Last Updated 05 Jan 2023

The Role of Social Norms and the Consequences of Not Following Them

Category Social Norms
Words 1430 (6 pages)
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Social Norms are a part of everyday life whether we realize it or not. Social norms help keep order and set a standard of what is expected from society. We look at these standards as a set of unspoken rules for a social order followed by all. When it comes to Social norms, there are certain drawbacks, if not followed it can lead to a backlash from society and you risk the possibility of offending or insulting an individual.

Social Norms are a set of unofficial guidelines that people instinctively follow when in social and non-social situations. Social Norms can set the tone of the environment that one is in. There are

many benefits of social norms, and while they do change over the years and may be slightly different for other people, they are widely accepted. Social Norms are treated as personal rules and without mentioning them or commanding a room of individuals to follow them they are followed. There are not others always surrounding us so that the influence norms may have on a person can vary. Amitai Etzioni is a sociologist who wrote an article titled Social norms: Internalization, Persuasion, and History says "In fact, some scholars of social norms observe that they (norms) are not merely a part of a person's environment but also affect their internal, intrinsic predispositions. "Intrinsic Predispositions" refer to the ways someone would act if left to his or her own devices." (Etzioni 1) Even though we are not surrounded by others at all times, the acceptance of social norms has a huge influence on everyday life. A very basic social norm is greeting another person. Depending on the nature of your relationship you may greet them formally or informally with a hug, a hug, and a kiss or a handshake, which is typical of a first meeting or even a business meeting. Handshakes can come in many different forms and are the

first impression; a bad handshake can be a lasting impression as well as an impressive handshake, Joe Navarro, a therapist who leads corporate seminars wrote an article The Art of Handshaking. In the article Navarro goes over the influence and the good and bad of handshaking and why a handshake is not always widely used in cultures, there is one handshake that is widely accepted. Navarro says "...In business, we fairly have one standard for shaking hands." (Navarro 2). He goes on to describe the business hand shake, the grasp and pressure put on the hand and the angle, all influence the business handshake, while greetings vary by culture when doing business, this is widely accepted and respected. Social norms are widely spread and are ingrained into every culture.

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Society typically looks at social norms as beneficial; however, they do have their drawbacks. When it comes to Social Norms depending on where you live, if one does not conform to the norm individuals can face an immense backlash from one or multiple parties. In the novel The Stranger written by Albert Camus, the protagonist Meursault lives a life of indifference and is completely detached, until he is on trial for murder. Meursault experiences a major life change at the beginning of the novel, his mother has passed away, and when he receives the news his reaction is very matter of fact, he says "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I do not know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral Tomorrow. Faithfully yours." That does not mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday." (Camus 3) This is the first evidence of his indifference to life and later lays the foundation for the prosecution to prove to the world that this emotionless man does not conform to normal society standards and that a person of such calm demeanor with no emotional reaction seals his fate. Meursault is being interviewed by the examining magistrate who is trying to find out why Meursault committed the crime and if he

feels any remorse while holding a crucifix in his hand.

Much to the disappointment of the magistrate, Meursault does not feel any remorse for the crime and when asked by the Magistrate about Meursault's religious beliefs he tells him that he doesn't believe in God. The Magistrate grows angry and waives the crucifix in Meursault's face. The Magistrate tells Meursault "I have never seen a soul as hardened as yours. The criminals who have come before me have always wept at the sight of this image of suffering" (Camus 69). Meursault has no remorse and is annoyed by the magistrate's reaction. When asked why Meursault committed the murder he stated that the unbearable heat from the sun made him do it. When on trial for the murder of the

Arab man Meursault character is called into question the prosecutor of the case is more focused on Meursault's actions after the death of his mother. The prosecutor states "Gentlemen of the jury, the day after his mother's death, this man was out swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs. I have nothing further to say." (Camus 94)

Social Norms are unspoken, which can be a benefit when in an environment where one is unfamiliar with custom or routine one can default to social norms. Saul McLeod, a Psychologist, wrote a short piece titled Benefits of Social Norms. While going over the benefits of social norms, McLeod states "Social Norms are unwritten rules about how to behave. We need them because they provide us with an expected idea of how to behave in a particular social group or culture. There are norms defining appropriate behavior for every social group" (McLeod 1). Social Norms help keep us polite while simultaneously not offending the people around us and hopefully have a lasting positive impression on them when following social norms if someone is unaware of the custom or routine of the environment that they are in. McLeod explains in the article how it would be difficult for society to operate without these norms he states "How would

we know what to expect in a particular social situation? The short answer is that we wouldn't;" (McLeod 1). Following these norms help in any social situation, grocery store, the bank, your

doctor's office and even in a classroom.

The key to finding the balance between the bad and good of social norms is understanding why the other one followed this norm or didn't follow this norm and not making them feel guilty about it. Balancing the bad and good of social norms depends on the person. There are general social norms that everyone follows. However, there are social norms that only fall into your inner circle or family. Your family's social norms may be opposite of another family, and that can affect the way you interact with the outside world. Sometimes your social norm is seen as "Bad" by another individual. My Fiancé and I are both Catholic. However, he grew up in a stricter Catholic Household than I did. For his family anytime they pass by a Catholic Church they do the sign of the cross where as my family does not. His family considered's this a social norm and not following it as disrespectful. We found a balance by choosing if we want to do it or not. Sometimes we do sometimes we do not and if one does it that is okay, we are not going to make the other one feel bad about their way of worship or showing respect to the church. If we had no balance of the good and the bad of norms, there would be a lot of unhappy people. Social Norms are so widespread and various that one norm may not be the norm for the next person.

While Social Norms are unspoken guidelines for social interaction and overall life, some social norms don't have to be followed. The pressure to conform is immense but staying true to who you are is more important than falling into the "Norm". Modern society is more accepting of others individuality than in the past. Embracing someone's uniqueness should be a social norm.

If someone doesn't conform to these norms it's okay, sometimes it's not someone being rude, it could be someone who suffers from anxiety or a condition that makes it hard for them to interact socially. Judging someone for not conforming to the norm isn't beneficial. We are too quick to judge why someone isn't falling into our idea of the norm; sometimes we have to ask ourselves, maybe there's a reason why they're not conforming, and that's okay.

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