There is an invisible set of rules and guidelines that people unconsciously follow throughout their lives. This invisible set of rules and guidelines is called social norms.
Norms are a structured set of behaviors and actions that a majority of the population will adhere to in a given setting. Social norms are norms that are specifically attributed to society as a whole. Due to their abstract nature, it is somewhat difficult to measure social norms and diagnose their after-effects.
Sometimes there are social norms that can act as solutions to an issue but present a harmful or negative outcome that will harm or negatively affect people. For example, there are little to no social norms that touched upon energy conservation until more attention was added to the dangers of climate change and the shortage of fossil fuels.
One of the best ways to challenge social norms is by properly facilitating respectful conversations or discourse. Communication is one of the most powerful tools in changing and challenging people’s beliefs.
Another way to challenge a social norm is to provide a salient, physical, and observable example of the dangers or harm presented by the social norm. This will bring the consequences of the social norm to the forefront.
Some social norms have a history of harming or negatively affecting people in both the past and present. It is very important to present and highlight how these social norms can negatively affect the people around them.
Another way to challenge a social norm is to respectfully present and ideate a counter-action or a new social norm that will challenge and upend the older social norms. One can engage in discourse and brainstorming sessions with like-minded people and professionals.
There are two types of norms that we encounter in our whole lives which are inherently categorized by their groups of origin. Cultural norms are expectations or ideas that create a guideline for actions and behaviors that are acceptable in a cultural group. The experiences and history of ethnic or cultural groups have created and modified these norms as a form of adaptation to both the environment and the people around them. For example, most collectivist countries like Japan tend to foster an environment that requires high-context communication, while individualistic cultures prefer direct communication. Social norms are expectations or ideas that create a guideline for actions and behavior that are acceptable in society. These norms are more centralized and general, which means these norms barely differ from another country’s social norms. Therefore the main difference between these two subtypes of norms is their origin and variety.
Social norms can be broken down into four subcategories based on their origin, nature, and primary subject. The first subtype of social norm is called folkways, which are norms that people in a specific society, ethnicity, or group have cultivated over time. This type of social norm puts more importance on being accepted within the group than that on morality and ethics. The second subtype of social norm is called taboo, which is a behavior or action that goes against the beliefs and expectations of the majority in the group. The third subtype of social norm is called law, which is a formal structured set of rules and guidelines that prevent dangerous deviant behaviors from occurring. Laws are often shared from one country to another, which means most laws have little variations when viewed in a different context. The final subtype of social norm is called more, which refers to actions and behaviors that are concerned with the morality of the behavior or action, and are therefore concerned with the rightness or the wrongness of the action or behavior.
No, not all behaviors or actions that deviate from the social norm are dangerous or harmful. In fact, some previous behaviors or actions that were a social norm in the past are considered taboo or deviant. This means that some deviant behaviors and actions are technically moral and right, even though they violate a specific social norm in a given society. Though most actions that are deemed deviant lead to negative consequences like shunning and punishment.
Social norms are a set of informal guidelines that act as a structure of how a person in society will act and behave. It is important to know and understand what social norms are as they will affect one’s standing with the people around them. But it is also important to know how to challenge dated social norms that may cause harm or issue.