The Nature of Deference and Demeanor

In Erving Goffman’s, The Nature of Deference and Demeanor, Goffman explains the concepts of deference and demeanor and the active role they play in how individuals act and respond to specific situations. These actions are influenced by “rules of conduct” that form an individual’s identity and help them act accordingly to the cultural norms or a certain group or role in society. Deference is a “component of activity which functions as a symbolic means by which appreciations is regularly conveyed”(Goffman 1967). Deference can take the form of compliments, apologies, or criticism. Demeanor refers to an individual’s behavior, displayed through actions or presentation. Through the actions of deference and demeanor identities are formed by the actions and reactions of many individuals acting to a certain role, and by gaining feedback of their demeanor through deference

Goffman explains that society has placed “rules of conduct” on how an individual should act in the form of creating direct “obligations,” and indirect “expectations.”(Goffman 1967) This influences an individual’s demeanor, creating an identity that an individual molds themself into, depending on the obligations and expectations that are required. A doctor has an obligation to provide treatment to a patient, depending on the result of the demeanor. The patient gives the doctor deference, either positive or negative, which the doctor then responds to either by accepting the positive deference and appreciating it, or accepting the negative and changing to fix it, thus solidifying the doctor’s role to the patient through the effects of deference and demeanor.

An individual’s status in society, or a group determines the “rules of conduct” that they must present through their demeanor. If they present a good demeanor by fitting into this identity and follow the rules of conduct, then it should be granted that people in the same social group will give deference and compliments to that individual, one of the cause and effect examples Goffman gives, having compliments reinforce good actions, and criticism to thwart negative behavior.

Goffman places emphasis on certain roles, and explains that certain roles have “status position and power.” A doctor has more power over a nurse, so a doctor can display certain deference actions that would be unsuitable for a nurse. It would be unsuitable for a nurse to give commands to a doctor, but is not unsuitable for a doctor to give commands to a nurse. These actions are described as one way, or asymmetrical expectations. Symmetrical expectations describe the shared expectations of both individuals, both the doctor and nurse greet each other and say “Good morning”(Goffman 1967). These differences in power create defined boundaries and specific roles and responsibilities for individuals to carry out and respond to, pushing an individual to act in accordance to an identity that is specified by cultural norms, society values, and ethical laws.

Many of the examples Goffman uses take place in a hospital ward between doctors, patients, and nurses. This only goes on to explain certain situations in a specific controlled environment. In the present, identities, social norms, and rules of conduct are continuously changing. New generations are coming and going, and along with them, certain ceremonial rituals are being adapted, while most are forgotten. Goffman explains that substantial rules help form “law, morality and ethics,” and ceremonial rules shape our “etiquette”(Goffman 1967). Most substantial rules do not fluctuate, but as new generations grow old, ceremonial rules are easily influenced by mass media and seem to change on a daily basis. The interactions of individuals through behavior and dress are now influenced by music superstars, movies and the mass media. Many people take deference for granted, and are self-centered and show no gratitude or respect for other individuals.

Deference and demeanor shape identity and social norms by making individuals act in accord to certain “rules of conduct” social norms, and these rules of conduct create identities by form an individual’s decisions (deference) on how they act and dress to fit it. That deference keeps these identities shaped by either giving praise or lack or praise for that specific act. If an individual doesn’t like a certain role, he or she is free to make the decision to switch roles to a more comfortable setting where he or she can be given the appropriate deference for their demeanor.

The Managed Heart

In the first chapter of “The Managed Heart Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild, Hoschschild explains that current trends of economic capitalist states are becoming more service based, requiring individuals to become an emotional “instrument of labor”. As more jobs require emotional labor, there becomes a detachment from the inner feelings to present the emotional labor required for a job. This emotional labor is considered “The Managed Heart”. Hoschschild uses the flight attendant as an example of the managed heart since airlines main goal is customer satisfaction, it is a non-elite occupation and women are not a minority so it’s easier to compare the experiences of men and women doing the same work. Hoschschild examines the roles and responsibilities of flight attendants and the emotional services they provide for airlines. As a flight attendant, one must portray the image of the sensitive corporate airline and to provide excellent customer service which calls upon emotional services to get the job done. (Hoschschild , 1983, p3).

