Category Archives: Conformity


“Anomie is a state of normlessness that typically occurs during a period of profound social change and disorder, such as a time of economic collapse, political or social revolution, or even sudden prosperity.” – Jon Witt

According Dr. Cecil Greek at FloridaStateUniversity, “Emile Durkheim used anomie to describe a condition of deregulation that was occurring in society. Anomie, simply defined, is a state where norms (expectations on behaviors) are confused or not present” ( Some people might say life is hard, some might say that life is only as hard as you make it. I say that it is a little bit of both. There are certain guidelines or behaviors to life that if followed can make things a little more pleasant. My parents always said to me, “treat people the way you want to be treated.”  This should not be a hard concept to follow. We as people like it when someone treats us with respect. It makes us feel good as a person, whether we know this person personally or not.  It seems as time goes on, people treat one another with complete disrespect. Some people seem to be confused on what good behavior is when dealing with one another. Norms help control behavior in society, a loss of norms can result in normlessness. When communities break down eventually norms within the community breakdown. This can lead to many things.

I was once friends with a girl who had parents that had money. Not too much money, just enough to give her anything she wanted. She had a new car at sixteen and always had nice clothes and shoes.  She had it all.   She may have been a little over spoiled but this was her reward for worked hard in school. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met; everyone loved her. It seemed like she never had a bad day and always pleasant, smiling, joking, and helping others. Both of her parents had good jobs and made good money until one not so good day. Her father was in a bad car accident, lost his job and would be unable to work for the next couple of years due to multiple surgeries.  When the accident happened my friend was in her first year of college. Her mother tried to hide their financial problems as long as possible.  As time went on, finances got worse. Finally her mother sat her down and explained the whole thing. Their finances were lower than ever before. Their social status had dramatic change. The ways of life that were once normal to her had now become a state of normlessness.  Her mother now worked all the time, and took care of her husband. Her parents no longer had time for her or money. Working and going to school full time was a challenge for her. It seemed her whole life had been turned upside down, she was different now. As time passed her behavior changed, she became mean and very unpleasant. I remember when she started to pull away, and keep to herself more. She no longer wanted to hang out or talk. She would sometimes say that she did not know what to do, or which way to go. In a short time her grades dropped and she began doing things some might call deviant. It seemed is if she did not care anymore. I believe that my friend may have slipped into a state of Anomie after her father’s accident.

According to Jon Witt, “deviance is behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society.” Behavior is only deviant if society responds to it that way — a state of mind if you will.  What is deviant to one person may not be to another. I believe the scope of deviance varies from one group to another.  Negative sanctions can discourage public deviance with public punishment.  For example, a drunk drivers face, name and possible punishment may be put in the newspaper. This public punishment could increase conformity by discouraging similar violation by other people. Every society has their own deviant individuals just as everyone is deviant from time to time. Sounds funny but I think deviant behavior can be a shared behavior that could bring people together.

In society there are times when the existentence of external forces seem to out weight the individuals own will. This external force can have a massive influence on an individual’s behavior.  The influence that society can have on one’s behavior can be a good thing or a bad one. This influence from society can help keep us socially integrated. Social integration makes people feel like they fit in or belong to something.

When social integration is weak, it is easier to be deviant. When people feel like they belong to a group they may be less likely to commit deviant acts and more likely to conform in order to fit in. Once conformed, the individual may feel more connected, less lonely and isolated. This would decrease the feeling of Anomie. When people within a society have more shared experiences in common this increases social integration.


Why did people move to America? To have freedom.  People would say that is and will always be our biggest value in America.  In our class’s sociology book, Values are defined as “collective conceptions of what is considered good desirable, and proper – or bad, undesirable and improper, in a culture” (Witt).  Early in the 18th century people moved to America for two reasons, for religious freedom and to start a new life in the “New World.”  In the United States, people can say anything, be anything they want and go anywhere with no limits.  But is that true?

Many Americans believe they do have freedom to make decisions.  But with the growth in technology and media people don’t realize they are involved in conformity.  Conformity means “the act of going along with peers-individuals of our own status who have no special to direct our behavior.”  Another big Value for Americans is trying to save money because our economy is not the greatest.  With the influence of the media advertising products that have no beneficial factor other than wanting a person to buy it makes it difficult to save money.  For example while I was watching television one morning I saw a commercial selling a “Pillow Pet” I began to ask myself what is the benefit of having this product, but then as the commercial went on, I realized it was intended for children.  If I were a child and saw that commercial I would assume that every child had one and would beg my parents to order me one so I could be involved with the In-Group.  The In-Group “is the feeling of being involved in something special.”

There are some people that don’t like the control of Conformity in America and they rebel by being deviant.  Deviance is, “behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society” (Witt).  We have seen this happen to many celebrities all because of fame.  One example of this is Brittany Spears.  As a young artist she was forced to be a sweet and innocent singer, but as she grew up she began going out to clubs, parties and taking inappropriate pictures for the tabloids.  With America watching, we knew this was wrong and out of character for her, so we put her in a category of being deviant.

As I look at these examples I began to question whether or not I  am a conformist or if I make my own values.  I believe I am a conformist because I am in college getting the education I need to better my life.  I do believe I am involved in conformity because I eat cereal for breakfast to save time so I can do more things in my day and I shop for the newest clothes whenever I have money.  I believe that you can be whoever you want to be all you have to do is work hard to get there, which is another example of my conformity.



