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Social Interaction Essay

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Updated: Nov 14th, 2018

Human sociality is a complicated and a difficult to understand phenomenon. Nevertheless, numerous sociologists such as Ervin Goffman and Harold Garfinkel have attempted to unpack it. Goffman and Garfinkel offer practical insights on factors that mediate social interactions. For the sake of this assignment, Goffman and Garfinkel assumptions are analyzed Vis a Vis our family setup especially in the context within which we dine.

This is chosen due to the fact that it is almost a daily occurrence and is thus able to offer better insights in the context within which we interact. We are a close neat family of five, inclusive of mother and father. We dine together most of the time. Dining together is not merely to satisfy our dietary requirements; it is a kind of family gathering where family communion is achieved. Mother is the main actor in this context, and thus takes much of the responsibilities.

Her authority is somewhat domineering as far as culinary issues are concerned, but when other issues are discussed, father’s involvement as a mediator is evident. I and my siblings are more of explorers and followers and despite our active involvement in the interaction process, mother’s and father’s authority is evidently overarching.

Goffman and Garfinkel , offer somewhat differing opinions with respects to social interactions. Despite the differences in thought, the scenario described above is to be analyzed through Goffman and Garfinkel sociology. Within our family setting, it is evident that the purpose of social interactions is not to merely promote peaceful coexistence but also indicates underpinning social roles played by each individual member of the family.

Interactions between us and parents reveal that they have a given social authority within the family. For instance mother and father inquire the welfare of each one of us, not to merely promote socialization but to confirm that all is well within the family. We, on other hand are more of informational givers.

This indicates that by volunteering information to our parents, we are not only fulfilling the obligatory response but do so in full knowledge of the fact we not only have an obligation and a right to offer information but our parents as well, also have the right to that information. This, in Goffman’s opinion, portrays certain complex interactional obligation and rights (Macionis 163).

Within our family setup, I and my siblings are more talkative than our parents. In most instances mother and father usually give a well considered a final word in every dialogue, delivered in active rather than passive sense. Acting as opinion moderators reveals a certain institutional order of interaction which is connected to a person’s social identity, commonly referred to as ‘the face’ (Macionis 309).

Goffman further asserts that social interaction are mediated by syntax, that provide a given order and choice of social actions. Through syntax, it is possible to make certain judgments and assumptions. For instance, we are aware of the “interaction rule of every day’s life” and thus rarely offer compliments to mother for a good meal before she welcomes everyone to dine (Macionis 143).

The basic assumption for such a welcome is that mother is, in Garfinkel’s view, being polite. But on numerous occasions, this rule is broken, when one of the siblings lacks appetite or prefers a certain food item missing from the day’s menu. In such a situation mother has to save face tactfully in several ways.

She reminds everyone the nutritional benefits of a balanced diet, offers the ‘dissatisfied’ family member compensation in the coming days or asks them to be grateful for the day’s menu. This, in Goffman opinion, reveals an ideal family situation (Macionis 155). But mother’s real motives are likely to be calming of nerves and suppressing what appears to be dissenting preferences. Additionally, rarely does mother fulfill such promises but such a flaw is largely ignored to avoid embarrassing her.

It is worth to note that that throughout the discourse, father largely remains conspicuously silent. He also accepts gratefully any menu item and in this case delineates his authority from kitchen issues. In doing so, he reinforces his position as an ideal husband and father, but implicitly, this is an effort to help mum save face.

The scenario above reveals what Goffman refers to as ‘the presentation of the self’, which is something akin to a theatrical act. Every family members acts according to given implicit rules, a phenomenon that turns life into one big act, where each family member is a mere actor. Mother’s social role is to not only offer a good meal but also to ensure that every family member is satisfied.

Father, on the other hand, lets her authority stand, and in this fulfils his social role. In addition, the children are obliged to accept the menu offered to them. Reversing or ignoring the rules is likely to result to chaos within the family.

Garfinkel agrees with Goffman on the concept of ‘the presentation of the self’ as well as ‘the institutional order of interaction” and asserts that this is only possible because people have a “shared sense of every circumstance” (Macionis 149). There would emerge deficiencies within our family social setup if actors fail to have a shared understanding on the context of every social action (Macionis 143).

For instance, within out family setup there is a common understanding of the rules of everyday interaction. In the context within which the family dines, any views are indirectly directed towards mother, while father remains a passive observer.

Directing any views towards father would create unnecessary confusion, embarrassment and indignation (Macionis 149). But on other issues that do not involve culinary matters, one is free to involve father. This portrays certain implicit rules within our family, and when understood, it enables us to make meaning of each member’s social actions. This follows Garfinkel’s “nouhgts and crosses rule” (Macionis 151).

Goffman’s assertions especially on theatrical roles played by society members indicates that life is a game with simple to understand rules which are mediated trough social interactions. Garfinkel, disagrees with this and asserts that social interactions are more complicated than a game. Garfinkel asserts that even though social interactions follow certain patterns, they nevertheless reveal complex presumptions, inferred meanings and assumptions, which effectively produce “culturally meaningful social actions” (Macionis 155, 156).

In an explicitly paternal society, culinary duties are the prerogative of the womenfolk, the reason why father is an almost absent participant. But observing his nonverbal behavior reveals his nuanced preferences based on his personal values. Social interactions can therefore, not be considered to be just a game.

Social interactions are complicated, but are the means through which the society thrives. Understanding how they occur is thus crucial towards sustaining a successful society as well as maintaining harmony within the society.

Works Cited

Macionis, John. Sociology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 2002. Print.

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