Why “Social Norms Surveys” are Painful as an Awkward Kid

By: Brad ManSocial norms surveysock

            Occasionally I will see a billboard or some kind of statistic talking about drugs or alcohol use in high school. This data would be gathered using “social norms surveys.” Back in middle school and high school there would occasionally be a “social norms survey” that would be filled out by every kid in the class. These surveys would ask questions about: drugs, alcohol, sex, and basically things that no socially awkward kid has ever been involved with. In this article I am going to discuss the experience of filling out one of these surveys as an extremely awkward kid.

Even If You Are A Loser, You’re Still A Teenager

            Drugs, alcohol, and sex are things that are pretty much exclusive to people with decent social skills, at least early on in life. Looking back at this experience seems completely absurd; these people in charge of the survey questioned an awkward chubby white boy (me) about his hard drug use. The first part of the survey dealt with hard drugs: crack, heroine, meth, and probably ten other drugs that I had never even heard of. Looking back it makes sense to put the section dealing with hard drugs before the sections about drinking and sex. They obviously thought of the fact that nobody would go through saying that they never drink alcohol or have sex but also smoke crack every day of the week. They were very careful to list all of the possible street names of each drug. For example they asked about “cocaine” aka: crack, rocks, sugar, and several other increasingly ridiculous names. As if the person creating the survey thought “oh hey they might not know what ‘cocaine’ is we better include every nick name possible.” Maybe there was a kid somewhere that said “I don’t know what this ‘cocaine’ thing is but I snort ‘happy sauce’ all the time!” Then the people in charge of the survey say “happy sauce, write that down that is a street name for cocaine now” and that is how these ridiculous street names got into the survey.

Sad Sad Life

Filling out these surveys would really make me realize how little I had done in my life. Each question would have several bubbles which could be shaded in. For example a question that says “how often do you get drunk” would have a bubble on the bottom that says “never” and a bubble on the top that says “at least once a week” with several bubbles in between with similar options. I would always shade the “never” bubble. After a while I didn’t even read the questions and just filled out every “never” bubble.

            After getting into the habit of filling out every “never” bubble without reading the question I started to feel a little depressed. Once the questions started getting to the sex questions that is when it started getting sad. There was one question that said “have you ever had sex ‘go all the way’?” Because of course they try to use the lingo that the kids are using. It must have been another case of some kid going “I don’t know what this ‘sex’ thing is but I ‘go all the way’ from time to time.” Of course this was the one question where “never” didn’t even go low enough. I was half-tempted to draw a lower bubble below “never” that said “never held a girl’s hand.” I had never dated a girl in my life until my senior year in high school and it was not due to lack of trying. Occasionally some other kid would ask me “what’s the farthest you have gone with a girl?” Then I would say something like “I bumped to one in the hallway once.” So of course discussing sex in a serious way at that point in my life would be about equivalent to discussing strategies to defeating the elite four when you don’t even have one badge #pokemonreference.

            Then the very last question of the survey was “how often do you feel depressed.” It was as if the whole survey was setting me up so that there would at least be one where I would not put “never.”


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