Hoschschild explains there are two types of labor, physical labor, the act of using the body to accomplish a task and emotional labor, which “requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others.” The current trend in the market place is starting to require more “voice to voice or face to face delivery of service”, which means the increase in communication tends to bring in more emotional labor and feelings into job responsibilities. In the case of the flight attendants, he or she are continually communicating with passengers and and are required to present excellent customer service. This communication in customer service includes treating the customer with respect, displaying a smile, and presenting a warmness that directly reflects the company. These tasks require the flight attendant to display emotions that he or she might not feel within, thus causing the flight attendant to become “estranged or alienated from an aspect of self that is used to do work”. In order to meet his or her job requirements, he or she must put on a show, much like an actor playing a specific role in a movie.

The “managed heart” requires individuals to detach from their self to fulfill the requirements of their job. This will have a significant effect as more people are required into emotional labor as machines start to automate physical labor jobs. This trend will benefit two classes of people, women, who tend to specialize in emotional labor and middle and upper classes individuals in society since they tend to do more administrative work which requires more communication. This could be seen as a cause for the increase of women in the workforce. Their emotional services are in higher demand as the need for communication labor rises.

A flight attendant knows that she will have to suppress her emotions and sell her smile in order to succeed. The training process for a flight attendant is very rigorous, and the roles and responsibilities are laid out form the beginning. I believe there is a certain personality a flight attendant must have in order to succeed at the job. This personality benefits from giving positive emotional labor and enjoys being the comforting fight attendant. In this case, the flight attendant isn’t being taken out of her self, but is able to flourish in a job that accentuates her personality. Many people complain about their current job and want to find something better, it is probably because they are being detached from their self by being put into a role that they do not correlate with. The act of giving an emotional service to passengers gives a flight attendant a feeling of happiness in making passengers feel

The Gendered Workplace

In Barbara F. Reskin article, “Bringing the Men Back In: Sex Differentiation and the devaluation of Women’s Work”, she observes the significant gap in wages between different genders in the work place. In most cases, males out earned their counter females, by as much as 50% in 1986. Reskin believes that this income gap exists because there is a segregation of jobs, where males acquire the high paying jobs, and leave the lower status jobs for females. This segregation of jobs stemmed from males desire to preserve their high paying jobs, and re-write rules to allow them to keep their high position (Reskin 2000:258). As more women enter the workforce, social differences in gender must be broken down to ensure equality and value of women’s contributions in the workplace.
One reason a wage gap exists between males and females is that males who hold high paying positions will do anything possible to preserve their position. As women enter the workforce, only lower subordinate jobs are available to them, while the males re-write the rules to keep themselves in power. Males feel threatened by the fact that women are competing with them, thus they need to differentiate themselves based on gender through a hierarchical system in order to stay in power(Reskin 2000:258).
The push for males to differentiate themselves between women leads to a segregation of occupations based on gender, with males tending to hold high paying jobs and leaving lower paying jobs for females. A Science Mode article shows that there is a gap of high paying males and lower paying females is in California. “Women hold 9.4 percent of the 3,283 board seats in the 400 largest public companies in California.” This includes companies such as Apple computers, who have no women in any top company positions(Davis, 2007). This shows that males dominate top paying board positions by holding 90.6% of the top paying jobs.
Many of these companies are technology and electronic corporations, which tend to be dominated by men. A 2000 study by the National Science Foundation (NSF) 2000 reported that women comprise of 19% of total undergraduate enrollment in engineering programs across the country (Trenor 2007). Technology and engineering fields are being dominated by males with little competition from females. These fields are expanding at fast rates and are creating many high paying jobs, with the majority of them being given to males.
The differential feminist point of view states that women are different from men, but instead of saying men are better than women, women’s differences should be valued. Women tend to be better than men in fields of communication, clerical and emotional work(Reskin 2000:260). I suggest the segregation of this gap exists because these differences utilize different skills that are required for specific jobs. It not that males are fighting to preserve their power, but that females fit into jobs that happen to pay less than their male counterparts.
As corporations try and equal the playing fields between males and females in the workplace, quotas are being placed for the number of males and females. This however leads to bias, as a male engineer who is within the 80% of graduates has a harder time getting a job compared to a female engineering undergraduate. These quotas help keep a balance for genders, much like Affirmative Action keeps a balance on race, however it depends what side of the stick you are on for it to be beneficial.
I believe that current society provides equal opportunity for all genders to enter the workforce and be compensated equally, especially in the United States. I believe that the physical and biological differences in gender have a large influence on the occupation for a specific individual. As the high paying field of engineering is dominated by males, males will continue to out earn women, however, women have the same opportunity, if not more to take the same path as males, but choose a career path more suited to their individualistic needs. Females tend to specialize in the communication and service based occupations, it is the societies needs that place a premium on how much a jobs is needed, and thus how much it should be compensated for.

