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Social norms within our society are a big deal. Everyone wants to fit in and sometimes our need to belong can lead us away from truly being who we are. I have always been known to be animated and pretty much a dork. I like to have a good time and I don’t like to miss a chance to play the fool. When I read over this assignment for class I knew it was going to be fun. We were given two options for this assignment and the first option was to go out in public and violate social norms. We were to document what reactions we got from people and talk about our overall experience. There were six social norms that I thought of violating and one of which was suggested to me. They were all great but we only had to do three of them. Below I have listed the social norms I wanted to accomplish.

  • Stand in an elevator, face the opposite direction from the door, and smile.
  • Eat food at the store before buying it.
  • Cheer someone on.
  • Pay for said food in pennies.
  • Stare at the ceiling.
  • Ask for a hug.

I ended up doing four of the six and they included,

  • Eat food at the store before buying it.
  • Cheer someone on.
  • Pay for said food in pennies.
  • Stare at the ceiling.

I walked into my local Wal-Mart and headed for the checkout lane where the small bags of chips are located. I snatched one up, opened it, and began eating them. I was pretty nervous to begin with because the store was packed but I couldn’t back out now. I walked over to the produce section and stared at the ceiling while I ate my chips and smacked. I stared long enough that some people even looked up to see what I was looking at. I received some odd looks and even disgusted looks as I smacked away on my chips. A worker who was stocking bananas even tossed me an odd and confused look. It was great and my nerves settled. I had planned on cheering someone on as they grabbed a bag of the same chips I was eating but no one was around there. I headed back to the produce section where an employee was stocking lettuce. I waited for a near by customer to leave and I approached him,

“Some pretty good lettuce there.”

“What?”

“That’s some excellent lettuce there.”

“Oh yeah…”

“Well, keep up the good work!”

“Um…yeah…”

I turned around and had to laugh. I was waiting for someone from Wal-Mart to come up and ask what I was doing but no one approached me. I walked around some more and stared at the ceiling. One guy with a baby carrier even stared up at the ceiling with me and then realized there was nothing there and he shook his head. He then looked at me funny and walked on. In the end I waited in a long line to pay for my empty bag of chips. The cashier had closed and she was ready to go. I walked up to her and handed her my bag of crumbs and as I spoke my voice cracked. I was a teenager again trying to adjust to my voice changing. She chuckled slightly and I cleared my throat and apologized. I asked how much they were and told her all I had were pennies. She paused for a moment and said it was fine and even counted out my change. She was actually nice about the whole thing but the tone of her voice made me think she either knew I was pulling something or she thought I was crazy. She even offered to change my pennies for a nickel or dime but I only chuckled and said it was ok. As I walked off she apologized to me that I ate all my chips while waiting in line. I laughed it off and left the store.

I was overall nervous while doing this assignment but it was fun once I got into it. The hardest for me had to be paying with pennies and cheering someone on. The easiest was staring up at the ceiling because everyone seems to zone out every now and then. The whole experience was rather interesting and I recommend that everyone try something like this at least once. I learned that some people don’t care what others are doing until it violates a social norm. If you do what is deemed as normal you become another face in the hallway but if you slip out of that for a moment, you’re noticed. It’s not because you are unique, it’s because you are doing something odd that society sees as taboo. Maybe it’s simply curiosity that makes people notice when a norm is violated? By doing this assignment I have confirmed that some people just want to belong and will either ignore or stare at those who are different. I will be more than happy to receive the odd looks because I dig who I am and how dorky I can be.

***A special thanks to the guy stocking the lettuce and to the cashier for not yelling at me. Thanks for being nice while I was being a fool! 8) ***

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