Let’s go back a few years in time when we were kids we basically wanted to do whatever we wanted, even if it wasn’t socially accepted. And then our parents would correct us saying something like “you are in public, behave yourself!”.
“That human behavior is more influenced by things outside of us than inside. The ‘situation’ is the external environment. The inner environment is genes, moral history, religious training.” — Philip Zimbardo
Were listened to our parents right? Is there actually a way to behave in public and in private? Before going deep into the topic, let’s go back to the present and think for a moment how we behave when we are alone at home, even when we live with somebody else when we are completely alone, do we do something different?
This is a topic widely studied by psychologist and sociologist all over the world for years, and they have come up with pretty interesting results.
What Is Social Behavior And How Does It Changes?
What we know as social behavior is nothing but the way humans behave when they are with a second person or more, we may believe it is influenced by other people alone, but in fact, it has to do with biological and cognitive reasons.
The biological aspects are related to the temperament of a kid, and the cognitive one is related to how, by whom, and where is being raised.
Do you believe Neanderthals were ashamed of defecating where they want (anywhere)? No, because it was not a matter of social recognition or prudence, their body had a necessity and they needed to accomplish it, that’s it.
But when life started to develop a bit more, social rules started to appear, and it was no longer well seen to defecate whenever you wanted wherever it was possible because it became a matter of shame.
Of course, the ones who decided what was right or wrong in our society where characters with power (usually given by force, money, or social connections), not anyone can determine what can be done in public.
Children then most make a huge effort balancing their body cravings and the social expectations; we are taught from very little that in public we must not be rude, but rudeness can mean many things depending on the place of a world you live in.
The development of our social behavior goes hand in hand with our biological development; we recognize there is a second person and we recognize it is not us (this is quite a task for babies, actually) and that there are certain features of this new person that interact with us.
Caregivers, for example, babies cry when they are hungry, but eventually, they learn that only by crying the caregiver will feed them, this is basic behaviorism.
But then as we grow up, it’s not socially acceptable to cry for anything we may need, so we are taught to speak and to request things, but not whenever we want it, we must say things like “please” and “thank you”.
Actually, another great example to understand the relationship between what’s demanded from us on the outside and how our biology interferes is adolescence.
Teenagers have their brains flooded with hormones, their bodies are changing and that’s why they have so many mood swings that do not correspond with social expectations, like not making a scene in public, picking up fights with others, being noticeably irritable, or extremely quiet.
What Happens When We Are Alone?
When we are alone we do not have the pressure of acting the way other people expect from us, this the time we are truly us, and even some people are scared or ashamed of doing in private some things that are socially unaccepted.
A simple thing like burping, whenever we do it in public we feel ashamed and apologize, but when we are alone then it’s ok (for most of the people, at least).
Why is that? We build a safe space when we are not being seen, we can’t be judged, punished, criticized, or humiliated when we are alone, except by ourselves.
And that’s pretty much what happens with people who have personality disorders like autism, anxiety, and learning disabilities. There’s no visible line between what happens inside their heads and what happens outside, so they are stressed all the time.
Is The Way We Learn Changing?
Fortunately, at least for researchers, it is. Technology is moving rapidly, and we barely have time to adapt.
Babies nowadays interact more with phones and tablets than with books, so whenever you hand them a magazine, they don’t know how to pass the page and some even try to zoom in with the same finger movement we use to zoom a picture on Instagram.
Now we not only have our parents and school telling us how to behave, but we also have social networks.
Let’s take Twitter as an example, we are allowed to build a new identity or to be ourselves on the net.
Independently of choosing to be us or an alternative character, it is easier for people to be mean and rude on social networks than in real life. Why you may ask? Well, because the screen works as our private place, it makes us feel safe.
It’s like a barrier that, sadly, makes violent behavior easier to release. However, the same logic does not apply to social networks like Instagram, where our face has to be visible.
On Twitter, we can be aggressive because our face is not exposed all the time, while on Instagram, we need to show others the best of us.
Have you thought about all of these implications before? I think an interesting exercise would be to study people a little bit from now on.
If you live with a roommate, for example, see how he/she behaves when it’s just you two and how he/she behaves in public.
Even you! Notice how different you are when you go to work and when you come back home. Do you think being different according to the context is something good? Or do you think we should be a little less tough with ourselves?
Image By: pixabay.com
Interesting Books To Read:
- Empowerment Series: Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
You, Me and Empathy: Teaching children about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance and recognizing bullying behaviors