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The Impact of Violating Folkways in Society

Jul 24, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jul 24, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Folkways can be generally defined as the social customs or conventions of daily life in a given society. They are not formal laws but rather the unspoken “rules” of society that guide people’s behaviors without any serious consequences upon violation (Kendall, 8). It is evident across the globe, that most if not all societies not only have set rules and laws that govern acceptable behaviors, but have also formulated social control developed by social groups that encourage conformity to rules, laws and norms and discourages deviance.

Folkways may vary from one society to the other. This implies that a certain action may be seen as socially acceptable in a certain culture but it may be unacceptable in another community. Moreover, some behaviors may be regarded as normal in a specific environment but the same behaviors might be considered abnormal in a different context. For example, it might be seen as normal if a man walks bare chest at the beach while he might seem to be insane if he enters a bus in the same way. Folkways are mostly confused with conformity and are only recognized when they are violated. Personally, I violated a folkway by sitting next to a stranger in a restaurant and the reactions were fascinating.


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The Norm I Violated

The norm I violated was intruding personal space by sitting next to a stranger in a restaurant. I went to the restaurant during unusual hours when I was absolutely sure that there were a minimal number of guests. Most of the seats were empty and the few clients in the room were scattered around and almost everyone was on a table alone. Typically, most Americans are likely to choose an empty table if everyone else seems unfamiliar so that they can eat undisturbed. Hence, I decided to intentionally break this custom to see the reactions and outcome of the encounter. I entered the restaurant and after exploring the room for a moment I noticed a young girl seated alone at the farthest corner seemingly communicating with someone over the phone. I went past all the tables including the empty ones and seated right next to her and started looking around the room innocently.

How I Felt While Being Deviant

My decision to violate the folkway was purposeful because I wanted to see how deviant behavior influences other people’s behavior. I wanted to experience the social forces of conformity firsthand. Therefore, I sat next to the girl and stayed calm to experience the awkward moment I had caused between the two of us. Personally, I did not feel as much embarrassed because I already knew what to expect in that situation. Instead, I felt some kind of excitement while I watched keenly not to miss any single reaction from the girl to better understand the effects of violating folkways.

The Reactions I Received

I received several reactions from the girl during the encounter as a direct result of breaking the folkway. For example, she immediately stopped talking and did not say a word to the person on the phone although the phone remained glued on the ear as she gazed at me. This prompted her to end the call prematurely. Surprised with my advances, she quickly put the phone into her handbag which was laying on the table. I was a little bit surprised and uneasy trying to guess her next move. It became clear to me that I had intruded into her personal space. Moreover, I also received the most annoying glare from the girl when we made an eye contact. The eye contact did not last for three seconds as she quickly looked away. This was really an awkward moment. The girl also showed signs of disturbance as she seemed unsettled and kept looking around and probably figuring out how to get out of the situation. From her eyes I could tell that everything was not alright. She kept rolling her eyes and taking deep breaths. Finally, after accomplishing my goal I decided to break the tension by greeting her and explaining to her the reason for my actions. She became excited and opened up on how she had felt awkward.

She told me she had a mixed reactions. At first, she thought I knew her the first moment I approached her. Secondly, she thought I was one of the womanizers around who had interest in her. However, her last thought about me left me surprised as she thought I was a thief whose mission was to steal from her and that is the reason she kept her phone in the handbag so that she could easily escape at my slightest provocation. Curious of why she thought I was a thief, I asked her if I looked like one. Her argument was that if I knew her I would have greeted her and inform her immediately I reached the table. Consequently, if I wanted to seduce her, I would have at least have a formidable conversation with her. After evaluating all the two possibilities, she was left with no reason but to think that I had a plan of stealing from her and she was about to move from that particular table if I would have uttered a word.

Analysis and Theories of Deviance

The experience in the case scenario above demonstrated the intense social pressures for conformity in our communities. Kendall (2017) lists various sociological theories that can be used to explain deviant behaviors in society. For example, structural functionalism perceives crime and deviance as essential aspects of any society. Social conflict explains that deviance occurs due to unequal power distribution where the powerful consider the others as deviant. Moreover, the symbolic interactionism theory contends that deviance arises due to social processes like labeling and differential association. Finally, the postmodernism paradigm suggests that deviance develops from the forceful acquisition of the free will of others by categorizing certain groups as deviant by default even at a young age. For the above case, I think that the symbolic interactionism best explains the scenario in which social labeling and beliefs about privacy influenced the girl’s reactions.


In summary, folkways are not formal laws but the general social principles that guide the behaviors of people within a culture. Typically, social rules usually vary from one society to the other. Violation of folkways can trigger unusual reactions among people as demonstrated in the case scenario where I seated next to a stranger in a restaurant. Symbolic interactionism could be used to explain such a case because it explains how deviance develops as a result of social processes.

Work cited

Kendall. D. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed., Cengage Learning, 2017, pp. 8-15.

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