My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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social scripts for rituals and ceremonies, of religion and culture

Last night was the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For Jews, this means celebration with family and friends, eating apples and honey, sending postcards to friends, and wishing all well (“Shanah tovah!”). One of the things that I love about Jewish holidays is that they are typically filled with friends, family, food, alcohol, and celebratory attitudes (except for Yom Kippur which is a bit more serious). As a non-Jew, I have a deep admiration for the various rituals that are a part of Jewish holidays. I especially love how my snarky secular Jewish friends are more likely to modify them to make them more fun rather than reject them. Consider the Dr. Seuss Haggadah we did for Passover one year. Christian holidays don’t quite have that flexibility, unless you consider the way Americans turned the day of Resurrection into an opportunity to gorge yourself in chocolate and chase after plastic eggs. I guess that’s fun too, but it’s a bit different since I can’t work out what bunnies have to do with Christ nor do I think of over-consumption of material goods for personal desire as a fun-ification of a holiday. I’m more down with the excuses to bring together friends and drink that I am with the excuses to buy gifts.

I especially appreciated last night’s holiday because I spent the night before at my advisor’s memorial service. On one hand, it was so good to see everyone and to hear people share their stories of Peter. I love that man and it’s hard to stomach the reality that he’s gone. Yet, I’m not so good at group mourning. And the whole memorial thing made me antsy and uncomfortable in ways that I can’t yet articulate. But I think that part of the puzzle has to do with the way in which major events are ritualized (or not) in American society.

Standing outside, Mimi was talking about the differences between the American approach to death and memorial and the Japanese approach. She told me about how there were prescribed activities that you do on certain days in certain ways. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do, who you’re supposed to say what to, when you are supposed to show up, etc. We don’t have that. Nowhere was this more clear than when you looked around the room at what people were wearing. Some people had dressed up, some wore all black, some wore what they normally wore, etc. At one point, I was teasing someone about their suit and he responded with a remark about how it was what you’re supposed to do. And then another person (in casual wear) responded that Peter would’ve wanted people to be comfortable. The fact that that conversation happened shows the way that we’re not sure what to do when how.

At every step of this process, I’ve felt like a total fuckup. Do I send flowers? What should the card say? Should I show up to the widow’s house? Should I send a letter? What should I say to the widow, to the children? What should I wear to the memorial? Everyone’s response to me is always to do what would make me feel better and I want to scream at them that having a script would make me feel a hell of a lot better.

Social scripts are funny things. Most of them stem from religious traditions, but are deeply embedded in society as cultural practices. Not a single one of the Jews at my house last night could explain why honey and apples, but they all knew that’s what you do. And they were all able to tell me the Jewish traditions for mourning. And the Jewish traditions for weddings. And the Jewish traditions for holidays. And the Jewish traditions for births. My friends have a Jewish social script and they all know it, even if they preferred to modify it (shiva, but chairs allowed; chupah and glass, but no rabbi; apples or afikoman, but no kosher meal; bris ceremony, but no knives). Yet, most American folks can’t even tell you what the social script is supposed to be for most situations and it’s so damned modified that everyone around you is imagining an entirely different script. Every wedding I go to has different dress code expectations, gifting expectations, and social norms. I’m at a loss for how to participate in mourning, at a loss for what to do when a child is born.

Are the lack of social scripts in the U.S. because Christianity never had strong traditions that would be continued by secular ancestors? Or because American scripts have been defined by Hollywood that changes the traditions with each generation? Or because the U.S. didn’t really melt diverse scripts into one, but boiled them out to be non-existent? Or because we’re too damn rebellious as a secular society to have any patience for any expectations? Or why? Why do we not have social scripts that can help frame the situation for the crowd?

