Change

Change
Turning Over New Leaf

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Societal Norms

rome

In sociology, the term social norm is a pattern of behavior expected within a particular society in a given situation. While many people mistakenly construe social norms as dictating morality, they are really nothing more than shared beliefs as to what are the normal and acceptable actions of people in a society.

With the advent of television in the 1950s, America became obsessed with technology, which today drives nearly every action of the typical American citizen. Yet, while we are quick to widely spread the blame for unacceptable changes in our nation over the last five decades, we can target one major cause for our general decline: media.

The values taught to today’s generation emanate through television shows that highlight the exploits of celebrities, outcasts, anarchists, weirdoes, and others operating outside the parameters of American societal norms. Even using the word norm suggests discrimination. After all, we are all clones possessed of equal abilities in all areas, right?

Since the founding of our country, family members were the primary teachers of morals and values. However, as the media began to play a greater role in everyday life, the decline in importance of the family unit took its toll upon society. Our children are now obsessed with technology, which has replaced the time spent with family. Now, the media is the main vessel through which this generation receives its moral direction. Family dinners and discussions have been replaced by TV shows and the Internet.

Teachers used to stand in the shoes of parents during periods of formal education. Media now teaches our children, who have grown to accept everything they see and hear on television. Why? Because with the decline of the family unit, there is no one left to contest the promiscuous, corrupt, or otherwise negative values spewed over the air waves by media moguls seeking personal wealth while our country falls into a collective state of moral poverty.

What happened to pride, honesty, self-respect, and respect for others? What happened to honor and integrity? Did you teach your children that those concepts were obsolete was unnecessary? Is there a reason your kids appear unable to engage in intelligent conversation? Did you ever notice that boyfriends and girlfriends have disappeared? Now, everyone has a fiancé, but nobody is married. When I was growing up, that meant I was planning to devote my life to one person. It did not translate to a right to impregnate a young girl, and then abandon her and her offspring. 

Per capita, we probably watch as much TV today as people did in the 1950s. The difference is what we watch. How many television programs promote wholesome values today? We would expect normal societal changes as civilized people grow. We would not expect the role of women to be confined to housecleaning, cooking, and childbearing. Yet, we should expect the media version of reality to actually reflect reality. The media could still maintain an audience by extolling the virtues of non-violence. The media could explain to our kids that teen pregnancies are not acceptable as the norm. The scantily clad fifteen-year old need not be the new teen idol setting the fashion bar for vulnerable children. Do skimpy dresses and perfect bodies promote a plan for future success, or do they foster low self-esteem and eating disorders?

Of course, I understand dorky, outdated fashion. At eighteen, most of us thought micro-mini skirts and low-cut tops were somehow sent from Heaven to reward our good deeds. But we were young. We did not understand that it costs a great deal of money to fill the swimming pools at the Hollywood mansions of magazine owners not overly concerned with America’s future. We did not see that down the road ten year-old girls would long for the chance to don the covers of girlie magazines. After all, there were some societal norms.

Our kids must learn that happiness is more important than wealth, and it is not achieved with pothead status. They must be taught that contributions to community, not accumulation of possessions should fuel the motivation of celebrities. Simply put, the values taught by the media in today's society are completely inferior to what was taught by families years ago. There was a time when kids focused on celebrities themselves, not their bank accounts.

The media will always play a huge role in society. However, the values taught by the media should not result in an inconsistency of ideas and norms. Those behavior patterns of outcasts in American society that were once taboos are now tolerable in everyday life primarily because this generation has been taught by the media that they are acceptable. Decade after decade, the values passed down to future generations seem to be continuously more corrupt.

It is not my purpose to preach morality, nor should I do so. In fact, I do not consider myself a sheep that follows the crowd. I do my own thing, within what I perceive to be societal guidelines. Instead, I think only of our children. Adults are free to make choices. Children need guidance. They need parents, not adult friends. I feel free to opine that the establishment of the new societal norms I observe daily will demoralize this great nation. Absent real change, we will go the way of past empires.

16 comments:

  1. I do not have as dim a view of today's society as do you, but you make many good points and your voice and others sound a warning on what we could become.

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    1. joeh: I'm not really that dim, but I do not like the direction we are heading. I have also met many terrific students who will carry the future, if they are given a chance.

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    2. I have a very dim view of our future (the United States of America)... I had no dea that the Obama administration could screw up as much stuff as they did in the first four years, but I did view his re-election as the turning point for our country, that it was the point-of-no-return. I fear that we can no longer save ourselves and that we are on the way down the flusher of history.

      ~shoes~

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  2. A thought-provoking blog post, JJ.
    We don't watch TV at home at all for the reasons you stated above. I don't like the morals they impose on kids and adults.
    A couple of months ago I happened to turn it on by chance and I was bewildered by what I saw. It was outrageous. I felt like an alien watching it.
    Our daughter does not like TV. She prefers to read and do sports.

