Social marketers are quite familiar with social norms. Many of our hard-fought efforts focus on bringing awareness to positive social norms—think seat belt-use, discouraging dangerous social norms—think underage-drinking, or creating new social norms—think the Truth campaign. But there are some social norms that are so ingrained in our society that we don’t even realize we’re conforming to a certain established behavior. There are many of these, but I’d like to talk about today’s red and pink, hearts and kisses, flowers and candy holiday—Valentine’s Day.
It’s a bit difficult not to get caught up in this quite-commercialized holiday, especially for women. Who doesn’t love the idea of receiving flowers at work, at being swept away on a romantic get-away, or surprised with jewelry? I’m certainly guilty of these feelings and actions. For example, I spent hours last night making home-made valentines for my son’s daycare class. Rationally, I know the little two-year old tots don’t care what it looks like, or the cute, catchy message, so long as there’s candy or cookies inside, but emotionally I felt compelled to have my son’s (or should I same my own) valentines admired.
For many people the holiday brings to the surface social norms in our society that we all work very hard to discourage. The assumption that people feel compelled to have a significant other for this “special day” and that if you don’t, you should be thinking about how you can be working to change that.
My challenge to all of you on this Valentine’s Day, and all those yet to come, is not to forget about the holiday, but to think about changing the social norm—just a little bit. It doesn’t just have to be about love with a significant other. Why not celebrate the love you share with your friends, your parents, your children, or maybe most importantly, love for the life you’re living? And if you want to share the love even further, here are a few suggestions from Living Unapologetically to do so in a way that can truly make an impact on the lives of others.
- If you feel obligated to spend money, buy a t-shirt and show some love for a child in need here.
- Donate your time to spread your love. Find what you love and give back here.
- Participate in a flash mob on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness and stop domestic violence and rape. Learn the dance and get involved here.
- Send your love to our troops here.
‘Leave some love’ on this post and share what this chocolate-filled social norm means to you.