20 Age-Old Social Customs that Deserve to Stay In the Past

As society evolves, so do our customs and traditions. While some customs have stood the test of time, others have become outdated and no longer serve a purpose in our modern world.

Here’s a fresh list of 20 such customs that many believe should be left behind.

1. Public Proposals

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Public proposals, especially those that are unexpected, can put undue pressure on the individual being proposed to. While it might seem romantic in movies, in real life, it can be overwhelming and even embarrassing for some.

Proposing in public without prior discussion can also be seen as a way of manipulating the answer, as the person being proposed to might feel pressured to say “yes” to avoid public embarrassment.

2. Formal Work Attire

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The traditional 9-to-5 office environment often comes with an expectation of formal attire. However, with the rise of remote work and the understanding that productivity isn’t necessarily tied to appearance, this custom is becoming outdated.

Many companies are now adopting more relaxed dress codes, recognizing that comfort can lead to better work efficiency. Moreover, strict dress codes can sometimes perpetuate gender norms and stifle individual expression.

3. Judging Based on Marital Status

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Being single or married shouldn’t be a metric for judging an individual’s worth or happiness. Research shows that single individuals often face harsher judgments than their married counterparts.

For instance, a single person’s profile might be perceived as less happy, secure, or mature compared to a similar profile of a married individual.

Such stereotypes can lead to undue pressure on individuals to conform to societal expectations, even if it’s not in their best interest.

4. Gendered Expectations In Fashion

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Fashion has long been a tool for expressing individuality, but societal norms often dictate what is “appropriate” for each gender. For instance, blue-themed clothing is typically associated with boys, while pink is for girls.

Such gender-specific clothing norms can limit self-expression and perpetuate stereotypes. Men wearing feminine clothing might face insults or even physical harm, while women dressing in a masculine manner might be unfairly labeled based on their attire.

Gender is a social construct, that varies across societies and over time. Thus, it’s high time fashion breaks free from these rigid gender norms.

5. Avoiding Discussions on Salaries

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Open discussions about salaries can be beneficial for ensuring fair pay and exposing discriminatory practices. While some believe that discussing pay can sow discontent, it’s essential to understand that transparency can lead to a more equitable workplace. 

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 in the U.S. even states that employees have the right to discuss their pay.[1] Avoiding such discussions can perpetuate wage gaps and hinder employees from understanding their market value.

Workplaces should foster an environment where employees can openly discuss and negotiate their compensation without fear of repercussions.

6. Expecting Women to Change Their Last Names After Marriage

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The tradition of women adopting their husband’s surname post-marriage has deep historical roots, where women were once viewed as property, and changing their last name symbolized a transfer of ownership from father to husband.

In modern times, this practice perpetuates the idea that a woman’s identity is secondary to her husband’s. Moreover, the administrative hassle of changing official documents, professional affiliations, and digital identities can be daunting.

Retaining one’s maiden name or choosing a combined surname can be a reflection of equality, personal identity, and partnership in the relationship.

7. Avoiding Eye Contact with Strangers

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Eye contact is a powerful form of non-verbal communication, often indicating interest, attention, or emotion. In many cultures, avoiding eye contact is seen as a sign of distrust, disinterest, or even rudeness. However, excessive avoidance can stem from anxiety or fear of being judged.

On the flip side, maintaining good eye contact is perceived as a sign of confidence and can enhance personal connections.

While it’s essential to respect personal boundaries, completely avoiding eye contact can hinder genuine human interactions and mutual understanding.

8. Men Paying for Dates

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Historically, men were expected to pay for dates as a gesture of their financial stability and as a symbol of their ability to provide. However, in today’s age of gender equality, this practice can perpetuate outdated gender roles and can even put undue pressure on men.

It can also inadvertently suggest that the woman’s time and company come with a price. Splitting the bill or alternating who pays can reflect mutual respect and understanding in a relationship.

Communicate and find a system that reflects the values and financial realities of both parties involved.

9. Stigmatizing Mental Health Issues

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Mental health issues have long been stigmatized, often seen as a sign of weakness or a personal failing. This stigma can deter individuals from seeking help, fearing judgment or discrimination.

Stigma arises from negative attitudes and beliefs, leading to discrimination against those with mental illnesses. Such attitudes can be rooted in a lack of understanding or misinformation.

It’s important to foster a society where mental health is discussed openly, and individuals are encouraged to seek help without fear of judgment.

10. Expecting Immediate Replies to Messages

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The digital age has increased connectivity, but it’s essential to recognize the need for personal space and time. Immediate responses shouldn’t be a standard expectation.

In today’s digital age, there’s an unspoken expectation for immediate responses to messages, leading to anxiety and misunderstandings. The rise of 24/7 ‘digital availability[2] has ingrained the expectation that recipients should immediately reply.

This can cause undue stress, especially when the delay in response is misinterpreted as disinterest or anger. Understand that everyone has different communication habits and that immediate responses aren’t always feasible or necessary.