I’m finding myself frustrated with the lack of social scripts and then curious about my desire for a more “conservative” way and then frustrated because I’m at a loss for how to make sense of these social situations. It’s not that I want the social script to be definitive… I just want it to be there as a guiding principle that allows people to focus on what they’re really trying to focus on: a joining of two lovely people, mourning, celebration, etc. I’ve been re-reading Goffman lately and I’m reminded of all of the social scripts that used to exist in society that we’ve so diligently destroyed. As a rebellious college student, I loved the destruction of traditions. Now, I just want to be able to relax into a script every once in a while, even if that script can be annoying at times. It’s not that I want the scripts to be rigid, but I want conscious engagement with and modification of the scripts rather than an outright rejection of them. Maybe I’m just getting old.

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32 comments to social scripts for rituals and ceremonies, of religion and culture

  • The Buffy episode “The Body” deals with this theme particularly well.

  • Are the lack of social scripts in the U.S. because Christianity never had strong traditions that would be continued by secular ancestors?

    There’s a strong tradition of non-tradition. The Puritans didn’t celebrate Christmas, and threw stones at the windows of Catholic and Anglican churches where services were being held.

    One thing most Europeans note — and joke about — after spending time in the US is the denominational diversity: the autonomous, congregationalist impulse in which churches govern themselves, and set their own practices. Make-up-your-own-vows is a descendent of the roll-your-own-church.

    Things in Europe have changed greatly, but there are still vaguely liturgical rhythms to seasonal and personal events, combined with social codes that are vestiges of class tradition. I went from working-class Catholicism, with its own set of written and unwritten rules, to the gilded spires with its own implied codes — plus a Newman-soaked Catholicism that offered prayers for the Queen, something I’d never heard in my home churches, where Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants formed the basis of the community.

    You wonder whether the search for regulation in the US is somehow perpetuated in the grasping towards regimen, the secularised asceticism of diet and exercise plans, the neo-religious silver-ring thing, etc. The historical rise of regimen is historically associated, to some extent, with cultural and political pressure on High Church forms, the embrace of inner-light guidance, the process of individuation that was set in motion by the renaissance and Reformation.

    That’s a long-winded way of saying ‘have it your way’ isn’t a new thing for Americans: the scripts have always been local and self-selected, and it’s a combination of mobility and widening horizons that have scattered them like dandelion fluff.

  • oliviacw

    I think a lot of this has to do with mobility. Many social scripts are bound closely to a community in the classic sense, a group of people based in a geographically bounded area, with frequent interactions and multiple ties (work, religion, schooling, etc). Within that community, the script is clear, but once you start crossing bounds, nobody’s sure what to expect. For instance, weddings. When/where I was growing up, people got married in their church, in the afternoon, and had punch-and-cake receptions afterwards, often in the church reception hall. My sister and brother both got married in this way, with minor variations. On the other hand, my husband grew up with weddings as reasonably secular ceremonies with a big evening reception with dinner and dancing and lots of fuss. We met at college, in an entirely different region from either, and married after living in that area for many years. Our wedding required a lot of negotiation to accomodate the three different sets of expectations. (early evening wedding, in a church, but with a heavy hors d’ouvres buffet instead of a full sit-down dinner, and music and entertainment but no structured dancing time.)

  • “I’m finding myself frustrated with the lack of social scripts…”

    Me too. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in situations where I don’t know what the hell to do. And worse yet, looking around, there’s little indication that anyone else feels that way.

    I feel like I must have missed the day they taught that in school.

  • I think in the US Christianity kept forking practices; there used to be a more common liturgy. When a friend of ours died and we were there for the mourning, I was struck with how well thought out the prayers and rituals in the Anglican 1928 Book of Common Prayer were, and how they had clearly set out sequences for many different circumstances, as you say.
    Moving from the UK to the US, the “church as self-expression” aspect was unexpected – a kind of “church shopping” where you try out different ones seemed expected.

  • Reminds me of how I watched the Pride and Prejudice DVD (the one with Keira Knightley) and there was the little featurette about the social expectations around dating in the Regency period. Some of the cast interviewed in it said how they almost regret not having any such social scripts about men meeting women, getting engaged and so on available today. Are you serious? I almost wanted to scream. How about people who for some reason are not comfortable in the way “things are always done”, how about gays and lesbians, people who don’t thrive in conventional relationship models, people who want the gender roles altered?