Digital Interactions: Social Capital in Virtual Communities

The Internet is a large scale communications network that can transfer information from one computer to any computer around the world in a split second.  The Internet has evolved into a massive networks of inter-connected computers that has been build up as a public platform where anyone with an Internet connection can easily share knowledge, opinions and personal beliefs.  As the Internet expands into almost every Americans house, it is making significant impacts on how individuals communicate and interact in society.  From communicating to distant family through email, to sharing of photographs through social networks, the Internet is turning into the new form of communication of the 21st century.  With new tools being build on top of the Internet, is is becoming easier for people to share their lives, communicate with friends and collaborate in groups to accomplish great feats.  The disregard to geopgraphic boundaries enables people to connect with any around the world to share a common interest, form an economic relationship or start political movements.  The Internet has created a public platform for sharing information without censorship.  As communication shift from personal conversations to digital transferring of messages, the interaction of groups and individuals change and help create a more efficient sociological community by connecting individuals who have common interests.  The expansion of the Internet has created an efficient means of communication and collaboration that has increased the social capital and efficiency in which individuals collaborate in groups by streamlining communication and collaboration, publicly sharing information, and breaking geographic boundaries.

The Internet

The Internet is series of connections between computers that can send and receive digital information and allows for connected machines to communicate with one another.(Best 226:369).  These series of connections create a large scale network, called the Internet, that allows any computers to transfer information to another computer on the same network.   The exchange of digital information creates a connected virtual world where users can communicate and collaborate with individuals without regard for geographic location.  The Internet offers services for users to engage in social interactions like, “commercial exchange, political engagement, recreation, psychological support and personal companionship.” Users are allowed to share information, express opinions, ask for advice and receive help. (Best 2006:392)  These tools have created a public platform to create and share information between communities and groups of individuals who have common interests.   One of the Internets most widely used communication tool is e-mail, similar to regular mail but can transfer a message in a matter of seconds to anywhere around the world.   With computers being able to process and transfer information and data at incredibly fast speeds, the Internet has become an efficient replacement to conventional information outlets like mail, newspapers, and even the telephone.

Social Capital

Social capital, the connections within social networks and “features of social life that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives”(Putnam, 1995:67) is being dramatically changed by new tools which utilize the Internet.   Social capital is believed to result from participation in voluntary associations which help define norms, trust and collective resources that are essential to community life” (Scott) 2005:1  The Internet allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to connect and communicate with other individuals with computers, allowing individuals sharing a common interest to participate and share their ideas and opinions.  The Internet is changing the way in which individuals communicate and interact in groups, it has allowed for the creating of special interest groups that are not tied to a specific location or time.  It is still questioned weather these online interests groups can count as voluntary associations that are essential to community life. Robert Putnam argues that the United States is suffering from a decline in “social capital” since the 1950’s resulting in the decline in civic organizations, joint family time, church and other community activities.  (Williams 2006 p14).    Putnam’s work, written in 1995, states the main reason for the decline in social capital being the invention of the television, which has created “privatization of leisure time” and has allowed Americans to focus their attention onto a screen instead of interacting with those immediately around us.  The television and the Internet are similar in that they both deliver information into a screen very quickly, yet the Internet is a medium for two way communication, while the television is a one way information stream.

