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Societal Views: Conformity vs. Nonconformity

Updated on February 24, 2016

When Everyone Looks The SAME

Conforming can simply be looking a like, or matching if you will.
Conforming can simply be looking a like, or matching if you will. | Source

What is it?

What exactly is conformity? Is it doing what others say, or just trying to fit in, at all costs? Is it something we do without realizing it, something that is so ingrained in us that it has become a natural reaction to the world around us? Online dictionaries, such as Dictionary.com says that conformity is:

1. correspondence in form or appearance,

2. acting according to certain accepted standards.

By the first definition, conformity can be described as “fitting in with the crowd,” in all senses of the word. This can mean trying to look the same as other people or making your essay follow the MLA format, thereby making it the same in form as the rest of your class. The second definition refers to the actions and reactions of people. This can refer to any aspect of life, from hairstyles to weight to the way a person interacts with others. By either definition one can see that conformity is the act or existence of a “same as everyone else” mindset, which is easy to see in almost every part of our daily lives.

Nonconformist

"A nonconformist is a totally honest and transparent person who says what they think does what they want." (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nonconformist)

Why do we need conformity?

Another website, Changingminds.org, states the reason that conformity exists. It holds the position that conformity is a necessary part of societies. Since we are “a tribal animal,” we have a great need to feel like we fit in, and will go to great lengths to get this feeling. As a result, people will do things they normally would never consider to gain their acceptance, either to gain acceptance to or to retain acceptance with their group of choice. This pressure comes from many sources, such as groups of friends, coworkers, religious leaders and even relatives.

Even within families there are classifications for not only the general group but each person will seem to fit into their own stereotype
Even within families there are classifications for not only the general group but each person will seem to fit into their own stereotype | Source
Even within groups of friends there are classifications for not only the general group but each person will seem to fit into their own stereotype
Even within groups of friends there are classifications for not only the general group but each person will seem to fit into their own stereotype | Source

Who conforms?

There are billions of people currently living on this planet, and pretty much all of them can and will be classified into some kind of group. There are Preps, Thugs, Punks, Goths, Rednecks, and many, many more. The reason that most people join these little groups is so they can fit in and find people that they have things in common with; even if the only thing they have in common is the way that they dress. While most people just accept this as fact of life, there are some people who refuse to. They believe that everyone and everything should be different. That no one should strive to fit in, because fitting in is not something to be proud of. Nonconformists rant and rave about how horrible conformists are to conform, but they don’t realize that they are also conforming, but to the rest of the nonconformists.

Necessary evil, yay or nay?

Do you think conformity is necessary for a successful life?

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While I am not stating that everyone should be exactly the same, it is simply too much to ask that they all be completely different. Even people that do find groups to fit into are at least a little bit different. I have met many people, who seem to blend into the crowds, and many of them were very different from how they looked; some of them were the most amazing people I have ever met and they looked just like everyone else. So it is easy to say that people who look the same can still have their very own mind, thoughts, and opinions. There are too many people on the planet for everyone to be completely different, although the “nonconformists” do not seem to understand that.

Birds of a Feather

Source

Individualist

"someone not trying to be anything but himself, ussually bothers people who are sheep." (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=individualist)


Is it right or is it wrong?

Nonconformists very happily tell people who look similar that they are doing something horrible. They assume that just because they are similar they are pretending to be something they are not, and yet they don’t realize that they themselves have similar thoughts and actions. They all walk around trying to be different and start to blend in with the millions of other people trying to be different. In their attempt to be different from everyone else they start to pretend to be something that they aren’t. These so called nonconformists adopt others ideas for their own. They may be thinking a bit different from the norm, but they are still thinking the same as the rest of the nonconformists, their very own group. These nonconformists are now doing what I like to call thinking outside of the box and right into another box. They do not realize that they too can be classified into a group maybe not by looks but by a type of thinking.

