction from the young girl giving me money connects to people being stereotypical. Sociological Perspective connects to all of the people who reacted to my stain because sociological Perspective is the social contexts in which we all live in. Sociologist C Wright Mills stated that “sociological perspective allows us to gasp the connection between history and biography”. (Wright 1959: 4, 5-7). Which means that each society is located in a broad stream of events. Which means that each society has its own characteristics. Wearing clean clothes and walking on the right side of the sidewalk would be our characteristic here in America. This connects back to how me wearing a stained shirt is not history that us human beings are used to.

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You can compare many broken social norms and different reactions all day but can we honestly say that every reaction will be the same? No I don’t think everyone will be the same but most will be the same because that’s just how our society works. Breaking social norms can be done and usually is done every day by people but we just have to keep pushing to be better and understand. Social norms are created to mold society and how people live in the society. Remember social norms don’t make or create people it just creates a better or worst environment around you and your peers.


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