August 1, 2019
We’re social creatures. We are in a constant need for human connection. We like to conform. We like to stay inside of our comfortable, uniform box of society and watch from the inside looking out. It’s normal. But when does natural human conformity cross a line? When does conformity begin to prevent us from seeing our true selves?
In a behavioral sense, conformity is behaving in a way that would be seen as socially acceptable to everyone else. This means that when you clap automatically in the middle of a guest speaker at the sound of an applause erupting around you, you’re conforming. When you pour coffee into a cup rather than straight into your mouth, you’re conforming. When you drive on a paved road rather than on the sidewalk, you’re conforming.
These are all socially acceptable acts, hardly anyone would refute that. However, conformity is also when you choose to bully the new kid because everyone else is doing it. Or when you buy the new Nike shoes that everyone else has. Even watching the hot new show that everyone is watching on Netflix is a sign of conformity. Which then brings up the question: if conformity is the act of performing a behavior that’s socially acceptable, how can it be bad? It’s “acceptable” by society, isn’t it?
This is where research comes into play. What’s “socially acceptable” isn’t always what’s good for you. Way back in the stone ages of the 1950s, Solomon Asch wanted to know how much influence social pressure had on one’s ability to conform1 [Read: Asch Line Experiment]. Long story short, the experiment summed up our modern day understanding of conformity: people will do what the majority does, despite their intuition.
Teens especially have a difficult time not fitting in. High school is all about conforming – sticking to the rule book and not showing the world that you’re different because somewhere down the line we’ve been lead to the inaccurate claim that different is bad.
A friendly newsflash: It is not.
No one has ever made it big in life by being just like everyone else. It’s individuality at its finest. Conform to yourself, that’s much more interesting.
- Solomon Asch Line Experiment (1951) https://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html
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