What you shouldn't think

You shouldn't talk to strangers

We have all heard that saying. 

Growing into adulthood, one can reason that there is not much sense in that saying. We all know that we can spark a conversation with the guy sitting next to us at a bus station. Or ask for help in the middle of the street or suddenly call an old friend to catch up, and nothing severely bad will happen.

But yet, we don't often do that. Like we often look at ourselves in the mirror, try to align our fashion style to some model, or try to ace at school. That's a pretty weird code to live by, isn't it? Avoiding things we want to do and doing stuff we think we should do but not necessarily want to[1].

That's driven by social norms and our need (or will) to fit in just right. Interestingly, social norms aren't always a set of rules of dos and donts. They often are embedded in our definitions.

Take a child's curiosity as an example. Watch a 6yo playing catch, or build a tree house. You'll be amazed by what seems like an infinite curiosity and energy that he has and specifically while doing that. Compare that to the same child 20 years later, And you'll wonder, "What happened to that little boy?". He had "grown up" and become more "rational.". Then he's thinking: "That's simply not practical.". No one told him that. It simply trickled in.

It's absurdly "obvious" that doing things just for fun or just from curiosity is not practical. But it turns out that it often is. People doing things from sheer curiosity or pure joy tend to build neat stuff (like Apple, the Theory of relativity, Facebook, Linux, Lightning rod, and more).

If we look back, we can see social norms changing throughout history. Hundred years ago, women got treated differently than they are now. Three hundred years ago, slaves were acceptable and welcomed. Five hundred years ago, it seemed just fine for the Aztecs to sacrifice humans to the gods. 2500 years ago, aspiring for wisdom wasn't that acceptable[2[3].

Norms are not strictly true. They are simply made by modern-day society and are often seasonal. That being said - it may be wiser to choose whatever fits you the most. The irrational act of today may be the norm of tomorrow. And even if it won't be, it still can be the right thing to do while minding the social norms is probably a waste of time and energy[4].

It seems that this trend is increasing. Ever since social media, a specific way of living, appearing, and talking, became the right or beautiful, or politically correct manner. But we can be comforted by the fact that there is a positive wave. Society is much more tolerant and open-minded in some senses. And more efforts are taken to form a better version of modern society.

[1] Of course, that stuff should fall under the category of unharming to society or oneself.

[2] These norms are just a few out of many as we can all imagine.

[3] Heck, One of the greatest philosophers of all time was executed for that - Socrates.

[4] Considering that some decisions can change the course of your life, or change it a little bit, powering those decisions with social norms alignment motives seems foolish.