11. Judging People Based on Their Social Media

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Social media platforms offer a curated glimpse into an individual’s life, but it’s a mistake to judge someone solely based on their online presence. While social media profiles can provide insights, they are often tailored and may not reflect the person’s true self. 

Judging someone based on their posts can lead to misconceptions and reinforce stereotypes. Remember that social media is just a facet of a person’s life and not the complete picture.

12. Using Titles Based on Marital Status

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Traditionally, titles like “Miss” and “Mrs.” have been used to indicate a woman’s marital status. However, in today’s society, where personal identity and privacy are paramount, such distinctions can be seen as outdated and intrusive.

Using titles based on marital status perpetuates the idea that a woman’s value or identity is tied to her relationship status.

Furthermore, it can lead to uncomfortable situations or assumptions. For instance, addressing a divorced woman as “Mrs.” might bring up painful memories. Instead, using neutral titles like “Ms.” respects individual identity without delving into personal details.

13. Avoiding Conversations About Boundaries

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Boundaries are essential for mental well-being, personal space, and healthy relationships. Historically, discussing boundaries was seen as confrontational or unnecessary. However, avoiding these conversations can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and strained relationships.

By avoiding these discussions, we risk not having our needs met and placing undue burdens on others. Transparent communication about boundaries ensures mutual respect and understanding in relationships.

14. Expecting Older People to be Tech-Challenged

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The stereotype that older individuals are technologically inept is not only outdated but also dismissive. While it’s true that some seniors might not have grown up with the latest technology, many are eager to learn and adapt.

While there are challenges like unfamiliarity and vision loss, many seniors are overcoming these obstacles to embrace technology.

By assuming that older people can’t understand or use technology, we’re limiting their opportunities to connect, learn, and engage with the modern world.

15. Shaming People for Living with Their Parents

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In many cultures, living with family is normal and even encouraged. However, in some Western societies, particularly in the U.S., there’s a stigma attached to adults living with their parents. This stigma often labels them as “failures” or “boomerangs.”

As highlighted in The Guardian, this shaming overlooks the practical reasons behind the choice, such as economic hardship, student loan debt, or housing crisis.

It also undermines the value of family support and cooperation, fostering a destructive mentality that prioritizes individualism over community and family bonds.

16. Mocking Accents or Dialects

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Accents and dialects are integral parts of cultural identity, reflecting a person’s heritage, upbringing, and community.

Mocking or mimicking them can be deeply offensive, as it trivializes these aspects of a person’s identity. It can also perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce biases.

Accent mockery can lead to discrimination and marginalization. Respecting accents and dialects means respecting the diversity and richness of human culture and communication.

17. Expecting Everyone to Drink Alcohol at Social Gatherings

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The expectation that everyone should drink alcohol at social events can be exclusionary and uncomfortable for those who choose not to drink.

Whether for religious, health, or personal reasons, not everyone wants to consume alcohol. This expectation can lead to peer pressure and make non-drinkers feel out of place or judged.

It’s essential to create an inclusive environment where everyone’s choices are respected, and alternative beverages are offered, allowing all guests to feel comfortable and enjoy the gathering.

18. Judging Based on Appearance

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First impressions matter, but basing judgments solely on appearance can lead to harmful stereotypes and missed opportunities.

When we judge someone based on their attire, tattoos, or hairstyle, we overlook their skills, experiences, and personalities. This not only perpetuates biases but also limits diversity and innovation in various sectors.

Embracing individuality and looking beyond the surface can foster more inclusive environments and richer interactions.

19. Using Gendered Language In Professional Settings

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Using gendered language like “chairman” or addressing a mixed group as “guys” can perpetuate stereotypes and exclude non-binary individuals.

Terms like “rockstar” in job ads or addressing women as “sweetie” in workplaces can be demeaning and establish unnecessary hierarchies.

Such language can deter potential talent and reinforce outdated norms. Adopting gender-neutral terms like “chairperson” or “team” promotes inclusivity and respects all identities.

20. Avoiding Conversations About Privilege

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Avoiding discussions about privilege, especially in contexts like racial or economic privilege, hinders progress toward a more equitable society. Research suggests that skirting around terms like “white privilege” can be seen as an attempt to placate certain groups, rather than addressing the root issues.

Open dialogues about privilege can lead to better understanding, empathy, and actionable steps toward equality. Avoidance only perpetuates ignorance and systemic inequalities.

In an ever-evolving society, it’s imperative to reevaluate customs and practices that no longer serve us or perpetuate biases.  By challenging these outdated norms, we pave the way for a more inclusive, understanding, and progressive world.  Recognizing and addressing these antiquated customs is not just about being politically correct, it’s about fostering genuine respect and understanding among diverse groups.

As we move forward, let’s prioritize empathy, open dialogue, and continuous learning to ensure that our societal norms reflect the values of equity and respect for all.

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Sources

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Image Credit: Krakenimages.com/DepositPhotos.
  1. nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/rights-we-protect/your-rights/your-rights-to-discuss-wages
  2. bbc.com/worklife/article/20220207-the-crippling-expectation-of-247-digital-availability

This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.