The Great Social Experiment

I completed a social experiment this weekend, and I can’t decide whether to be proud of myself or not. I attended an on campus cohort for the English and Digital Humanities degree program, and I decided at the last second to test everyone without letting them know that they were being tested. I know that when worded this way it seems ominous and like I was being cruel, though I assure you this was not the case.

Going into this weekend I was all nerves. I am never sure how to act around people I don’t know, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I don’t think that the 430 mile trip (one way) with twin two year-olds made things much better in that regard. The first day I got up and put on jeans and a kind of British looking gray sweater (that i love, but picked specifically for it’s arm covering capabilities). I spent the whole day with a great, seemingly open group of like-minded people, exchanging ideas and learning more about each other and about the program. The second day I felt more comfortable, and I wore a white sweater that covered my arms but was fairly sheer (picked because it covered my arms, but just barely). The second day was more in depth work, and I started to like and trust these new people more and more. Then on the third day, I wore a short-sleeved green shirt that completely showed my arms, revealing several very large pieces of artwork to these people that I was learning with.

I admit that I did these things partially for self preservation, but also because I am endlessly fascinated with the human psyche and why people behave the way that they do. I come from kind of a small town, so while I love my tattoos, (half sleeves of both The Lorax and Alice in Wonderland, among others, in case anyone is curious) I have had mixed reactions to them. I have had everything from my Grandmother crying, to dirty looks, to people stroking my arm and asking a million questions. I think that in general woman in our society are expected to have tiny butterflies on their shoulder or foot, if they have any tattoos at all. Despite some changes, there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding tattooed women.

So how did my experiment turn out, exactly? Much more beautifully than I could have imagined actually. Maybe it is a testament to their good manners, or perhaps it is because I am in Portland, (a city which seems to be a bit more laid back about such things) but it didn’t seem to change anything. I was still looked at and treated exactly the same. Maybe the real social experiment here was whether or not I could truly succeed at being myself with a group of people. Either way, I consider my experiment to be a success.

7 thoughts on “The Great Social Experiment

  1. You’re amazing. Really love this post. I noticed this unfold without really understanding what was unfolding. I had no conscious recognition of what you were up to. As you say, Portland is a different sort of environment, but this was a brilliant experiment, regardless. I remember your comments about the Lorax on Saturday (I think) and then noticing your tattoos on Sunday. What happened for me over the weekend was that I found myself feeling more and more comfortable with the group each day. It’s a whole other sort of experiment, being thrown together with strangers for three intense days like that. Felt like a great success to me too.

    • Thank you. I was hoping everyone would take this post in the spirit in which it was meant. I just really wanted everyone to know how much I care about and respect them. The weekend was incredible, and it is sort of surreal to be sitting back in Idaho.

  2. I think it’s great that you tried this experiment, and I’m glad you weren’t treated any differently for it. Portland, and especially Marylhurst, seem to be very diverse, very accepting places. I know when I moved here seven years ago from a small Montana town, I had a defensive shell up as well. My tattoos and piercings gave me the stigma of an outsider in Montana, but in Portland I blend in, and indeed am overshadowed by many others’ unique personal choices. I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to go sleeveless by the last day, and I hope you continue to show off your awesome artwork!

    • Interestingly enough, at home I feel pretty comfortable out and about. Probably because I don’t have to spend any extended time with anyone I may encounter, regardless of their opinions. I am much more guarded with people I am expected to get to know. Portland is very, very different from Idaho!

  3. That is pretty awesome. I wondered why you hadn’t showed your tattoos until Sunday, mostly because they are pretty awesome. There is this PDX artist that does some fun Alice in Wonderland art. Her website is theblackapple.net.

    I think anytime you put a new group of people together it is always a social experiment. It would be fun to be able to see our interactions with one another early on Fri. morning and compare them to how we acted Sun. afternoon. I wonder what it would look like.

    • I will definitely have to check her out! I am with you though, I think it would be interesting to see how our interactions progressed through the weekend. Maybe Jesse should videotape the next cohort (with their permission of course) on day one and then on day three.

  4. This is lovely, Megan. I agree with the others’ comments and just want to add that I’m honored to be a part of this group which allowed you to be comfortable bravely being yourself.

