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Social Norms and Challenging Them

Updated on September 14, 2017

Here is a topic that I am not sure that I am qualified due to the fact that I haven't given it as much thought as many other people. The topic is social norms, what they are, why they stick, and what can be done to go against them.

One of the biggest social norms that I am aware of is the fact that everyone says that you have to be fully clothed in public. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does make you wonder who has the authority to force us to do something that we might not want to do in the first place. It also makes you wonder when we gave up our privelege to decide for ourselves.

As a libertarian I have always thought along the lines of: if it isn't hurting anyone else, then yes go ahead do what you want to. I am not going to make a regulation saying that you aren't allowed to do it.

You might say that things such as nudity are harmful to others, and I ask you for what proof you have. It is a well known fact that it is often the clothing that is what makes someone sexy because even the tiniest piece of fabric leads to intrigue about what the remaing tihng is. In addition, the fact that we are overly cautious to cover certain body parts means that those parts automatically have a higher level of sexuality linked with them.

It is kind of like the old saying: Don't think of a pink elephant. One moment ago a pink elephant was the last thing on your mind, but by the end of the sentence then you will be thinking about a pink elephant. (Stop it! I told you not to think about the pink elephant.) Now that there is a rule regarding something that you can't do, all of a sudden it becomes an object of much more desire than it previously was. When we as a people say that certain body parts are indecent; we are making that which is usually hidden to be the pink elephant. By making the body parts restricted now that is where focus goes.

This is just one example of a social norm. Other examples include going to college to get that perfect career, having a job instead of running your own company, and that people in the skilled trades don't make any money.

These are all things that we as a people don't tend to think about, but we continue to go down the path; never knowing where we are headed, only that we are moving. While we might not know where we are going we see lots of people who are traversing the same path, right alongside us, so we assume that we are on the right path. We believe that continuing to stay on this path will lead us to happiness, even though we never know what happiness actually looks like. We just know that it is something that we are trying to chase.

Over time social norms become stronger and stronger until you are considered an outcast if you are someone who doesn't conform to all aspects of the norm. However, the social norms of today can be broken; it will take time, but eventually even the strongest of social norms can be reduced down to a pile of ashes holding no weight.

During the current days of social media, now is the best time in history to challenge social norms. Many people have large followings, and they can ask their followers to answer a few simple questions. Once these questions are asked, a few will take the time to respond, and they will respond in a way that actually shows their critical thinking skills. Once people begin to think about even simple things such as: Do I really need to go to college, or would I learn better by starting my own business, and learning from the failures along the way.

This might be just the first domino in changing the social norms, but the fact that he is now thinking about new possibilities, and there will be many more dominoes that fall because of the fact that he got the reaction started by changing the way that he thinks.

The progress is really slow, but it is necessary if we want to dig out of our ruts. In Victorian England it was frowned upon to show any leg, even the table legs needed to be covered. More recently beaches were patrolled to make sure that everyone's bathing suit fit the proper requirements. Read more about it here Now less than a hundred years later it is not uncommon to see women running around in bikinis that would have most definitely failedthe tests of the early 20th century.

I don't know about the total impact of new lines of though regarding trade school, or even unschooling. However, I do know that among the few who have taken the time to reflect, these two options are looking more promising.

Obviously social norms are all around us, but what are we doing to break free of social norms and live the life that we actually want to live, instead of as a puppet under the control of the social collective.

What social norms are you falling into that you wish that you could get free from? Please let me know in the comments below.

-God Bless
Christopher Benner


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    • christopherbenner profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago

      You are absolutely correct in that it is a choice to follow the social norms. The hard decision comes when we feel we should challenge them, but we fear the consequenses.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      13 months ago

      Life is a (personal) journey.

      Each of us has the option to ignore social decorum. Essentially you could decide to never bathe again or speak to others.

      However one must decide if they want to (succeed) in life.

      “While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions” – Stephen R. Covey


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