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Why do people conform to societal norms?


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#1    Alienated Being

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:04 PM

Why do humans conform with the norms of society? Why do we want to fit in to social groups, and be respected? My brother talking about being at work, and how he did not wear a certain type of shoe because "everybody else wore a different type, so I need to wear that type, also" is what prompted me to start this topic. I told him that he should not wear something just because everybody else is doing, to which he retorted "You're a loser, that's why you don't do what everybody else does."

I have always found it to be easy to do my own thing. I have been intentionally excluded from social situations simply because I do not like cars, like to drink beer, like country music, like going downtown and wasting money. Why is it that people feel an overwhelming sense to fit in? Myself? I do many things that are viewed as "out of the norm" in society, or even in my own home environment.

- I don't buy Christmas gifts. I view it as pathetic to reinforce somebody's self worth over a material item. My mother literally started crying one year because I did not buy her a gift, and that it made her feel worthless. I told her that I did not want a gift, yet she feels that in order to reinforce her love for me, she needs to buy something for me. I repeatedly tell her not to, and she still does. She says "I'm not even worth a card to you?". It is quite disgusting, and sad that an individual would base their value in materialistic terms.

- I go to movies by myself quite often.
- I have eaten in restaurants by myself, which prompted some "stares".
- I sing in public, which prompts stares, and compliments (Lol. :))
- If supper is ready and my father isn't home, I take my meal and eat anyway. She says, "You should wait for your father". I ask "Why?", and she says, "Just because. That's how things are." I ask "Do you know why that is?", and she says "No. It's just the way it is."
- I drink coffee at a social gathering where everybody is drinking beer, because I personally prefer coffee over beer.

My own mother has negatively criticized my behaviour, saying "You're always doing your own goddamned thing. Why can't you be like everybody else sometimes?", which made me feel bad at the time. She has constantly said that she admires my ability to go to movies by myself, because she would "never be able to do it".

My question is, why is it that those who engage in activities that deviate from the norm are viewed in a negative light, or cast out?

I have intentionally done things just to fit outside of the norm, so I don't feel as if I am a conformist.

Edited by Alienated Being, 30 November 2012 - 05:09 PM.


#2    Old Man Waffles

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:08 PM

I don't! :P


#3    Ever Learning

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:10 PM

i sometimes where odd socks and dont care about the repercussions lol ( i do care too much what others think of me but i dont stop it from me being me)

Edited by Armchair Educated, 30 November 2012 - 05:16 PM.

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#4    Old Man Waffles

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:15 PM

I try to be unique and different.


#5    Purplos

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:24 PM

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I think there's a difference between not bothering to fit in and not having consideration for others. Would you ever do anything because someone wanted you to? Just to be nice to them? It doesn't sound like it really. I don't consider that "conforming" but instead simply being nice. The example of having dinner with your father comes to mind. If your father enjoys sitting down with you for dinner, you don't seem to care.  Of course you might not specifically care about your father, but I wonder if there is someone you would sit down for dinner with just because it would make them happy.  Wouldn't that make you happy?  Just my observations from the brief bit you told us, and I'm speaking in the general, rhetorical sense.

I also think purposefully trying to not conform is kinda laughable. Everyone is striving to be so different and unique. Isn't that like the whole hipster thing?

Be yourself, no matter if other people are doing it or not.

I don't usually conform to societal mores just because I don't. I have never fit in with groups of people, and very few individuals. This doesn't bother me.

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#6    Codeblind

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:25 PM

sometimes it can be beneficial to do what others are doing, like running from a crazy bull let loose in the china shop.

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#7    karmakazi

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:30 PM

I've wondered about this myself.  Why people buy in to the concept that they have to own more expensive things, dress a certain way, live a certain way... even think a certain way, just to "fit in".

