My Experiment

October 26, 2011
By stephw9288 SILVER, Boca Raton, Florida
stephw9288 SILVER, Boca Raton, Florida
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Because folkways are typically expected behavior, society seems to be extremely surprised when these social conventions are broken. In my experiment, I broke the social norm of sleeping at home. I went to the Town Center mall, dressed in pajamas and slippers, holding a Pillow Pet, and slept in the beds throughout the mall. I had my boyfriend take notes of peoples’ reactions as I napped. I mapped out a route before hand. First, I went to Brookstone. Then after I was escorted out, I proceeded to nap in many beds in various department stores, like Sears and Nordstrom. I had certainly anticipated some extreme reactions. I expected customers of the stores to give my boyfriend and I strange looks or even question my activity. I knew employees of the stores would attempt to wake me up (despite my feigned deep sleep) and maybe even call security. Going into it, I felt excited. I am not a particularly shy person, and I tend to break social norms on a regular basis because I think it is funny. However, I was a little nervous. I was mainly worried that I could get in trouble with the mall security.

I went to the mall for approximately two hours. In that time, I slept in three beds in three different stores. I went into Brookstone and lied on the Tempur-Pedic bed at the back of the store. Though it was difficult to actually fall asleep due to the noise, I beguiled people in the store into believing I was really sleeping. Some people simply ignored me. However, there were a select few who made comments. One woman stared at me for a few minutes. Then, she asked my boyfriend if I was “okay”. He reassured her, but she still seemed very puzzled. A young boy walked up to me, poked me in the face a few times, and screamed, “Are you dead?” It was extremely difficult not to break out laughing, but I kept my cool. After about twenty minutes of feigned sleep, an employee yelled at me to leave. I continued to “sleep” until he threatened to call security. Then, I went to Sears and proceeded to “sleep” in one of the beds upstairs. A gaggle of teenage girls walked by, gave me weird looks, and giggled to themselves. A middle-aged woman exclaimed loudly to her husband, “Oh my god! Is that a homeless person?” Several other people walked by laughing, pointing, and making rude comments. Soon, an employee woke me up and told me I must leave the store immediately. They told me not to come back. This did not deter me, however. I continued my experiment at a new store, Nordstrom. Once again, I went to the level with the beds and set up camp in a particularly humongous bed. I received very similar reactions to the previous two stores. Some walked by without so much as a glance, but most gave me strange looks. One teenager asked my boyfriend what we were doing, which is understandable, as it must have looked odd. He simply responded, “She is taking a nap.” Soon enough, an employee screamed at me and escorted me out of the store.

Overall, I believe this was a successful experiment. Though the majority of the reactions were expected, I was surprised by the number of people that simply ignored my presence. Perhaps society has become too individualistic; those people were too consumed by their own lives to notice the strange situations going on around them. Through this assignment, I was able to understand the feeling of being ostracized from society. I strayed from the norm of society and felt a sense of deviance that I would not understand had I not broken a folkway.

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