SOCIOLOGY QUESTION 2
Running head: SOCIOLOGY QUESTION 2
Part One: Journal Entry
Arrival at the Mall
To perform the assignment, I will need to dress inconspicuously not to draw unnecessary attention. The objective is to get the passersby and the shoppers at the mall to notice my actions, not the dressing. So preferably, a plain hoody with pants is preferable.
It honestly felt bizarre. The assignment required that I not use my phone and instead stand unoccupied looking at those around me. I was not to listen to music, play games, wait for people, engage people in various activities, sightsee or take a break. The most challenging requirement was that I could not daydream nor think about my schedule and things that I have done in the past or plan for the future. The latter was complicated because, as a teenager used to the fast-paced world, standing unoccupied was a mountain to climb.
No one seemed to notice my actions. It made me feel uncomfortable. At first, I broke one of the requirements by fidgeting and shifting to find a more pleasant posture. I then decided that ten minutes was not to drain my life, so unoccupied I became.
A middle-aged woman passed by and smiled warmly while looking at me. I almost smiled and waved back but had to hold myself back. In my head were questions like, what could she be thinking about me? She must have assumed that I am a substance abuser because I ignored her courteous gesture.
A group of teenage girls passed by, laughing their hearts out. It must have been something in one of the girls’ phones since she passed it around and made everyone laugh. They did not seem to notice me looking motionless, gazing at nothing.
I started to get the hang of the exercise. What seemed like a strange activity was gradually becoming relaxing. I could not bring myself to observe the actions of those around me. Suddenly everything seemed so peaceful. The desire to check my phone, or stare at passersby, or living in the moment was slowly vanishing into thin air.
A lot of people were now passing while throwing glances at me. They seemed to be interested in what I was doing. The glances increased at a regular frequency. Some looked at me suspiciously, while others did not seem to have a care in the world. From a far, I could see those who cared murmuring, probably asking themselves what was wrong with me.
The level of inactivity must have set off the security. I, however, do not blame them because it is extraordinary seeing a young adult dressed sporty in a hoody standing inactive at the mall. Even I would be suspicious.
I could see one of the security guys walking to me, whispering something over the walkie-talkie. Although I felt slightly scared, I had to finish the exercise and only had a minute to go. The security asked me a question that I did not respond to initially but had to at the end.
I finished the exercise. I was outwardly impressed that I had been able to fulfill the entire requirement or at least a large percentile of it. I did not give in to the urge to look at my phone one bit or respond to the jeers and murmuring of passersby. I, however, had to engage the security officer by explaining to him that it was an assignment. Even though I had to show proof that I was a student and that, indeed, it was an assignment I was carrying out, the experience was worth it.
Part Two: Findings
The experiment required that we stand in inactivity for ten minutes in a busy place. While at it, we could not do any involving activities, be it sightseeing, fidgeting, getting lost in thought about the past, or anticipating the future. The social experiment had one objective, to change my perspective on things that I felt were peculiar and new. The most challenging condition for the social experiment was not playing games or using the phone for a second. Not using the phone was the most challenging condition in the set of requirements. The activity’s overall goal was to change the testee’s perspective on what makes everything different. By doing absolutely nothing in a very public place such as the mall, one can see how you feel and think and recognize others’ perceptions because of my inactivity. The lesson that we, the participants, were to gain was the perception of others around us and how identity gets constructed from the experiment.
Standing at a busy place automatically relays certain mental associations in specific places that give meaning to the action. Standing at a mall, or cinema, or at the bus stop develops common-sense mental associations (Konecki, 2017). In most cases, when we stand, we either wait for something or someone, or we want to do something. The interpretation of standing at social places is defined regarding acceptable socially defined motives which make the standing justifiable (Konecki, 2017). People either stand because of or to. In this experiment, we were to stand motionless with no intent of performing any socially defined motive of standing. The first 2 minutes can be explained by the concept above. People walking around automatically developed a construct that I was waiting for someone or waiting to do something; no wonder there was no interest in what I was doing. I felt weird in the first two minutes because what I was doing was different from my habit. Psychologically, the formation of habits gets explained in three phases. Habits start with a psychological routine called habit loop (Duhigg & Chamberlain, 2012). First, a trigger informs the brain to go into an automatic mode and allow unfolding a behavior. Second is the routine itself, or the behavior. The third is the reward, something that the brain likes, which helps it remember the habit loop again in the future.
Habits are, therefore, psychologically and mentally constructed. That is the reason why it is challenging to develop or break a habit. As a young adult in the generation Z cohort, addiction to technology, particularly the phone, is common. The need to use a phone has led to the coining of a term, ‘nomophobia,’ which refers to the feeling of anxiety and unwholeness when separated from your phone (Sulleyman, 2017). In the first minute, I felt anxious and stressed, thinking about what people thought and the aim for all that I was doing. I felt unwhole because I was detached from my phone.
The middle-aged woman was courteous enough to send a smiling my way and wave from the third minute. The idea of automatic mental association comes into play. She probably assumed that I was up to something or was about to do something, standing motionless in a very place. When I did not respond, she automatically assumed that something was amiss with me. In the fourth minute, the group of teenagers who were busy with their phones passed by and did not seem to bother the world with what was happening. They were glued to their phone and could not help but ignore me.
The next couple of minutes, my inactivity seemed to be raising eyebrows. I was, however, more relaxed and feeling my thoughts. I was peaceful, with no worry as to what was happening around me. Passers-by murmured and threw glances at me because human beings generally interpret specific actions about a library of motives included in their jar of knowledge, which like other things, gives cognizance of being motionless at some places (Konecki, 2017). It is improbable that this library of motives would explain why a person would stand with no intent whatsoever. Thus, in bustling, public places, some are seen by some as breaking a social rule.
At the end of the 10th minute, the objective for the social experiment was achieved. By doing absolutely nothing at a busy place, one can see how they feel and think. One can also observe how those in the immediate surroundings view the inactivity. From the social experiment, I was aware of my sense of self and figured how identity is constructed in society. The arrival of the security officer highlights how quickly a person’s behavior can lead to constructing a person’s perception by people in society—standing unmoved caused suspicion. Why would I be standing in a mall? Why would I not do anything? All these are likely questions that raced in the minds of those that were keen to observe my inactivity. The construction of suspiciousness is justified because the exercise goes against social norms.
In summary, standing still with no actions or giving in to the distractions of the world causes a state of mindfulness, according to the Zenic point of view. However, this is not usually possible in a place full of people because such places are characterized by a rapid movement inherent to the place’s social order. From the experiment, the construction of perceptions by society got investigated and explained above. Moreover, I developed a feeling of self and partial wholeness.
Duhigg, C., & Chamberlain, M. (2012). The power of habit. New York, N.Y.: Random House.
Konecki, K. (2017). Standing in Public Places: An Ethno-Zenic Experiment Aimed at Developing the Sociological Imagination and More Besides. Czech Sociological Review, 53(6), 881-902. doi: 10.13060/00380288.2017.53.6.379
Sulleyman, A. (2017). There’s a reason you feel terrible without your phone. Retrieved 25 February 2021, from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/smartphone-separation-anxiety-nomophobia-why-feel-bad-no-phone-personalised-technology-a7896591.html
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