The Socialization at the Gym from Sociological Perspective

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Updated: Jul 05, 2022
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Category: Sociology
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The Situation

Most of my days are spent at the gym for at least an hour or two. For my first observation, I went to the gym and analyzed everything more closely from a sociological point of view. It was February 16th, a really chilly Saturday night, and my friend Vivianna and I arrived at the gym. There were some familiar faces from those who I regularly see there, including the employees. My gym contains a variety of workout equipment; from treadmills and stairmasters to heavy weights and specific machines that target different parts of the body. Everyone there is either doing some form of cardio or weight lifting and most people are very focused on their workout.

For the second observation, I decided to observe my statistics class; it was on a sunny afternoon sometime during Valentine’s day week. I arrived at College of the Canyons right before class began. All of my classmates were there, including my instructor, Professor Gerda. When I got to class, I took my seat and my professor began with his usual lecture. The duration of that class is about two and a half hours, so he typically gives the class an hour long lecture before we get to do classwork. Throughout the lecture, we’re quietly sitting down, paying close attention, and taking notes for what might be on our next exam. Occasionally, people raise their hands to ask questions about what they might not understand or need clarification on.

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The Socialization

For my first observation of socialization at the gym, I couldn’t help but notice that aside from my good friend Vivianna, everyone there were what sociologists call aggregates. Everyone who was at the gym that night wouldn’t be considered a group all together, but just simply people who were in the same place at the same time (Social Groups and Collective Behavior chapter). However, there are small groups within the people who attend the gym. I observed that many people there were exercising with their friends or family. There was an older woman right next to me in the weights section, who was there with whom seemed to be her daughter; the mother was motivating her teenage daughter to push through lifting a 15-pound dumbell a few more times. After the daughter couldn’t handle it, she shook her head and her mother quickly removed the dumbell from her hands. Since they’re family they would be considered a primary group because it consists of more intimate contact and their relationship will most likely last for the rest of their lives (Social Groups and Collective Behavior chapter). Vivianna and I could be considered a dyad, which is a group consisting of two people.

A group tends to interact with one another and shares similar aspects and a common identity, and this applies to my relationship with her since we’ve been friends since the fourth grade. This means that befriending Vivianna was a part of my secondary socialization stage. Secondary socialization happens once children start school and the approval of friends and classmates become more important. Another one of my observations was that the employees at the gym are undergoing adult socialization because having a job is typically an adult role (Socialization chapter). Additionally, I noticed there are certain norms we all follow. Norms define the rules of behavior for what is acceptable or not (Culture chapter). For example, everyone was wearing comfortable clothes that allows them to be flexible and have mobility. Most people also brought water to stay hydrated during their workouts. If someone wore jeans or a fancy dress to the gym, it would be violating the norms because that’s not considered normal. Through the different levels of socialization, everyone there has been socialized to follow what we consider acceptable during a gym session.

For the second observation I made of my statistics class, one of the first things I thought about was how my class was a secondary group. A secondary group is usually a larger group, in which the relationships between people are more institutional and formal (Social Groups and Collective Behavior chapter). An achieved status is attained through the choices every individual makes (Social Groups and Collective Behavior chapter). Therefore, my instructor’s achieved status is being a college professor, and everyone else in the class has an achieved status as a college student. Roles are certain responsibilities that come with a status. Our role as the students in that particular class is to take notes, pay attention, and work with other classmates in teams (Social Groups and Collective Behavior chapter). Our professor is always emphasizing the importance of teamwork and working with others, so he randomly creates teams for us to work in and we’re assigned to a different one each day. Being divided into different teams each day is expected when it comes to this class; I went to class that day expecting to be in a different group than I was in the previous day because that has become the norm. Moreover, another accepted norm throughout the U.S is raising your hand when you have a question. I observed a handful of students doing this throughout the lecture. I couldn’t help but think about how schools in other countries might never raise their hands (Culture chapter). The agent, which is a person involved in the process of socialization, in this case is Professor Gerda. The agency, which are organizations involved in the process of socialization, is College of the Canyons (Socialization chapter).


I was very intrigued by my observations in both instances. I did feel a bit odd having to be attentive to everything around me because I typically don’t analyze my surroundings from a sociologist’s perspective. I will say that it was a really good learning experience and I learned that socialization occurs in our daily lives although we may not notice or think about it. While I was observing my statistics class, nobody seemed to notice because everyone’s attention was on our professor. Even when we got into our teams, everyone was focused on the work we were being assigned. I can’t say the same thing for my observations at the gym because I did make awkward eye contact with a few people, but I looked away after a bit so that I wouldn’t make them uncomfortable. After these observations, I have a deeper understanding about human interaction and how each individual fits into society. Sociology can be applied to basically everything humans do and that to me, is quite fascinating.


I used the Symbolic Interactionism theory to make my observations; this theory claims that humans communicate in a symbolic manner and meaning is created through social interactions. For example, a student raising their hand does so because this gesture means they have a question. The reason this student knows this is because they most likely have done this in every other class they’ve had throughout their lives. These interactions have given the raising hand gesture the specific meaning it has to most of us. Another example I can give is when students use their cellphones in my statistics class. Almost daily, our professor tells somebody to put their phone away because it’s impolite and distracting. Someone using their phone during a lecture is looked down upon because this gesture doesn’t symbolize anything positive in a classroom setting. The Thomas Theorem states that if people view something as real, then it is real (Social Theories chapter). Things have meaning because we believe they do.

This theory could also be applied to my observation of the mother and daughter at the gym. When the daughter couldn’t handle the weight she shook her head and that resulted in her mother helping her. Shaking our heads from one side to another is associated with the word “no”. The mother knew her daughter shaking her head meant that she couldn’t handle it anymore; this is because she has had social interaction where that’s what that gesture symbolizes. Language also has a lot to do with how we perceive the world around us and I noticed that while observing those at my gym. People who speak Spanish tend to have a more outgoing personality than people like me who mostly speak English; this may have to do with the fact that social interactions may differ for people of a different culture and/or age group. The Symbolic Interactionism theory was extremely useful to me because it allowed me to understand how interactions and experiences shape how the world is perceived by people. 

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The Socialization At The Gym From Sociological Perspective. (2022, Jul 05). Retrieved from