My experience violating a social norm
For an assignment in my sociology class, we were asked to violate a folkway social norm. In every society, there is an unspoken set of rules for our behavior. These are norms. A folkway norm is one that someone would notice if it was violated, but there wouldn’t be major repercussions. For this project I walked around a store asking strangers to tie my shoe. Kids usually learn how to tie their shoes around first or second grade. High school age kids typically know how to tie their shoes and would not ask strangers to tie them. I chose to break this norm because I wanted to do something fun and out of my comfort zone. My brother actually helped me come up with the idea. I was bouncing around ideas with my mom and my brother said something about his shoes being untied.
I carried out this experiment by untying one shoe then asking strangers to tie them. I had to bite my cheek sometimes to keep from laughing because I felt very ridiculous. I made sure no one saw me untie my shoe and that the people I had already asked didn’t see me ask someone else or see me with my shoe untied again. I encountered a roadblock when I went to untie my shoe again after I had walked away from a younger boy who had just tied it and realized that it was tangled into a knot. I had to sit down and figure out how to untangle it before I moved on to the next person. I asked ten people to tie my shoe: five women, three men, one teenage girl and one younger boy.
The results surprised me. I expected most of the people to laugh at me and refuse, but only three people gave me responses like that. One person, a woman who looked to be in her twenties, looked at me and said “You’re serious?” and when I responded with “Yes, I’m sorry I just can’t do it” she said quite rudely, “go play with someone else, or let my six year old son do it because he doesn’t know how to either.” The teenage girl looked about my age, and when I asked her she stared at me for a few seconds and said “Man, that’s wreck!” By which I’m guessing she meant that me being unable to tie my shoe is unfortunate or something like that. She then started laughing very loudly and turned to an older couple, whom I am assuming were her parents because of the way they talked to each other, and said to the man, “how about you do it. That sounds like a job for you.” I awkwardly stood there while the man and teenager walked away for a few seconds then I went away too. My sister was around the corner and heard her and the man tell the mom and the mom was scolding her giving her a lecture because she wouldn’t help me. When my sister told me this I felt bad and didn’t want to get the girl in trouble so I told them it was a project I was doing for my sociology class. The girl looked surprised and looked as if she felt bad for being rude. Most of the other people agreed, but with strange looks and comments like “Really?” and “Okay then.” One woman refused because she said she had bad knees and she couldn’t get down there. She said that if she could she would.
The impact this experiment had on me is that people are nicer than I thought they would be. There were a few people who were rude and refused, but for the most part, I was wrong. I also learned that I am not as brave as I thought I would be. I had to work up the nerve every time I asked someone, and it usually took a few minutes to build up the courage. There were some people that I was too nervous to ask. There was a group of middle school age kids that intimidated me because they were loud and there were four or five of them. It was a lot easier to talk to the adults than the younger people.