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The Great Social Experiment

I completed a social experiment this weekend, and I can’t decide whether to be proud of myself or not. I attended an on campus cohort for the English and Digital Humanities degree program, and I decided at the last second to test everyone without letting them know that they were being tested. I know that when worded this way it seems ominous and like I was being cruel, though I assure you this was not the case.

Going into this weekend I was all nerves. I am never sure how to act around people I don’t know, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I don’t think that the 430 mile trip (one way) with twin two year-olds made things much better in that regard. The first day I got up and put on jeans and a kind of British looking gray sweater (that i love, but picked specifically for it’s arm covering capabilities). I spent the whole day with a great, seemingly open group of like-minded people, exchanging ideas and learning more about each other and about the program. The second day I felt more comfortable, and I wore a white sweater that covered my arms but was fairly sheer (picked because it covered my arms, but just barely). The second day was more in depth work, and I started to like and trust these new people more and more. Then on the third day, I wore a short-sleeved green shirt that completely showed my arms, revealing several very large pieces of artwork to these people that I was learning with.

I admit that I did these things partially for self preservation, but also because I am endlessly fascinated with the human psyche and why people behave the way that they do. I come from kind of a small town, so while I love my tattoos, (half sleeves of both The Lorax and Alice in Wonderland, among others, in case anyone is curious) I have had mixed reactions to them. I have had everything from my Grandmother crying, to dirty looks, to people stroking my arm and asking a million questions. I think that in general woman in our society are expected to have tiny butterflies on their shoulder or foot, if they have any tattoos at all. Despite some changes, there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding tattooed women.

So how did my experiment turn out, exactly? Much more beautifully than I could have imagined actually. Maybe it is a testament to their good manners, or perhaps it is because I am in Portland, (a city which seems to be a bit more laid back about such things) but it didn’t seem to change anything. I was still looked at and treated exactly the same. Maybe the real social experiment here was whether or not I could truly succeed at being myself with a group of people. Either way, I consider my experiment to be a success.

7 thoughts on “The Great Social Experiment

  1. You’re amazing. Really love this post. I noticed this unfold without really understanding what was unfolding. I had no conscious recognition of what you were up to. As you say, Portland is a different sort of environment, but this was a brilliant experiment, regardless. I remember your comments about the Lorax on Saturday (I think) and then noticing your tattoos on Sunday. What happened for me over the weekend was that I found myself feeling more and more comfortable with the group each day. It’s a whole other sort of experiment, being thrown together with strangers for three intense days like that. Felt like a great success to me too.

    • Thank you. I was hoping everyone would take this post in the spirit in which it was meant. I just really wanted everyone to know how much I care about and respect them. The weekend was incredible, and it is sort of surreal to be sitting back in Idaho.

  2. I think it’s great that you tried this experiment, and I’m glad you weren’t treated any differently for it. Portland, and especially Marylhurst, seem to be very diverse, very accepting places. I know when I moved here seven years ago from a small Montana town, I had a defensive shell up as well. My tattoos and piercings gave me the stigma of an outsider in Montana, but in Portland I blend in, and indeed am overshadowed by many others’ unique personal choices. I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to go sleeveless by the last day, and I hope you continue to show off your awesome artwork!

    • Interestingly enough, at home I feel pretty comfortable out and about. Probably because I don’t have to spend any extended time with anyone I may encounter, regardless of their opinions. I am much more guarded with people I am expected to get to know. Portland is very, very different from Idaho!

  3. That is pretty awesome. I wondered why you hadn’t showed your tattoos until Sunday, mostly because they are pretty awesome. There is this PDX artist that does some fun Alice in Wonderland art. Her website is theblackapple.net.

    I think anytime you put a new group of people together it is always a social experiment. It would be fun to be able to see our interactions with one another early on Fri. morning and compare them to how we acted Sun. afternoon. I wonder what it would look like.

    • I will definitely have to check her out! I am with you though, I think it would be interesting to see how our interactions progressed through the weekend. Maybe Jesse should videotape the next cohort (with their permission of course) on day one and then on day three.

  4. This is lovely, Megan. I agree with the others’ comments and just want to add that I’m honored to be a part of this group which allowed you to be comfortable bravely being yourself.

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