Isolation Update: Social Norms for Social Animals

Hi, there (wherever “there” is). First off, update from isolation. Almost at the end of week 2 in this room. I’ve been asked how I’m doing after two weeks alone in a room I can’t leave, and I think I’m frabjous. Do you find crumpets in your hair? The unicorn says they’re nice. No, really, I’m okay. My symptoms are actually slightly better today, and I’m holding on.

Perhaps a wee bit more cynical. Well, maybe not. My theory is to expect the best of humans individually and less as they gather in bigger groups. Mob mentality is a thing. Watching those yokels go on about how they’re out partying when they could be home saving lives was galling at first, then I remembered how self-reinforcing groups are.

If you’re in a big group (and I shuddered as I typed those words), whatever the group is doing feels “right” if you do it, too. We’re social animals. We’re not the descendants of those who went exploring and broke social norms. We’re the offspring of generations of people who said, ” You’re going over there? I’ll come with you!” So it requires real, conscious thought to question.

Those Spring Breakers are idiots. No doubt about it. But they’re also doing what sheep, cows and humans do. Following their herd. It helps that their herd is doing something that sounds like more fun than the alternative. Humping each other randomly while getting as shit-faced (side note: many idioms sound different now. I hear “shit-faced” and my mind goes to “do they have toilet paper?) probably sounds much better than sitting in their rooms bingeing shows. Not to me. I’m an introvert and random humping doesn’t sound good to someone who won’t share a hairbrush with anyone but her husband. But to them.

So what do we do about it? Appeals to reason do not work against emotional decisions. People like to believe they are logical and rational, but what we actually are is rationalizing. We make emotional choices and seek support to convince us we’ve made the right choice. That’s how the brain works.

That’s where “social norms” come in. See, if enough of us share memes, make jokes, and make it clear over and over that staying home is what the herd is doing and expects, then followers (like those idiots who aren’t social distancing) feel pressure to join in, and fit in. There’s a tipping point where you reach enough people so that most people feel invisible, but powerful, pressure to be with the herd.

Even if being with the herd means being alone.

Hang in there, happy campers!

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One Response to Isolation Update: Social Norms for Social Animals

  1. Random humping- shit faced (with or without TP) – they aren’t in sync with now. Don’t you wish for the old days? When we too were idiots? Then it was “no worries, mate!”. Growing up is not for sissies. Right now I’m feeling like a total sissy.

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