Not all rules are written down. Social norms are unspoken rules that cultures have formed and are learned–usually informally–as they are passed down from generation to generation. Many people in society follow them without questioning them, they are accepted as the correct behavioral pattern (the “norm”) and carried out by each culture without further thinking into said norm(s). I enjoy stepping outside of social norms to view the familiar as strange; this is what it is to be a sociologist.
A lot of pressure is put on individuals as they try to fit into society by living according to these social norms that go unquestioned. I decided to pick a random category to explore further. There are rules for riding the elevator–which I find silly, to be honest, it is just an elevator. Evaluating these rules further made me wonder whom exactly thought this stuff up.
1. If the Elevator Is Not Full, It Is Rude to Say You Will "Catch the Next One"
OK, listen, there are a lot of people that are way too shy to deal with the pressure of having to greet someone, answer what floor they are going to – if not have to awkwardly reach across the other person because you know they will be standing right in front of the buttons, and then ride to their destination in awkward silence. That is way too much awkward pressure for an introverted person to handle. Just let the poor kid take the next one; it is not hurting anyone.
2.You are to Greet People as They Get On With a Nod or a Quick Hello
I hardly think a greeting is in order if I am busy doing something else, example being listening to music minding my own business. There is always, of course, the chance that you get caught having to stand face-to-face with someone you do not like or who does not like you; I would rather skip the formalities of a proper greeting and skip straight to ignoring their scowl. There is always the chance that I am met by a stranger while I am in a good mood and want to make conversation. According to social norm, however, it is rude because they may not want to talk to me. God forbid they are introverted and do not wish to be spoken to (I would like to point out that this type of awkward confrontation could very well be avoided if people were allowed to say they will catch the next one). Thanks to social convention I am either forced to or limited to a quick greeting as new company comes aboard.
3.It Is Rude to Press Multiple Buttons
If ELF can do it, so can I. I am sure that this can be annoying to some–those with no sense of humor or those in a rush. Those who would be annoyed by such a notion could just catch the next..wait...no, that would be outside the laws of social convention. Essentially this one is kind of hard to argue, it really is not that entertaining to have the elevator doors open on each floor. There is the exception: you have never been in this building and you either do not know which floor to get off on or you just want to see every floor to see the differences.
4. If There are Only Two People, Do Not Stand Right Beside the Other Person
OK, if the other said person in that elevator is cute I may want to stand close to them or them to me. It is proven that the closer you stand to someone the easier it is to slip your number into their pockets, assuming they are not wearing skinny jeans. Or perhaps I want to be complimented on my perfume, the less space between us the more likely the chance that they will smell my (hopefully) wonderful aroma.
It is true that I am weird, but think of this: perhaps I am seen as weird because I challenge social norms. Some social norms change from generation to generation, challenged and eventually changed as society changes. So, I invite you to take a step outside of your comfort zone created by unspoken rules to assess these odd manners created by an unknown source for an unknown reason. Social norms are not crucial to our survival as a society or to individual survival. They are just unspoken laws to create conformity among societies. So, next time you step into an elevator, I encourage you to think of these social norms and break them. Tschüss!