WASHINGTON, May 11, 2014 — All of us have wondered why we are not accepted in a particular clique, social group or social order and privately thought we may be socially awkward or exhibit undesirable behavior that could make us social deviants.
This may or not be true, but in most cases, when encountering rejection from a particular social group or any type of group, values, goals, aspirations and expected behaviors may not be mutually compatible.
Such conditions do not explicitly imply social deviance but if this sort of encounter happens often enough, perhaps it does. Often, what is known as a ‘late bloomer’ is someone that took many years to discover where they fit in and with whom. This long delay may be attributed to not being in compliance with societies mores.
Fortunately for some late bloomers, social mores are fluid, and what was considered objectionable may become stylish almost overnight. Behaviors previously thought unacceptable may be considered new wave alternative thinking.
An abridged definition of social deviance is a departure or non-adherence to social norms. However, norms are rapidly changing and may be cliquish.
What if one experiences consistent rejected from multiple groups over a period of years? This is when one could ask themselves “am I a social deviant?”
In a broad analysis, we all are to some extent and in some circles, yet this is not always a bad thing. In many cases, we want to be.
For the most part, the average ‘Joe’ and ‘Jane’ do not want to be accepted into criminal, drug or any mass socially unacceptable circles, but what if we exhibit behavior that attaches the label of deviant to us? What happens?
We are labeled in some manner that denotes a particular manner of deviance such as a drug abuser, bad temper, spouse abuser or any form of consistent behavior to justify a socially assigned label. In some cases, people may assign an undeserved label and gossip will serve to magnify and propagate it.
The results are the same. A label is a label. At some point, we notice attitudes change and we discover people are talking behind our backs and our reputations are tarnished. This is a serious issue in that it is difficult to overcome a tarnished reputation particularly in our schooling years where we cannot escape our ambient social groupings. We get stuck in social limbo for years.
People may feel uncomfortable around those labeled as deviant and we may notice when entering a room, a hush falls over discussions and we may notice we are excluded from further social activities. People may seem friendly on a one to one basis but disregard us around a group.
What do we do when we find ourselves in such a position?
The old cliché of ‘birds of a feather flock together’ applies in spades, because we tend to seek out like minded attachment to individuals and social groups that carry the reputation of similar social stigma. So-called “nerds” will seek other nerds, athletes seek other athletes, even drug abusers form social circles with others who abuse drugs. Bars across America serve to provide a social atmosphere for those who share a love of drink and light conversation. One reason bars are so successful is the level of sociality rarely goes beyond topical social content so folks do not engage in the degree of sociality that may foster ill feelings or reveal social deviance.
We commit to conformity of the groups we seek and involve ourselves in the group’s conventional activities. We inherit the group’s beliefs and morals and feel comfortable within their overview of related social mores. In this manner, we find a home for our thought processes and patterns that are welcomed by specific groups.
This may take many years to achieve but as it goes, few people are truly ‘social misfits’ that cannot find themselves thriving within a social group.
Feeling awkward under certain circumstances is normal but feeling awkward constantly may mean we are part of a group that marches to a different drum and there is nothing wrong with this.
Once we establish who set certain standards within a particular group to determine what is and what is not socially acceptable to the group, we may discover we don’t wish to be part of it.
We are all unique but we can all flourish within our uniqueness and arrive at a successful life because we are all comparatively, social deviants.
A classic example is the 12 person jury; 12 people from 12 walks of life with 12 points of view and mostly divergent backgrounds who can sit in a room and openly communicate. In the final analysis, much more often than not, they come to similar conclusions. Who’s to say which juror is a social deviant?
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based psychotherapist and writer.