Description: Remember how sad Charlie Brown was when he did not get a single Valentine? The social norms of romantic love are burning brightly at the center of all that is involved in Valentine’s Day. Today (well tomorrow actually) having a Valentine is more difficult unless they are already holed up with you in whatever level of Covid related social isolation you are currently under. However, no social norms are universally applicable. It is not actually the case that anyone with someone to call their Valentine must be depressed on February 14th. Why might that be? Well yes, Valentine’s Day has gotten rather over-commercialized and somewhat oppressive but think about what some other reasons might be and then have a read through the article linked below to see in your thoughts align with research into this question.
Source: Single on Valentine’s Day and happily so, Elizabeth Brake, The Conversation.
Date: February 12, 2021
One perspective not discussed in the article involves the pandemic Valentine’s Day fact that some people are enjoying their own company and the opportunity celebrate their relationship with themselves this year. To the point of the article though, the idea that social norms are NOT universal and that this is not a reason to feel badly for or to morally condemn those to whom the social norms do not apply is an important one. More millennials are choosing to live alone. While the percentage of people who are aromantic or asexual may seem small this may be partially be due to the power that social norms have to shape the thinking and the self-identification of aromantic or asexual individuals. In addition, some people have friendships that are just as fulfilling and valuable as romantic partnerships. There has been some discussion (and a movie recently made) about friends-in-law that raise the question of whether there might be situations where a friendship should have legal standing as a significant other relationship and recognized in law. As social psychology has been saying for ages, we need to be aware of the diverse consequences of thinking in terms of social norms as no social norms are universal, even if we and Hallmark Cards pretend they are.
Questions for Discussion:
- What social norms are at play within the “traditions” of Valentine’s Day?
- What are some of the consequences that might be experienced by individuals whose current circumstances or wants, or desires do not fit within the social norms you came up with above?
- How should we think about or act toward people who do not fit neatly within social norms associated with moments or events like Valentine’s Day?
References (Read Further):
DePaulo, Bella (2012) Should Marriage be Abolished, Minimized, or Left Alone? Psychology Today. Link
Brake, E. (2011). Minimizing marriage: Marriage, morality, and the law. Oxford University Press. Overview of Book
Fry, R (2017) The share of Americans living without a partner has increased, especially among young adults, Pew Research Center. Link
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network Link
Bicchieri, C., & Muldoon, R. (2011). Social norms. Link
Lapinski, M. K., & Rimal, R. N. (2005). An explication of social norms. Communication theory, 15(2), 127-147. Link
Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity and compliance. Link
Goldstein, N. J., Griskevicius, V., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Invoking social norms: A social psychology perspective on improving hotels’ linen-reuse programs. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 48(2), 145-150. Link
Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological science, 18(5), 429-434. Link