    I don’t mean to say that social scripts are inherently discriminatory , but they could perhaps be made known as an option, not a universal requirement to obey.

  • Picking up on oliviacw, the contrast between the two weddings I’ve attended in the US, both in north New Jersey, was striking. One was a roll-your-own affair, the other a traditional ceremony (both bride and groom the children of European immigrants). Even with the language barrier, I felt more comfortable with that ceremony, because enough people knew what was going on. Making your ceremony ‘unique’ just creates more opportunities for social faux pas: the rules are intangible, but guests can’t help but bring their own experiences, and those often unwittingly deviate from the ideal that the creators have set up.

  • How about people who for some reason are not comfortable in the way “things are always done”, how about gays and lesbians, people who don’t thrive in conventional relationship models, people who want the gender roles altered?

    Ah, but that period isn’t just defined by scripts, because the presence of scripts can provide the basis for improvisation. (Terry Castle, Austen’s Oxford editor, is very good on this topic; so is Thomas Laqueur.)

  • No one knew the reason for apples and honey? It is to symbolize the wish for a sweet year. One of the customary wishes (in Hebrew) is “shanah tovah u’mitukah,” for a good and sweet year.

    Social scripts are interesting in that they provide two, potentially competing functions. In telling us what is acceptable, or not, to do in a variety of situations, they create normative behaviours that help to define who is included, and who is excluded, from a society or culture; in other words, they define societal discursive practices, with all the critical problematics of such constructs. But equally, they create a zone of human comfort for situations when our minds would rather be turned off in order to be able to respond with full emotions to life’s tragedies, triumphs, and joys.

    Among a variety of (sub)cultures throughout contemporary societies, scripts that are rehearsed from childhood become integrated into one’s being, and help preserve that culture from generation to generation. Tevye had it right: Tradition! Does the lack of such scripts from a large number of recent generation Americans additionally indicate the deterioration of inter-generational family connection as embodied experience?

  • Johanka – that’s why i always hated them… but then i realized that queer communities built social scripts too (and i’ve never been good at fitting into those either – i still can’t work out butch/femme dynamics). All social scripts are exclusionary on one level, but is it better to throw them out? Does that really create an inclusionary feel?

    Mark – we all knew it was about sweet-ness, but why specifically apples and honey? Why not figs and ice cream?

  • i’ve really noticed how the bay area is full of transplants. perhaps that is different in LA? or maybe it’s just my social circle and social class. but very few people i know here in san francisco are really *from* here. as a consequence, almost no one has extended family here. we’re refugees. even when we get married, we create little nuclear families without as much extended connection or support from the earlier generations. i credit that independence and disconnect for some of the lack of culture transmission as well as mishmash of culture here.

  • “At one point, I was teasing someone about their suit and he responded with a remark about how it was what you’re supposed to do. And then another person (in casual wear) responded that Peter would’ve wanted people to be comfortable.”

    Is it not so that by following his “social script” and wearing a suit he was indeed more comfortable than he would have been wearing casual wear? Thus doing what Peter would have wanted?

    Is it not so that your teasing was rooted in *ahem* jealousy or insecurity induced by his seeming knowledge of the social script, or at least having a social script?

    Want some social scripts? You may laugh, and indeed I laugh at myself about this one, but I’ve found Emily Post’s Etiquette pretty useful over the past few years.

    I cribbed a condolence note from it one time, and I know the grief stricken person to whom I sent it got more solace from it than what my own meagre effort would have been.

    It’s on Amazon here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Emily-Posts-Etiquette-16th-Peggy/dp/0062700782

  • Liz

    I have had many of the same thoughts as well… what to do/when/what is going on/what is appropriate/right, etc. etc. etc. It just goes on and on. I’d like to give you this link:
    http://37days.typepad.com/37days/2006/11/forever_hold_yo.html

    It is an article written about someone I went to high school with who passed away a couple years after she graduated. I didn’t know her personally, but many of my friends did. If you’ve never been to Asheville, NC (my hometown) it might be helpful to know that many of the “scripts” found in many places are a little different due to the nature of the city itself. . there are some alternative ways of thinking. The article points out I think some very valuable insights, especially the way we view death and react to it. Reading your post, I immediately thought of this article. Hope you find it as intriguing as I do.

