Breaking Social Norms

6:30 on a Monday night. Normally, Ale House would be quite packed at this time, but both Claudia (my partner) and I agree it was rather quiet. There were several tables left empty and the atmosphere was very drab. We chose outside seating (a high-top to be specific) where we were in clear view of the bar, other outside tables, and people that would be driving past the restaurant. The bystanders around me had many varying ages. There was a group of early 20 year olds along with a duet of elderly women relatively close to where Claudia and I were seated. Other than that, there were just a couple of single males sitting at the bar flirting with the bartender. The only language I overheard being spoken was English.

Once Claudia and I were settled in, I was very excited. It took a little long for the waitress to come and take my order, but when she finally did I ordered a Caesar Salad. It was difficult deciding what to eat, but the salad was pretty inexpensive and is always a safe bet to be tasty so I was satisfied with my choice. Once it arrived, I slowly but surely ate the entire salad with my hands.

I break social norms every day of my life. As a film major, last summer I decided to make a film about every single day. I did this so I could improve my filming capabilities, remember everything I do, and because it’s just really fun. What this entails, is that I take a camera out every day and I record everything I do. I make every day into a 10-minute movie, and every movie tells a story. With that being said, I record everything I do, think about that. It’s not what society thinks you should be doing, and it is definitely not normal. I constantly have eyes on me observing what I’m doing when I just whip out a camera and start talking to it. At the beginning, it was difficult to get the courage to do it, but as time passed I got used to it. Since then I’ve done countless experiments that break social norms. Eating food with my hands in public is breeze for me. Now that you have background knowledge on my situation, let’s return to dinner. The feeling I had wasn’t the type of anxiety where I was negatively nervous, it was anxiety where I was very excited. I could tell Claudia was excited too because she saw the confidence in my eyes. I wanted to make this experience as fun for my partner as I could. I break social norms  all the time so this is nothing new for me, but for her, it definitely is. I could tell this was the most exciting part of her week. So, for her I made it the most enjoyable experience possible. Along with cracking jokes the, I had a smile on my face throughout the whole experience. The funniest part of the experiment was that the waitress forgot to bring me any utensils or napkins. The service was pretty bad and I was reluctant to leave a tip, but because the assignment specifically stated I had to, I did. The service wasn’t bad because I broke a social norm though, it was bad because the server was awful. She didn’t pay much attention and didn’t do a very good job in general. Whether the service was good or not, I thoroughly enjoyed this project. There was one point where I made direct eye contact with the elderly couple that was in the restaurant and Claudia burst into laughter. My opinion of breaking this social norm did not change from before to after the experiment. I went in knowing that this was not a big deal to me, and that to other people it will be. People are afraid of what they don’t know or aren’t used to, that’s why they stare. As long as the person breaking the norm isn’t negatively affecting them, everyone there should have a good time. I know for a fact that I did.

The people around me for the most part didn’t notice me eating food with my hands. Other than that elderly couple I made eye contact with, the only person truly affected by this experiment was my partner. Claudia can be compared to the average person watching this experiment. The only catch is, she knew everything that was happening. She gave me the reaction other people didn’t. I can only assume that other people would stare at me intently if they noticed. Based on prior events that I have done breaking social norms, people just observe what they don’t know. It’s human nature to analyze what you don’t know, so I believe other people would do just that.

People naturally follow the crowd, and when one person goes against the crowd, people feel countered. The moment one person provides a contradiction to a popular opinion, the people sharing/following said popular opinion feel threatened. I had no difficulty breaking this norm because not many people noticed. If more people would have taken notice, there is a possibility that the workers at the restaurant would have spoken to me for causing a disturbance or something along those lines. People believe breaking conformity is bad. There is no real reason to think that way, but because the majority of the population does, everyone does. It’s a vicious cycle that does not seem to be changing anytime soon. Despite conformity being the main cause of destroying individualism, it sets a standard for people. It creates unspoken rules, which if otherwise weren’t set, would cause anarchy to break out. Little experiments like this don’t show what could really happen in the grand scheme of things. Unspoken rules keep our society uniform, as one. This is good, and bad.