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Breaking Social Norms

I chose to do my social breaking norm on sitting in an empty lobby right next to a stranger. I already had to go to the doctor anyway, so I scheduled my appointment at a late time when not many patients would be present. I arrived very early and had my husband go along to record observations. Personally, I have given someone a dirty look when they have sat right next to me in an empty lobby, so figured this would be a great one to do and record peoples reaction. When I arrived, there were 2 people in the huge lobby. They were sitting apart from one another. One was a middle aged man and the other an older sweet looking lady. I chose to sit next to the lady. I looked ahead and fiddled with my phone to occupy time. I heard her sigh and clear her throat several times. My husband noted she shifted in her chair and kept glaring at me. She then told me I might be more comfortable if I had more space in another seat. I am a heavy set woman so I am still on the fence whether she had made the snide remark solely because she was uncomfortable I sat right beside her or to make a mark at my weight BECAUSE I sat uncomfortably close and she wanted to get back at me. According to sociologist William Graham Sumner, deviance is a violation of established contextual, cultural, or social norms, whether folkways, mores, or codified law (Openstax 2012, 142). This is a great point. I violated, or deviated from, the common norm that is mostly practiced everywhere about sitting alone in a lobby, airport, seating area for respect for ones personal space. I find myself always without fail, sitting in a lone seat when there are enough seats to do so. Sometimes when there are many people present, I will remain standing just so I do not have to sit next to someone. I dont want to feel uncomfortable nor make them uncomfortable. Sociologist Edwin Lemert identified two types of deviance. Primary deviance is a violation of norms that does not result in any long-term effects on the individuals self-image or interactions with others (Openstax 2012, 147). Sitting in chair next to someone would be a great example of primary deviance. My sitting close to this person did not result in any long-term effects on me nor her. It might have been uncomfortable in the moment, but I am still alive and Im sure she will still live on. I got up and moved over to another chair that was alone and sat down. I waited a couple minutes and looked up and at the lady. She gave me the nastiest stink eye I have ever seen. I had clearly made her upset and she still was. Sociologists also classify sanctions as formal or informal. Although shoplifting, a form of social deviance, may be illegal, there are no laws dictating the proper way to scratch ones nose. That doesnt mean picking your nose in public wont be punished; instead, you will encounter informal sanctions. Informal sanctions emerge in face-to-face social interactions (Openstax 2012, 144).There can be negative and positive sanctions. An informal negative sanction is exactly what happened in that lobby that day. I sat right next to her and she gave me unapproving body language, looks and even verbal response. I then got called in to see the doctor. I handled my business and came back out. I left the lobby for a bit and then came back in. I sat one more time right next to someone. This time it was a middle aged gentleman. I felt him looking at me, and my husband reported as such. Not nasty glares like prior but an inquisitive type glance here and there. Probably wondering why I sat so close if there were dozens of other seating opportunities. He said nothing and then went when it was his turn. His reaction can be classified as a negative, but somewhat vague. He was not rude but did give looks because he was probably confused.

As far as how I felt during this assignment, I did feel uncomfortable and out of place. I also felt very rude. I am a soft spoken polite person who keeps to her own and does not get in peoples business or personal space. The whole time the lady was looking at me and sighing until she said what she said, I just wanted to apologize. I did not to finish the assignment, but had the urge to. With regards to what I did was deviant or not, to me it felt like it was. What is deviant behavior? cannot be answered in a straightforward manner. Whether an act is labeled deviant or not depends on many factors, including location, audience, and the individual committing the act (Openstax 2012, 142). Feeling her disgust, anger and uncomfort made me feel very deviant. I am sure other people may not feel the same and sit next to who they want in an empty room without a care in the world. That is the interesting thing about the definition of deviant behavior that it can depend on many factors. Overall, I did like the assignment, even feeling uncomfortable, because I got to see a real life reaction to something that happens all the time I am sure.