Internet and the TV

Since the exponential growth of the Internet in recent years, Putnam could also imply that the technology of the Internet is also decreasing social capital, however the television and the computer have main differences.  A television is a one way information stream, news and television shows are broadcasted to a mass population, with the mass population not being able to respond back.  In the case of the Internet, information is presented on a page, such as a blog (web log) or a forum, and individuals have the choice to actively participate and can voice their opinion by writing a response or comment.  The Internet creates a public forum for individuals to post their knowledge, ideas, and interest and can communication and collaboration with other individuals, where as the television is a one way stream of information.  The Internet has the capabilities to both the upload and download of information, this capability encouraged individuals to share their ideas as well as content such as videos and pictures.   Unlike a television where information is being soaked in, the Internet is a way for people to connect and communicate through a computer,  and does so very efficiently, increasing the cooperation of groups.  A computer however can only used by a single person at a time, whereas a television can be viewed by many people.   Many times a television series bring together close friends to watch and enjoy entertainment, the computer connects friends over distance through digital communications.  The evolution of the Internet has created a virtual space for people to communicate their ideas and collaborate with others and has allowed for the creation of groups that are not restricted by boundaries, which are considered online communities.

Online Communities

Online communities are “groups of people with common interest that communicate regularly, and for some duration, in an organized way over the Internet”( Bowl,  p2).  The Internet provides tools for individuals to interact and communicate in online communities such as chat rooms, forums, blogs, social networks, and instant messengers.  All these tools can be leveraged by users to stay in contact with distant friends, easily collaborate with large groups, and create a community where ideas and knowledge can be shared.  This allows individuals to either seek an existing group online by using search engines, or to create their own group to share their knowledge and experience with one another in a public platform.  Online communities are not limited to their geographic location, letting  groups communicate from anywhere around the world without regards to space or time.   Online communities usually share a common interest which binds them together and allows like-minded individuals to connect with other.
Online communities work best when members are likely to meet, are able to identify each other, and can identify others interests and their trustworthiness. (bowl :4)  It has been shown that the most successful online communities are those that already have preexisting relationships, and they use tools offered online to help stay connected and streamline the process of organizing discussion and events.()  Websites such as allows local communities to post classifieds ads on a public forum for free.  This has revolutionized the way people buy and sell items within a local community and has greatly improved the efficiency on how people exchange goods and interact within a local community. (  As online communities become more prevalent on the Internet, the affects on social capital are still unclear.

Local Communities Coming Together

The Internets  main power is the transfer of and sharing of public data with quick speeds.  It can provides a public forum for community members to communicate about local matters.  It was found that the Internet is being used by individuals who are already participating in a groups or organization, and they are using the tools of the Internet to increase the efficiency of their organization.  This means the Internet brings together those that are already tied to an existing community, and is used to “mobilize and organize individuals who were already civically engaged”(Stern :421)   Creating a public forum where a local community can publish and share their public opinion creates a virtual place where an existing community can contribute, collaborate and organize to benefit their group.  Local communities are using the tools offered by the Internet to help accomplish more and to supplement their existing work flow.  It has also been shown that the more users of the Internet are involved in online organizations and political activity, then they are more likely to be involved in offline organizations and political activities.  People in offline groups use the Internet  to extend their participation to their existing groups.(Williams 2005)
A main use of the Internet is to interact and maintain ties with friends.   Studies have shown that the Internet is used to maintain relationships with distant friends, but overall, “communication is lower with distant than nearby friends.”(James 2005) This shows us that online interaction and communication helps strengthen existing ties between friends and is used as a supplementary tool to maintain friendships.(Williams 2005)  Friends can organize meetings through e-mail or instant messaging, as well as communicate through the Internet and social websites.

Anonnymous Groups Weak Ties

Many times Internet users participate in group discussions online with anonymous users that share a common interest.  Since members have no preexisting ties and are bonded by a common interest, these social ties between members as perceived as weak ties, and do not warrant the increase in social capital.  Social ties are bound by trust, honesty, accountability all of which is identified with a person’s identity.  It is difficult for to perceive an Internet users identity since many of the social factors are hidden behind a computer and identity must be obtained only though their written communication skills and not their personal identity. (Best 398)  These weak ties which relate hide the identity of an individual behind a computer leads to weak social ties between anonymous Internet users and do not increase social capital.
In order for a group to work efficiently, there must be a certain amount of trust.  In the case of the Internet, there are many unknown users that hide behind alias and create an online identity that is different from their personal identity.  It can be hard to  gain trust in individuals when social barriers such as race, gender and age are not displayed online, and where social norms online are very different from real life.  However, most online community websites enable users to register an account, and with that account they are given a reputation meter.  As the user completes certain tasks, their reputation or rating can be positive or negative.  This can be attributed to their trustworthiness, as in the case of, the Internets largest online auction website,  as a user completes positive transaction, their transaction can be rated and also given feedback. This allows users to benefit from the past experiences with users and creates a situation where it would be beneficial to not cheat so that a users reputation does not get tarnished.   It is easy to portray a false identity online like the New Yorker states in a cartoon, “nobody knows your a dog”, however websites have features embedded in them so that the risks of trust are diminished.