  • Bob – more than anything, Peter would’ve wanted us to observe the social dynamics of the service. Peter only kept a jacket and tie in his office for when he was forced to wear it (he hated them). Given that only a few people wore suits, it was clearly not the collective social script, although I gather from your post, that you assumed that it was, which is interesting.

  • Oh, indeed social scripts and even nonsense, but strictly defined routines help. Same in greek culture, you know exactly what to wear, who will take care of what, what day to do what, what to serve on the funeral, even how the coffe is served, etc etc. I used to find it all annoying and getting really pisssed off with having such ‘protocols’. As I moved back in this country (greece) and having recently gone through the loss of someone dear, my grandma, and the whole funeral process, having to actually observe and participate actively in all, this protocol helped. It took some of the mourning away as I was really frustrated at all the people that were filling my grandma’ s house during the night and I had to serve them coffee and all, while answering to questions like ‘where do you work now?’ or comments like ‘your grandma would be happy to see you married’. To escape all this I was taking breaks with my cousins at the basement to have a drink, smoke a cig, which in a ‘conservative’ way is also inappropriate.

    The next morning and after the funeral as everyone gathers for the meal, wine is also served (yes in the morning), it actually all made sense. I was after all so tired and so glad to just sit with my parents and they were also relaxed, very relieved the whole process was over, we were laughing with stories of grandma and as we were quiet-ing (?) down and started going home, realized that it is then that the mourning begins. In your own personal space, alone and deep in thoughts, and for quite a length of time. All the social script before helped not to freak out at the first moments of mourning. The rest, the actual thing -loss, mourning, etc- I am afraid is something that each one of us goes through alone, no matter what cultural context.

    So sorry I do not know the grief protocol I should express for your advisor, was never good at this, but it really seems it was someone important to you, you ll find your own time to mourn and also contemplate what he meant to you and how nice it was knowing him. Meanwhile, as a social script maybe you can follow, not the most appropriate, but the easiest for you. Some people will just stay detached and only send a card, some will go home visit. And that has nothing to do with the amount of grief inside them. In fact sometimes they are reversely related. I think loss brings us foremostly against ourselves.

    Damn, I hate my first comment ever on this blog, is on such a topic 🙂 Oh and it also not at all well-written :/ But post really put me into thinking.

  • Write your own script. If you go with what you are comfortable with, you will rarely/never be wrong.

    R.

  • mark

    if you go with an open and honest heart, what does it matter what another thinks? the one you went to honor was probably smiling and thinking “i am so glad i am done with those silly/awkward/uncomfortable social functions/traditions. hey, there is danah! what a sweetheart for coming!”

  • Michael Chui

    A big reason why traditional social scripts are exclusionary, rather than inclusionary, is precisely because the current actors don’t know why they do everything as they do.

    If you know why you do something, you can modify it when the situation that it answers changes. For instance, the queer community would know how to change existing social scripts to account for permission for a guy to ask a guy to dance the waltz, for instance.

    There’s nothing wrong with tradition; it’s following them blindly that creates issues.

  • Steve

    My first recollection of social scripts was being sure that such things must exist, but not being able to penetrate or decode the mystery of how to participate. I now know this to be a symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome, with which I am self-diagnosed. (Growing up, in the fifties, Asperger’s was not on the radar as a diagnosis. I think I’m just as glad to have escaped labeling). People such as myself are very bad at assimilating social customs, unles they are given as an explicitly stated rule set.

    As I have grown older, with an undergraduate degree in social science under my belt, I find that I’m able to deduce scripts by observation and analysis – ironically, during a historical period in which they are becoming more decentralized and less powerful.