How we conform

Untrue Nonconformists

Some nonconformists can be classified by a type of style that they adopt. They try not to be like one particular group, which is most likely to be the one that is the most popular, where they live. While striving to be completely different from them, they adopt the style from an opposing group. These nonconformists don’t really take the views of the group per say, but they take the style. They are often referred to as “posers” because they are trying so hard to be different they are the complete opposite of their personality. They oddly enough look like a bunch of clones, such as when one person dyes their hair black to individualize themselves, just like everyone else who individualized themselves by dying their hair black. Yet they still go around saying that everyone should be different, different just like them.

Be yourself, interesting idea...

Sometimes, or all the time doing things that are weird is acceptable, as long as it's you and not you grasping for a ideal of being different.
Sometimes, or all the time doing things that are weird is acceptable, as long as it's you and not you grasping for a ideal of being different. | Source

Conformist

"One who has to follow what's 'In' in order to gain popularity and have a life." (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=conformist)

A solution?

When comes down to it people should just be themselves. They shouldn’t pretend or turn into something they are not just to stand out, or even to fit in. People should stop caring so much about what other people think and try to figure out what they think. They also need to stop adopting peoples ideas, or taking opposite opinions just because they want to be “different”. They need to realize that it is not about being a conformist or nonconformist, but it is about being happy to be who you are and to do what you love to do.

But first... let me take a selfie

conforming to conform, or is it who you are?
conforming to conform, or is it who you are? | Source

Are the norms the way to go?

On the other hand, people who conform to their own norms aren’t always doing it consciously, or even willingly. Sometimes, conforming to an expectation is a matter of rote, especially when the person or group of people conforming is simply following someone else. This is the case in a huge number of cases, from workplaces to churches to our own homes. People will act out the expected roles of their sex, their ethnicity, and their income without even thinking of it, and it’s not all their fault. Society has created norms and expectations for just about everything about our lives, and we, as a rule, follow these norms in order to seem like normal functioning human beings. A more specific form of conformity is called “group speak,” known mainly through Ashe’s experiments (published in 1953), in which only one person in a group is correct about something, yet they will go along with their peer group in giving an incorrect answer in order to avoid being singled out.

Authority

Another reason for conformist actions is submission to authority. Social structures throughout humanity have supported this as a means for establishing order and law among large groups of people. It has been quite effective, especially since most people simply go along with the law to avoid social punishment atop the punishments required by law. Many people will obey people who only seem to be in power and authority because it seems like most other people would.

Is it possible?

Can you really be a true nonconformist?

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Ah Society.. it's killer.

This action can naturally lead to exploitation by less than noble people. Some with authority, or groups of people in an organization, can and have applied pressure to individuals to get them to do or not do what they want, against the victim’s normal judgment. This is one reason that individuality is valued above conformity, even if it is not as widely practiced. The important part is finding a balance between conformity and nonconformity that allows a person to retain their individuality while still remaining a functioning part of society. There is little sanity in being what one is not, and little use in being unapproachable by society, so finding that median is essential to being a well adjusted person.

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      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent and very interesting Hub, Laura. I agree with you that it comes down to what works for you. Societies do covertly urge conformity to make the society run smoother. But non-conformity makes it all interesting. One should simply do what he or she feels best for them as long as you are not harming others.

    • Laura Eadie profile image
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      Laura 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank you :) I appreciate the feed back

    • Amy Naylor profile image

      Amy Naylor 3 years ago from England

      A very interesting take on the issue and it's nice to see someone exploring the viewpoint that perhaps conformity is an important part of livelihood. Usually when reading people's work on the subject they become preachy about 'being individual' and 'discovering new ways of living.'

      I think it is very important to be able to break away from conformity and not be indoctrinated by other people's values. If you agree and you understand the situation fully then by all means 'follow the crowd' but it is important that the individual is aware of other modes of living so that they an make an informed choice on how they wish to live.

      It is possible to be a true non-conformist but perhaps not compatible with western values and modes of living.

      Great, engaging hub. Thanks for sharing!

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