    In a study reported by New York Times, it was found that face-to-face interaction is full of information.  We interpret tone, body language, pacing and other factors besides the verbal message to convey a message being transferred.  In sending an e-mail, typed words lack rich emotional information that would have been transferred through a phone conversation.  Many times words have different meanings through different tonal pitch inflections and pitch inflection can create a positive or negative spin on a sentence.  Through e-mail their is no verbal tone, no verbal pitch which can create confusion in interpretation, especially when communicating with an anonymous individual.(Goleman 2007:1)   Although e-mail is quick and efficient, it increases the chances of miscommunication and mis-interpretation, leading to possible conflicts which could have been avoided with a personal phone call.(Daniel, 2007)   The use of e-mail also leads to the decline in phone conversations, which creates social isolation, as the time it takes to respond to e-mail is not instant as in a real conversation.  The use of e-mail creates a social isolation and a distant connection that lacks emotional content that can lead to a decline is social capital.

Internet Isolation

The increase in e-mail usage has shown a decline in routine friendly greetings around an office, leaving individuals feeling disconnected.   Many times the use of the Internet creates an isolation from the social world.  Instead of walking down the hallway to greet a co-worker, an instant message is sent.  This leads to depersonalized communication and a sense of social isolation. In the case of Internet e-commerce websites, Internet users can order from online stores and get packages sent to their house instead of going out to the store to buy goods where they might meet a friend.  Many once social activities are now being replaced by Internet stores, such as hanging out at the mall, or the library and the movie store.  These Internet websites are of moving individuals out of the public and into their house where they are social isolated from  the social world. (Williams 2005:14)
Computer are an individualistic tool, usually used by a single person.  The Internet can be used for other means than communicating, such as watching videos, playing games, and soaking in information.   It can be seen that Internet use leads to decreased communication with family members in the same household.  Instead of spending quality family time at the dinner table, children are hooked onto the Internet communicating with their friends on social networks such as myspace or facebook, resulting in a decrease of social capital.  Cases have shown that increase in Internet usage is associated with “declines in participants’ communication with family members in the households, decline in the size of their social circle, and increase in their depression and loneliness.”  (Hopkins, 2004) Spending  large amounts of time in a digital world with out emotional or social contact can have negative effects on both and individuals social capital as well as psychological well being.


The Internet allows individuals to connect with one another around the world.  No longer are groups constrained to their geographic location, they can venture out onto the Internet and find other individuals with the same interests.  Individuals from all around the world can now come together and create a community over the Internet.  Those that were restricted to a community out of geographic or time constraints can now participate with others.  It has opened up the doors for global economic partnership, political activism and the sharing of collective knowledge.  With the Internet creating a public platform for communication, regular individuals are no becoming reporters.  Groups can communicate and share information about local events all around the world.  Personal stories can make a deep impact on the whole of the global war.


The Internet is a powerful tool that when utilized correctly can increase the efficiency of a group by enabling users to easily communicate and collaborate with each other.  Online communication is not meant to replace phone or face-to-face communication, but can be used to increase the efficiency of communication with an existing group.  It allows for group a public forum where knowledge, opinions and ideas can be shared in a community.  It has been shown that most only communication involves pre-existing relationships and the Internet is used to supplement and help maintain those existing relationships.  There are many powerful tools on the Internet that enable groups to organize and collaborate and to efficiently work together to achieve a means.  In some cases, the Internet creates social isolation by creating a virtual world where identity can become anonymous, however, when used correctly, it can increase social capital within local communities and can improve the social capital amongst friends and distant families.  The Internet is evolving at an exponential pace and as new tools and services become available, social capital will be affected in different ways.  The change in social capital depends on the individual using the Internet and for what purpose they use it.