    I think we can identify three historical sources of the weakening of social scripts and the authority of custom.

    (1) From the beginning, America was a pluralist culture. This was, I believe, an explicit goal of the Founding Fathers who sought to make the New World a haven for a multitude of outcasts from the various regions and cultures of Europe. This is expressed beautifullly in Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus”, which is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. The final verse is, of course, known to all, but the poem as a whole is worth a read. Google it. There are many copies online. So, as a nation of immigrants, we already drew from many cultures, with many scripts. And as a nation of pioneers, we readily modified and merged these, suplementing with our own innovations. So, from the beginning, custom here has been diverse.

    (2) During the great wave of urbanization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century this trend was accelerated. People moved from small towns where a certain degree of (relative) homogeneity prevailed, into large cities which were hotbeds of diversity. Contemporary with this, we see new waves of immigration landing on our shores bringing more traditions, customs and scripts.

    (3) The sixties. Unless you were alive and observant during that period, it is easy to overlook the extent to which the counterculture movement was fueled by an explicit rejection both of particular hegamonic customs, and for radical countercultural theorists, the idea of social scripts in general. (Although a countertrend to the rejection of scripts in principle was the development of new scripts. Thus we see communes built around deliberately designed customs and traditions, people developing their own wedding ceremonies, etc.) And, for all that the trappings of the counterculture have largely disappeared, except in protected enclaves, a surprising amount of counter-custom has now become mainstream.

    Now to break from analysis for a minute, is anybody besides me a fan of The OC? (I think Josh Schwartz is some kind of freakin’ genius, and I hope to get a look at his two new series starting this fall.) The holiday “Christmakkah” (sp?)invented by the character of the young Seth Cohen is a beautiful concept. And, unlike what some commentaries have alleged, it is *much* deeper in meaning then Seth’s desire to (“get twice as many presents”). It would be fun to see it celebrated in real life.

    All for now,
    -Steve

  • No, Danah, I didn’t assume that the collective social script was the wearing of suits, just the personal social script of that person, and whomever else wore more formal attire. I thought that the fact that you were the teaser and not the teasee made it more likely that suit wearers were a minority there.

    I think that many social scripts are formed by the micro society of our families, and experiences we have had growing up.

    An example close to this topic of mourning and funereal behaviour: On the day my mother-in-law died, immediate family were gathered at the house of my grieving father-in-law. There was a knock at the door, and a man who had been a friend of my father-in-law for more nearly 50 years came to pay a condolence visit. After his departure, by sister-in-law expressed surprise that anyone would have come to call at such a time. I said that in my family it was normal to pay such a condolence visit, and in fact as a child I had accompanied my parents on such visits.

    So I think in my case that the way I behave at funerals and such has been formed by experience. I suspect it is so for many people.

    A clarifying note, I was brought up in and live in Australia – that is my viewing prism.

  • A Reader.

    For danah,

    (Some Ideas Openly Given – I do hope they’re not *too* out of place.)

    As the issue of “energy appropriation” *matters* in life – I feel that the *mere* giving of one’s attunement soley to the loss and legacy is the “meat of mourning”.

    I seem to recall an old quote that says: “The difference between birth and death is that we’re glad we’re not the child…but sad we’re not the deceased.”

    (Supposedly there is some deep aspect of human identity contained in the message of the quote.)

    As to your question: “Why do we not have social scripts that can help frame the situation for the crowd?” The answer to that is probably partly due to typical American atomistic individualism…even to the point proscribing anything resembling “collectivism”.

    (To add to Steven’s notable words above:)

    How “cultural products” come to fruition is more tangled than *any possible poetry* could fathom – and the “trails of causality” of why *anything* of significance(cultural or not) comes to be still remains cognitively uneasy –

    – but Edward O. Wilson gave one of your concerns a shot – and I think he got it right:

    “In the late 19th Century surges of human immigration were fleeing the “Old hierarchical social order” of Europe. There was nothing to fill its place here – save directly from the Bible.” (paraphrase)

    And this is indeed what happened.