One possibility is that it is an evolutionary throwback, in the natural world it often pays to have a common group mindset.  This is why animals travel in packs, birds flock, etc.  Animals who are at rest in a group pay attention to what other members of the group are doing as it can give them an early warning or advantage if a dangerous situation arises.  Birds have specific calls to alert the rest of the flock to danger, gerbils thump the ground when they are on alert to warn others, gazelle will take notice if one of their group startles and begins listening carefully for noices from a certain direction.  Even my cats take cues from each other about potentially dangerous situations (though, I tell them all the time that when the UPS man knocks on the door it does NOT spell imminent doom)

Another possibility is that in our society, people have been taught for centuries as children that certain things are expected of them when they enter society.  In more recent generations, these expectations have become more and more frivolous, as more and more of the expectations are being taught by the media than by the parents.  Commercials, tv shows, movies, books, etc teach children by example how society moves, and what they should expect of other people, what will be expected of them.  If a child grows up indoctrinated with enough of these ideas, they will become an adult who acts unquestioningly on the things that society expects from them.  To them, it is the way the world works and to dissent from that way of life is to be a gazelle that throws itself down in front of a hungry lion.


To me, being a part of the "herd" would be a fate worse than death.  To others, not being accepted, respected, etc would be a fate worse than death.  To each his own.

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#8    Lilly

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:34 PM

Sometimes the 'social norm' is more about the feelings of others verses oneself. For example, one may not care about fashion but if one chooses to dress very oddly it could cause others to be uncomfortable. The truth is that humans are visual/observational beings that 'size up' their fellow humans by rather superficial means. So, unless one wants others to think they could be a creepy/crazy/dangerous person a certain degree of socially acceptable dress and behaviour is warranted.

As for having to engage in generally popular activities/interests in order to somehow 'fit in' with what's normative...not all that important. For example, I don't enjoy shopping for clothes as a hobby (most women seem to). Instead, I like dogs, horses, and reading Shakespeare (not so common place). However, I do like shoe and/or jewelry shopping (common female past times). It's all about having the good manners to respect the feelings of others while still feeling free to pursue ones own interests.

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#9    Alienated Being

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:36 PM

 Purplos, on 30 November 2012 - 05:24 PM, said:

I think there's a difference between not bothering to fit in and not having consideration for others. Would you ever do anything because someone wanted you to? Just to be nice to them? It doesn't sound like it really. I don't consider that "conforming" but instead simply being nice. The example of having dinner with your father comes to mind. If your father enjoys sitting down with you for dinner, you don't seem to care.  Of course you might not specifically care about your father, but I wonder if there is someone you would sit down for dinner with just because it would make them happy.  Wouldn't that make you happy?  Just my observations from the brief bit you told us, and I'm speaking in the general, rhetorical sense.
No, I don't care, because I don't view eating dinner as something "special". I take my plate, and sit down in my room or in the living room. I don't need to sit around and watch others eat, or let others watch me eat. We don't talk when we do, yet they want me there... for what reason? "Oh, wow... I am going to sit here and watch him eat. This is fascinating.", or I can sit there and listen to them talk about topics that don't overly interest me in any way.

Doing something "nice" for another person would be a type of conformity... Because I don't view eating dinner around others as a happy thing, I would not care if another chose to sit in the living room while they eat. Eating something is not something that requires a group of people.

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I also think purposefully trying to not conform is kinda laughable. Everyone is striving to be so different and unique. Isn't that like the whole hipster thing?
No, not at all. You are confusing the two...

Personally, the reason why I do things to contradict the norms intentionally is simply because I want to see the reaction of others, and get an understanding as to why they think the way they do.


#10    Alienated Being

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:39 PM

 Lilly, on 30 November 2012 - 05:34 PM, said:

Sometimes the 'social norm' is more about the feelings of others verses oneself. For example, one may not care about fashion but if one chooses to dress very oddly it could cause others to be uncomfortable. The truth is that humans are visual/observational beings that 'size up' their fellow humans by rather superficial means. So, unless one wants others to think they could be a creepy/crazy/dangerous person a certain degree of socially acceptable dress and behaviour is warranted.
As for having to engage in generally popular activities/interests in order to somehow 'fit in' with what's normative...not all that important. For example, I don't enjoy shopping for clothes as a hobby (most women seem to). Instead, I like dogs, horses, and reading Shakespeare (not so common place). However, I do like shoe and/or jewelry shopping (common female past times). It's all about having the good manners to respect the feelings of others while still feeling free to pursue ones own interests.
And why should we care about the feelings of others? How one feels in a certain situation is their business, not mine. I am not a person who does things to merely please. If they are uncomfortable, that's their own problem. I will not intentionally avoid doing something simply because I am afraid that others will be uncomfortable with it.


