Norms provide our guidelines for everyday behavior. When we violate them, we can more easily see the power these often unspoken rules have over our everyday lives. I’ve posted before about “break-a-norm day” (when people decided to drive the speed limit on the Interstate; [link]). But I might like this one even more.
In this case a guy decided to hold up a “Free Hugs” sign in a public place and simply wants to offer people a hug to pass along a little peace and love in public life. According to the YouTube link where the video is posted, the guy behind it all is Juan Mann and his sole mission is to “reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives.” Eventually he is stopped by the police (presumably for some public display violation) and apparently needs 10,000 signatures to resume. The video tells the whole story in images with a musical backdrop. [YouTube video link]
As any good break-a-norm day activity will, this one leads us to ask questions about not only which norms guide us. It can also get us to ask why. Why are we so unwilling to do something like this? What fears might we have? What consequences might we face for acting differently? What changes might happen if more people violated such norms?
[Hat tip to Bob]
[Update] There’s a video news report with more background information on the whole story [link]. It’s from an Australian TV station where the free hugs experiment occurred. Mann has been doing this weekly for two-and-a-half years. The video was created by the band Sick Puppy to accompany their song.
[Update2] FreeHugsCampaign.org is the official home for the free hugs movement. It includes a forum, photos, video, and more.