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    1. Julia: Good for you! When we lived in Vermont when our children were small, we had no TV.

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  3. This post made me think of a response someone else left on my comment on their page. Their post was about something 80s I think, which was when I was in high school. I don't know if it was specifically about the movie The Breakfast Club or just 80s related... Anyway, I was able to relate to every one of those characters when I watched that movie. It was an accurate reflection of what my high school looked like (popular girl, jock, geek, social outcast, and loser/criminal). Being in that detention situation on a Saturday made them realize that they weren't so different and it was a bit mind-blowing for me. No one has to stay in a mold or accept a mold. Kaboom.

    Anyway, the other person said that he didn't think that today's teen could even relate to that movie any longer. Why? The popular kids are now the druggies.

    I tell you what... that nearly had me spinning in my chair.

    However, it makes sense with what you are opining here about the junk kids are watching on TV. The social norms are not "normal." The kids that they are modeling after on TV are the druggies with problems. The kids on TV with drug problems and teen pregnancy are "cool."

    I never thought I would see the day when being a druggie/criminal equated to being popular or cool. However, a lot of things have happened that I never thought would. We can just add this to the list.

    You're right. We are in a state of moral decline. I hope parents start to wake up soon and pay attention to what their kids are watching and how that is manifesting in their lives. It isn't Disney. I can tell you that.

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  4. You state that the 'media teaches children'... I think its because parents ALLOW it to happen.. When I worked in the schools I saw how kids would reach out to their parents and were dismissed w/no regard... A little boy was anxious to tell his mom about what happened in school and all she could say was " We have to hurry to Sylvan'. omg, JJ, its the parents' responsibility to teach their kids to read!. I felt bad mostly because she didn't see or want to pay attention .. she was only concerned about getting him from point A to B... The generation below us is a sad one!... I could not believe the high rate of divorce, kids on ritalin there was!. Also the teachers who rolled their eyes everytime they had to drag out that locked box which held classified paperwork on the students who had issues... The paperwork for teachers is unbelievable! and its mainly due to the fact that the parents are sue happy and the district has to cover their azzes... You would not believe how I had to sugar coat things.... then again, I bet you wouldn't be surprised....

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  5. There is so much here and I cannot disagree. It's hard to remain positive and yet it's hard to give in to negativity. You know what I mean?
    I'm aware of the issues. I'm afraid of what comes next. And yet, I can't help thinking that I still believe in humanity, that we have come from the brink before and that there is never a time when it's completely over. If I'm lucky I guess I'll never live to see the worst of anything.
    Lately I do find myself torn between what I see as reality and what I actually hope for in the future. There's a lot fishing around in my head that I don't always share in my blog because I don't want to be bringing everybody down all the time, you know? I guess that's what the kids are about... they keep us hopeful because we must be and we so want better for those we love that will be here when we're gone.

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  6. I despair for my (10 year old) child's future every day. I can only try and do my best and hope that he will understand what is right and what is wrong. His computer time is very limited and includes a certain amount of time on educational sites and we always sit down at the table and eat together. For me, sitting down and eating together as a family is one of the most important things you can do and is sadly rapidly declining in many homes, with TV dinners becoming the norm.

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    1. Jane: Don't despair. It is people like you that will preserve our great nation!

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  7. Great post, JJ. While I agree that it's discouraging to see the teenagers walking around with their pants around their knees listening to incredibly violent and ignorant music, I try also to remember the 18- and 19-year-olds who choose to serve their country and are overseas right now risking their lives in order to keep our country safe. That helps my mood a bit. :-)

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    1. Jennifer: I was never, never, ever negative before the last election. This administration, the "most transparent" in history, has really bothered me.

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  8. Interesting and provocative post, JJ. The reality in my country is not that much different concerning TV as in the USA. To turn it off is, most of the times, the best option.

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    1. Fanático_Um: That is exactly the answer. We watch very little.

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  9. JJ... I am sure you heard of George Wills' comments about what he felt was behind the financial collapse of Detroit, and soon to be other cities, and eventually our country... he called it a 'cultural collapse.'

    He talked about the reading levels of the students there (but it's not that different here in Miss.)... he talked about the number of children that are born out of wedlock (but it's not that different here in Miss...)

    The thing that has saved us here in our state is that our leadership has not allowed us to spend more than we receive in tax revenues (look at Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, and the state of California.. of course those arent the only ones).

    Obama announced the other day that he has a 'deal' for republicans... he will offer a corporate tax rate decrease...(but then is going to close all of 'THOSE LOOPHOLES' so that taxes paid in really don't change, and in return, he wants to ratchet up his level of spending to yet a higher level.

    Once those who still have something are bled dry, then what will happen?

    *shrugs*

    ~shoes~

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    1. Shoes: It is "Death By Democracy," indeed. Employee unions, no matter how good their intentions were in the 1920s, have become parasites infecting our cities. I blame the media for political partisanship, instead of informing the uninformed about the economic truth.

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