The Power of Social Norms

 

Believe it or not, we all follow social norms. We might have been taught things by our parents, felt pressured to follow the status quo, or maybe just learned certain behaviors in spite of ourselves. I find it interesting how these invisible rules shape our lives. Here are some social norms I noticed that I tend to follow.

I always thought that shaving was an adult thing to do because the ladies in razor commercials were always in their 20s. I did not actually start shaving until a friend of mine noticed and told me that I should. After that, I never saw it as a social norm or even optional. Shaving was a necessary evil just like vaccines and dentist visits. Now that I live in a college dorm, I am finding it to be an even larger burden due to the limited space in the showers; nevertheless, I do it.

Even though I am not religious, I say “bless you” to anyone who sneezes, whether I know them or not. I even say “bless you” when my dogs or even my friend's dog sneezes. I also take offense when I sneeze and no one says anything. Recently, I sneezed and neither my mother, sister, nor those around me said it and I was shocked. So, I looked at my mother until she said it.  I was never explicitly taught or told that I should do this, in fact, I don’t see the point in saying it, but I will stop whatever I am saying to say “bless you”. For me, it is more of a habit and courtesy than a religious phrase.

Lastly, whenever I am eating a public place, I sit just like everyone else, when in reality I prefer to stand up and eat or even walk around. Whenever I am at home, I almost never sit down to eat, but when I am in a public place, I feel that I have to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t see the point in being so formal and sitting down to eat when you can stand at the counter and enjoy food just as much.

In society, I feel pressured to follow the status quo and do things that I don’t necessarily want to do, for fear that not participating will label me as“strange” or “different”. When I learned that all of these things that I do were just norms created by people, I started to rethink these habits and wondered if I would continue to enact them. Since I have been so socialized to follow these norms, I see not doing them as taboo in any way so, I might just keep them up.