Project: Identify some social stuff in everyday life

I’ll use this thread to post the stuff I come up with in the project described in this post.

My vision is that discussion about the examples should happen here, and meta discussion about the project or about anything else should happen there.

I will write down everyday examples of people doing things for social reasons. I might say what I think the social reasons are. I could easily be wrong about the reasons, because so much of this is automatic for me and I’m not used to thinking about it consciously. Some of these examples are things I do or have done, and others are things I’ve seen other people do.

I’ll try numbering my examples to make it easier to refer to them later.

  1. Posting pictures of your trip to Europe on Facebook in order to seem to yourself and to others that you are a successful person.

  2. Making an effort to look busy when the boss is around. It’s part of a goal to have the boss think of you as a certain kind of person, one who concentrates on their work.

  3. Being thin. It occurs to me that being thin doesn’t give more status in all social circles, just some. And that this applies to other things on my list.

  4. Posting to FI and CF in order to feel like and look like a good student and a smart person. I know I do this. I think I also post here in order to learn, but it’s hard for me to tell if that’s really the case.

  5. Doing and posting about this project in order to feel like and look like a good student and a smart person.

  6. Complaining to your boss about what a bad job your co-workers are doing. This tries to elevate you in the ranking in the boss’s mind of how valuable each person is as an employee. It pushes the other people lower down in the ranking. It also pushes you up by showing that you know what constitutes doing a good job.

  7. Saying “I don’t watch football” in a disdainful tone, when you’re around people who you think will admire you for not watching football.

  1. Starting a casual conversation with someone you don’t know well at work or in your neighborhood. Depending on the context, you might be showing them that you’re in control of the social situation there and that you’re inviting them in. Or you might be showing that you want to become a bigger part of the social scene. Or you might be showing that you’re on their side in some group split. Any of these might be in addition to or instead of a non-social goal like wanting ideas about the topic you’re talking about or something.
  1. The clothes you wear. Sometimes there are practical considerations like being warm enough or cool enough or protection from rain or something. There are also social considerations. Your clothes can signal that you’re part of a certain social group or want to be part of a certain social group. You can appear to be rich by wearing expensive clothes or by wearing a style of clothes that rich people wear.

  2. A man opening a door for his wife. There’s social meaning whether or not she’s able to do it for herself, although it’s different. He’s strengthening the social connection between them. He’s emphasizing the idea that a husband takes care of his wife.

  3. A person holding a door open for a stranger. It’s a small social connection thing.

  4. A salesperson telling a customer that the clothing she’s looking at would look great on her. The salesperson knows that the customer wants to look great in order to up her social status, and is using that to try to sell the clothes. Is there also something going on with the salesperson upping her own social status by seeming like an expert?

  1. Picking up a piece of litter and putting it in a trash can. This could be done with no social meaning—someone could do it just because they think it looks better that way. If there are other people watching, there could be a desire to have others think they are a good citizen. Even if there is no one else around, the person could have a desire to think of themselves as a good citizen, or a person who likes tidiness, or a person in an “environmental” political camp.
  1. The driver behind you is tailgating and seems impatient for you to drive faster. You drive faster so as not to appear to be a wimp to yourself or to the stranger behind you.

  2. You’re driving and have passengers in the car with you. You call other drivers on the road idiots, making yourself look smarter and more competent in comparison to those other drivers.

  1. You visit your aged parent, not because you care whether you see them in person, but because you want to be a good daughter.

  2. You want your kids to “do well in life”, partly because you want to see yourself as a good parent and you want other people to see you as a good parent.

  3. When your friend is drinking alcohol or eating a high-calorie dessert, you do so also, to signal that you don’t judge them wrong for doing so.

I think that there are always practical considerations.

At first I thought, yeah Justin’s right about this.

Then I tried to think of a counter-example.

Suppose you’re female and attending a fancy-dress function. You want to appear attractive to gain social status. That means wearing a dress that doesn’t cover much of your body and being cold all night. You can add a shawl or something but that doesn’t do much for warmth. You can wear a dress that covers your arms and shoulders, or pants that cover your legs, but you think both of those would look too frumpy.

So you wear a skimpy dress that fits the image you want to project. What’s the practical consideration in wearing that dress? Maybe you choose a dress that costs less than another one but still works for your purposes, and that’s a practical consideration. Or maybe you choose a dress that you already own instead of buying a new one (making sure no one at the event has seen you in that dress before), and that’s a practical consideration.

So yeah, this isn’t a counter-example to the idea that there are always practical considerations.

  1. Somebody tells a group of people about an achievement of theirs. You congratulate them because you think it’ll help them feel better about their achievement. Or you congratulate them because not many other people have. Or you don’t congratulate them because several other people already have.

  2. You decide whether or not to wear a mask in a public place based on what percent of other people there are wearing a mask, not based on how likely you are to get or spread disease in that situation.

  1. Giving gifts: who you give them to, how much you spend, what type of gift it is. It’s a way of marking a particular relationship between the giver and receiver.

  2. Sympathizing with someone when they’re mad or unhappy about something. It shows that you think their feelings are valid and you’re on their side.

Socially valid.

  1. Giving someone an unasked-for compliment, like commenting on a Facebook-posted picture “that blue looks great on you”.

  2. Posting just about anything about your life on Facebook.You pick what of your life to present to your Facebook friends and to implicitly ask for their reaction to it.

  3. Being hesitant to cut back your work hours to part time because you don’t want your co-workers to think of you as weak or rich.

  4. Telling people personal stuff about yourself so they’ll like you more or be nicer to you or be impressed by you more.

  1. Please, thank you, you’re welcome. There’s an obvious social meaning to these phrases, but also they can have different meanings, depending on the context and the intonation.