    Thus they were *not* the first humans under “civilized life” to fulfill Martin Luther’s dream of “stripping off human encrusted valuations and directives”(which drove him nuts to no end) from “direct experience” vis a vis “the Ultimate Godhead”.

    I’m not sure I would agree with the monk in the worth of this.

    *

    I believe that the “god module” that neurophysicists refer to has a strong *kernel* to it that assists strong sociality.

    Of course, no process is purely optimal at present – and it may well have its costs.

    As to the issue of “social scripts” maybe it’s about putting a part of our being on “autopilot” – since that is a display of human trust(justified or not) when in close proximity with others.

    It’s at the moments of “earnest confronting” with another that “trust” is *re-grounded* or abandoned outright.

    *

    “Some Quick Thoughts”(Probably Tangential).

    The ever youthful Douglas Rushkoff seemed to say once that “It is in the *mana* of Judaism to destroy boundries.” (paraphrase).

    It seems that that mode of culture has a panoramic range to it – which I like.

    😉

    *

    Also, we’ve all read the recent articles of Craig Ventor’s work.

    According to a recent news release(we’ll see if it pans..) – we’re about 6 months out from “artificial life”.

    And, as Alan Goldstein has said: “At that moment, that precise moment, will be the beginning of the end of civilization.”

    It seemed that this could perhaps hold *some* interest for the phenomenon of scripts – which are among the “Habits of Civilization”.

    *

    Lastly(regarding the professor):

    Let the world contemplate the loss of his *singular* experience – as it should.

    The fabric of life is now a little heavier in the absence of the likes of him.

    No words can do your loss justice here. Truly, the phenomenon **speaks for itself**.

    It is simply there…and it is its *own* reason for being.

    I can only ever say: “On faut vivre”.

  • As a quick aside: apples and honey because they were easily available (and seasonal) sweet things in the European places most American Jews came from originally, dating well back before processed sugar. In the U.S., ground apples are the basis of the Passover charoset – the mortar-like substance Jews eat symbolically with matzah flatbread to represent the bricks and mortar from building monuments as slaves in Egypt. I was surprised when traveling that Jews from North Africa make charoset from dried dates, figs, apricots…

    I don’t agree with your statement “Yet, most American folks can’t even tell you what the social script is supposed to be for most situations.” I think that is peculiar to the microculture we were born in, and then have chosen to hang out in (I also lived a while in the Bay Area, and grew up in Boston). At least, I’d modify it to “most *mobile* American folks” – because that implies they have loosened physical ties with family and place that allows the instillation of blind reflex social customs.

    In that sense, I agree both with Michael Chui’s reflection in the comments, above, and with Steve’s comment that “a surprising amount of counter-custom has now become mainstream.” If you don’t know *why* you perform a given custom, then the shell of observing form can still bring a certain level of comfort, but for thinking folks it would not be enough.

    I’m also always amused at the open-minded American non-Jew being impressed and a little envious of the cohesion and unity and family-orientedness in the Jewish community. This religion is just as fragmented and rife with disagreement as any other. You’ve happened upon one fairly homogeneous way of observing Judaism (the East/West Coast culture) but I was quite taken aback to see that in Europe, its almost unrecognizably different. In the sentence “I was brought up an American secular Jew in the Unitarian Universalist church” it turns out that “Jew” was the least important word, followed by “Unitarian Universalist”. Religious observance is in fact, highly culturally biased.

    Jewish “family” customs could be Protestant or Muslim or Buddhist – each tradition has at least one major occasion revolving around a family meal. It’s just that major symbolic observances are less separated between the home and an external worship place in Judaism than in the other religions (and I’d say, it’s about the same in Islam).

    Sorry that was so long.

  • I’m like you — I feel comforted by social scripts.

    In the case of Peter’s memorial, I googled “memorial service etiquette” in an attempt to find some useful scripts. It was actually quite helpful. I’m always googling etiquette stuff for scripts; simple but effective!

