How Social Presence Drives Commitment and Loyalty

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Individuals are socialized to fit into existing social structures. There are many examples of how they fit in. The first one is in a military format where discipline, loyalty, respect, honor, and, especially, self-sacrifice are demanded. Under normal social circumstances, these extreme disciplines would not be accepted. However, they are in the military social setting because they are expected, and this is what recruits expect from their military experience. Cadets surrender their self-esteem by having their hair shaved off, their unique clothes confiscated, and drab clothes substituted.

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Punishment becomes the norm for all cadets who deviate from the perceived accepted behavior – no matter how much it’s against everything they’ve learned since birth. Cadets, in turn, develop a sense of belonging to the social group because they are all being subjected to the same rigors as every other cadet. This then develops into a sense of loyalty, not to the Army or Marines, but to each other. The desire not to let down their friends becomes more important to them than their own lives. The bonds of this fellowship will last a lifetime, well past military service. This fellowship is the basis for the “ingroup” concept of Sociology. They are far beyond that of an “Aggregate” group, which is a group of people who happen to be in the same place but with nothing much in common, like people waiting at a bus stop.

The individual often finds himself in a “Reference Group,” where they are in a group that will judge them, and they will judge others in the group, on their behavior and attitudes. The most common of the reference groups is the family structure. Here, family members, especially the parental figures, are often the most critical. These are the matriarchal and patriarchal figures who frequently decide what the correct social norms to live by are, certainly within the family structure. This extends to reference groups like classmates and coworkers, who will be living in a constrained environment where conformity to the norm is expected and demanded. Deviation from that norm will result in being exiled from the group. One interesting concept is that you don’t necessarily have to belong to the reference group to have it influence you. You can admire brilliant scientists that you see on the Science Channel without actually being a scientist yourself. Just identifying with the people in the group makes you a part of that group, albeit viewing it from the outside.

Arguably, the most important societal group is the “Dyad,” where only two people are involved in the group. This can be anything from friends to associates, but is most commonly recognized as marriage. In the Dyad, the interchange between the two members can be intense. This can produce positive results, as in the case of intimacy, but can also cause severe conflicts like marital arguments and divorce. The one unique element of this Dyad group is that if one member leaves, the entire group is destroyed. One person can never be the basis of a Dyad group. Dyads can also be close friends who share their deepest secrets. The bond between them can be as close as a marriage itself. Their loyalty belongs to each other, and they would fight anyone trying to get between them. This, of course, makes Dyads extremely unstable and fragile, because just one perception of disloyalty by one or the other in the group leads to its destruction.

Another interesting social group is the “Triad,” where a third person is added to the dyad. This addition can be very beneficial to the group but also adds the element of explosiveness. The presence of the third person can add stability to the group because when there is a dispute between two members of the group, the third member can act as the mediator and referee the argument to a successful conclusion. Another benefit is that one member can temporarily leave the group or be absent from it, and the triad doesn’t dissolve. The other two can carry on until the third one returns. A huge negative to the triad social structure is the formation of alliances or coalitions. This happens when two of the group decide to join forces against the third party, which enables them to gang up on the third person. This, of course, destabilizes the entire triad and can, under some conditions, completely destroy the triad. This is especially true when all three members are competing for one item or when there is not enough of an item to share, and no one is willing to give in to the others.

One way to avoid some of the problems of dyads and triads is by being a part of a “Larger Group” social structure where the group shares a common goal or social ideal, but intimate relationships between two or three people are not necessary. It allows for two or three people to congregate and have a subgroup without destroying the entire group. This is especially true of sports teams, where a football team can have 40 members with a common goal of winning football games by operating as a well-oiled machine, but they still can pair off after the game and form small social structure groups that don’t have the same values as the other small groups. These larger groups are much more stable than small dyads and triads because even if one or two members of the group or team leave or walk out, it doesn’t destroy the team itself. In fact, replacing members of a large group can be very easy under the right circumstances. Large groups, however, do have a negative side. They tend to be exclusive, shunning others who are not part of their special group, making interaction with other people difficult. This is seen in fraternities and sororities, where the members will form “cliques” that will limit any social relationships with anyone outside of the fraternity or sorority. These cliques can also form within the larger group when people of similar background, gender, age, or race tend to stick together to the exclusion of others. They can feel part of the bigger group without necessarily sharing all of the group’s values.

In all, individuals can fit into a myriad of existing social structures that are as diverse as society itself. Whether it be large organizations or teams, or small two-person units, the ways that people can interact with others is nearly endless.

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How social presence drives commitment and loyalty. (2022, Nov 17). Retrieved from