#11    Ever Learning

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:41 PM

u big meanie lol, when you have kids are you going to give them pressies? u still sound like you have an awesome personality tho.

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#12    karmakazi

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:43 PM

 Alienated Being, on 30 November 2012 - 05:04 PM, said:

- I don't buy Christmas gifts. I view it as pathetic to reinforce somebody's self worth over a material item. My mother literally started crying one year because I did not buy her a gift, and that it made her feel worthless. I told her that I did not want a gift, yet she feels that in order to reinforce her love for me, she needs to buy something for me. I repeatedly tell her not to, and she still does. She says "I'm not even worth a card to you?". It is quite disgusting, and sad that an individual would base their value in materialistic terms.

Same here... though Valentine's day gives me even bigger headaches.  I refuse to celebrate that day, instead I choose to try and give all my love to people all year round, and at random times try to do things to make them feel special.

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- If supper is ready and my father isn't home, I take my meal and eat anyway. She says, "You should wait for your father". I ask "Why?", and she says, "Just because. That's how things are." I ask "Do you know why that is?", and she says "No. It's just the way it is."

It would have made sense if she said it was because meal time is a time to enjoy the company of your family, talk about the day, and spend positive time together with people you care about.  So yeah, her answer doesn't make sense, but I do agree with the concept of eating together with family.

I have however decided that I choose my family, it is not necessarily people I'm genetically related to.  I will always wait for my BF before I eat, because I want to spend that time with him in shared activity.  There aren't many people that I have that connection to though and most of my family are people that I choose not to spend time with.

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- I drink coffee at a social gathering where everybody is drinking beer, because I personally prefer coffee over beer.

I've never like alcohol much.  When I've gone out with friends, I have to hear about it constantly.  "you'd have so much more fun if you were drinking", "I don't understand why you don't drink", "oh you're no fun"  etc.  Which is odd anyway because I tend to be a little crazy, so I sincerely do not need anything to help me loosen up or be silly.

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My own mother has negatively criticized my behaviour, saying "You're always doing your own goddamned thing. Why can't you be like everybody else sometimes?", which made me feel bad at the time. She has constantly said that she admires my ability to go to movies by myself, because she would "never be able to do it".

My mom told me I needed a psychiatrist and medication, because apparently I am "not a functioning member of society" and "not a real person".  (her exact words)  Nevermind that I've had one or two jobs consistently since I was 15 years old and have always kept my bills paid and a roof over my head.

I have never tried to non-conformist... my mind doesn't work the same way as other people's do, so being an odd duck is all I know.  It doesn't seem weird to me... just everyone else, even the people who are trying to be non-conformists.  They just kind of stare at me and back away.... LOL I'm kidding.

Mostly.

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#13    Alienated Being

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:45 PM

 Armchair Educated, on 30 November 2012 - 05:41 PM, said:

u big meanie lol, when you have kids are you going to give them pressies? u still sound like you have an awesome personality tho.
That depends. When I have children, I am going to be a father who makes them "earn" what they have been given; I don't believe in rewarding children simply for the sake of earning appreciation. That's ridiculous, and that is why parenting has gone down the ****ter. Parents are too soft on their children these days. As for Christmas, yes I will probably conform to traditional practices such as Christmas trees, presents, Santa Claus, etc. until they are a certain age. Then when they have reached a certain age, I will probably cut it off.

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#14    Hasina

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:46 PM

Everyone's different. We all want to 'fit in' to some degree (notice I say 'some degree' because I doubt there's any large number of people who just want the rest of society to hate them and ostracize them) but at the same time we want to 'stand out'. It's a juggling act, for some, it's more comforting to fit in a lot then to stand out, while for others it's much better to be the outsider of the group.

Edited by Hasina, 30 November 2012 - 05:47 PM.

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#15    glorybebe

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:49 PM

Well, myself, I dress 'respectable'  being a mom.  But, my daughter I have encouraged to be herself.  And she never wears matching socks, she comes up with colour combos that  I would never attempt to wear, but she pulls it off, getting compliments on her choices.  What's funny is that the adults love that she wears such bright and multi-coloured clothing, then say they could never wear them.  Maybe we need to try something different and not in the norm, I'll bet we woldl be happier with such self expression.

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