  • One thing that I think is interesting about this is: why would you say that Jewish rituals and Christian rituals are both “religious” rituals?

    There is an easy answer, which is something about how, by convention, we describe these kinds of things as “religions.” But, when one looks at these traditions in terms of their social rituals or scripts, I think many of the scripts function in very different ways in each tradition, in terms of defining identity.

    It might be interesting to think about these scripts in terms of social (community), political, cultural and religious (doctrine-oriented) identities. And, for example, a lot of Jewish rituals would be in use for more social / cultural than political or religious identity (e.g., it’s not particularly hard to imagine Jewish Buddhist pacifists, Jewish secular socialists and Jewish right-wing nationalist celebrating Jewish holidays together every year–at least not amongst the people I know. . .).

  • Ken

    I’ve been there too, danah. I’ve many close friends who are Jewish, and was a regular visitor to St. James in Seattle when Hunthausen was Archbishop.

    Since I am Unitarian myself, I’m often at a loss to know exactly what ritual and custom demands. But I’ve found that (just like learning a new language), friends and strangers alike have been enormously receptive to my interest in their traditions. It may be that a few may harbor dreams of converting me, but I really haven’t ever felt that pressure. Of course, I’ve got great friends.

    My rule of thumb is to lead with curiosity, sincerity and humility. The rest is just translation.

  • Write your own script. If you go with what you are comfortable with, you will rarely/never be wrong.

  • Jonathan vonbriesen

    i lack any social script. my parents are both baptised. on one side there are buddhists, on the other muslims. as a youth i could never decide what to do, i always felt as if i was letting someone else down. now i long for a religion, a bigger family, something more than life to belong to. something of a script. the fact is. in the states there are none because of the imense diversity. each one a complete entity of itself. traditionally the countries, or regions, practiced one religion. therfore making it a larger community. this is where the scripts came from. growing up in the states, you either are raised a particular way, so that is the script, or you arent. maybe you are, but than you rebel. its all the same. when you go to the country around charlottesville va, you see different scripts depending on which direction you go. aethism towards richmond, islam towards dc, conservative christianity towards west va. i realize that i am relating scripts to religion, but traditionally, i believe that this is where they come from. now what does someone like me do? i find incredible aspects of all religions and cultures, yet there are things i dislike aswell. am i stuck to make a decision on an existing religion? i agree with “write your own script” but sometimes, like you said, i want to have a tradition. something to follow. in the states i think that is what we lose with “freedom.”

  • This post made the feed invalid because it parsed “social scripts” as two tags, ‘”social’ and ‘scripts”‘. Would you please change it to social-scripts or something that doesn’t break the feed?

  • Kasey Curtiss

    Thank you for this post. Wonderful to hear someone express this. In 1990 when my father died, the members of the fundamentalist church he & my mom had belong to all came to the house. They brought and served meals, cleaned up, answered the door, and in general took care of the niggling details of life we were not able to handle. I remember thinking at the time “THIS is the advantage of being part of a church” As I’m an adult now and very independent of ‘normal’ social groups, I find myself at a loss what to do in life situations such as births, deaths, weddings, holiday gifting… I feel totally inadequate to the tasks and expectations. Occasionally a script would be a relaxing thing to have.

  • I experience the same loss of protocol in many of the same situtations while my wife always seems to know exactly what to do. We both grew up in the SF Bay Area but had vastly different experiences. My family was very informal and by the time I was 10 I had met and hung out with bikers, punks, druggies, crazies, artists, etc. My wife grew up in a very insulated relgious Russian community where she hung out with, well, other religious Russian-Americans. Needless to say I saw about as many ways possible to handle situations (which helps me to this day as a user experience designer) while my wife really had this one way. So when situtations arise it’s not as though I’m necessarily at a total loss – I just don’t really feel like I know the *right* script to use – I mean should I user test a few first? My wife doesn’t blink and does what you’re supposed to do. At any rate, I guess my point is that there are aspects of a formal or informal upbringing that shape your protocol and how much you stick to it. Of course I’m probably totally off base here.