We act a certain way based on where we are and who we are with. We categorize our attire with words like “formal” and “casual”. We adjust to any situation we are in. We obey many unspoken rules because we cannot imagine how others would react if we did not. What pressure causes people to confine themselves within the walls of “acceptable” social behavior?


The answer is conformity, which is a form of social control. It is the act of going along with peers—individuals of our own status who have no special right to direct our behavior. Included in this post is the theme music and video clip for a show called “Weeds,” and it gives a great visual representation of conformity in a suburban community. Conformity is parallel to obedience. To conform is such a natural behavior that we do not realize that we conform to societal standards every day. We do, however, acknowledge and enforce conformity when a member of society is being deviant (that describes a term called “negative sanctioning”). Deviance is parallel to disobedience. Essentially, that makes deviance the opposite of conformity. People are either rewarded or punished based on whether they conform to the behavior of their society. So, here is a question: If uniqueness is valued in some cultures, why are people punished for not conforming?


Conformity can be both good and bad. On the positive side, conformity maintains order. Society would be a complete mess if there was no form of social control. People would not be able to learn to function if their society had no guidelines. On the negative side, conformity suppresses the “black sheep” of society. Those who choose not to conform are negatively sanctioned and are pressured to behave. There are those who like to fit in and there are those who like to stand out. Luckily, there will always be deviant people, because without them, the accepted behaviors of societies would never be reinforced and conformity would be lost.

Works Cited

Weeds Theme Song. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 05 May 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <;.


Conformity is a rather simple concept to understand. It’s when people act and behave like those around them. Simple, right? Well, conformity is a much broader and complex topic than we initially perceive. It’s not just about behaving like everyone else. It’s about what happens to those who don’t, how conformity plays a huge role in our development, and how it affects us every minute of every day.

Everyone, whether they know it or not, has a mini internal battle about what decisions to make. Do I do this because I want to, or do I do this because everyone thinks I should? We don’t normally actually think this, but it happens nonetheless. Even the clothes we choose to wear in the morning are based on ideas of conformity. Should I wear a suit to work or some jeans and a t-shirt? Everything we do is based on, not only social norms, but the sanctions we might receive if we don’t act appropriately. Sanctions are “the penalties and rewards we face for conduct concerning a social norm” (Witt 130). For example, if I walked down the street and stared at everyone coming my way, I would get weird looks and maybe a few grumbles under the breath. This is a minor negative sanction. A positive sanction would be if I worked hard at my job and received a promotion. We do things and get some kind of a sanction for it, whether that be good or bad. These sanctions directly affect our behaviors. No one wants to go somewhere and get weird looks, so they dress appropriately. This is just one way conformity plays a role in our daily lives.

Conformity also plays a role in socialization. Socialization is the “lifelong process through which people learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for members of a particular culture” (Witt 73). Everything that we are taught at a young age shows us how we are to live our lives properly. If we don’t conform to these ideals early, we become outcasts in our society. In our culture it is considered beautiful to be skinny and tan. In other cultures it is beautiful to have small feet and be pale. Depending on the culture you’re raised in, you conform to a different set of social rules and norms. This connects to the idea of a generalized other. This is when “an individual acts, he or she takes into account an entire group of people” (Witt 77). When we conform our behaviors and actions to that of those around us, we aren’t only thinking about ourselves, we are thinking about an entire group of people. This group of people sometimes consists of everyone that you will encounter when you walk outside. Other times it’s only the people you know.

Conformity contributes to our identity as humans. We identify ourselves with the statuses we’ve been given or achieved such as, father, police officer, and president. With each of these statuses comes a specified set of roles we adhere to. For example, a fire fighter will put out a fire, or a baby sitter will feed the children they’re watching. What if the people in these statuses did not conform to the roles they are ascribed. Chaos would ensue because no one would know who was supposed to do what. Conformity provides a sort of order to society so we all can live together peacefully. Conformity is such a natural thing we never really think about. Everything we do and say is some form of conformity. It shapes our identity as people and shapes even the smallest decisions we make. Conformity is a good thing, but can it also be negative?

For some reason, whenever I think of the word “conformity,” I think of it negatively. In my head, being like everyone else sounds terrible. I’ve been taught my whole life that I’m a precious unique little snowflake who shouldn’t be and never will be like everyone else. I think this is true, but to an extent. We are individuals with certain likes and dislikes, but everything we do has been influenced by some outside source. We conform to what we see as correct from our friends, family, and even the media. What would happen if everyone thought and acted the same way? We would go nowhere as a society and become stagnant. We wouldn’t be creating new things and coming up with new ideas abecause everyone would conform to everyone else. We need those anti-conformist people to think of new things and to bring us forward as a society. I think there is a certain balance between lots of conformity and little conformity.

In my personal experience, I’ve found conformity to be awful. Certain things in the society of today I think are wrong and should not be conformed to. For example, I don’t think underage drinking is okay, and I don’t think sex before marriage is okay either. These thoughts are becoming old and obsolete, but I don’t want to conform to these things simply because I think they are wrong.  I think we have to be choosey about the things we conform to. We can’t just do what everyone else is doing because the majority of people are doing it. The old adage of, if he jumped off a cliff would you follow, seems to apply here. We need to decide what parts of society are okay to conform to and which parts are not so okay. When we make these decisions, I think our lives will be easier to live because we will have a better understanding of ourselves and where we fit into the world.

Works Cited

Witt, Jon. Soc. Ed. Gina Boedeker. 2011th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011. N. pag. Print