Exercises in Social Incorrectness

 

There are many invisible but very important social rules that keep the streets clean, the lights on and you and your neighbors alive day-to-day.

I’m not talking about laws, per se, but more the quiet, understood concepts of ‘how things are done’ and ‘that’s just how it is.’

It’s actually fairly easy to figure out what these laws are, even if it’s not immediately obvious. Step out into public and think of something that you will not do.

Bingo! You’ve identified one of these rules.

Everything from a man running around in women’s clothing to tap dancing in the supermarket are generally considered faux pas. These things won’t get you arrested (probably), but you likely wouldn’t just do them because you feel like it. And you know what? That’s a big part of what keeps the gears and pulleys of society oiled and maintained.

Society is a complex machine that is tuned by inhibition.

But let’s consider for a moment the opposite argument. What if the inhibitions we all feel are actually HURTING society rather than helping? What if you not singing at the top of your lungs when you feel like it and refusing to wear 6 ties to work (fanned out into a beautiful crest) instead of just 1 is holding us back, keeping us locked in a social stasis wherein our habits and methods of interaction are unable to evolve as quickly as they should?

This is a distinct possibility, and I think you’ll find that, historically, most of the major breakthroughs – social, technological, economic, etc – have come about because someone decided that a social rule simply didn’t apply to them. They risked forcefully pulling themselves out of a wonderfully complex and delightfully comfortable state-of-being in order to try something unproven, untried and, according to some, unnecessary.

And in many cases, the critics end up being right. The pie-in-the-sky idea turns out to be just that and doesn’t work well on a practical level.

On the other hand, there are a few instances where these exercises in social incorrectness don’t just break machines, but build new ones! Machinations of such beauty and usefulness that most of the cogs from the old machine jump ship and swim their way over to the recently-doubted innovation, eager to be integrated into its novel set of components.

Society can operate perfectly well without these parallax shifts, but should it? I say no. There are some who operate under the assumption that the world would be a better place if we had never harnessed the power of electricity or created the automobile or split the atom. I seriously doubt those same people would express the same distaste for the creation of the polio vaccination, humanity’s increased lifespan or the invention of the tater tot (I mean, who could hate tater tots?!).

There will always be dissenters and nay-sayers and antagonists fighting against your every move when you try to innovate. Don’t let it get you down, because if all goes according to plan, those same kinds of people will be fighting for you the next time around.

PS: take a look at Instigationology if you want a good example of someone taking these kinds of exercises and making them into a habit. The blog’s author, Kristin Norris, has just challenged Ashley Ambirge from The Middle Finger Project to not drink for a month in order to expand their social horizons (sans social-lubricant) and save money for a trip to who-knows-where. Check out the formal challenge, read the acceptance post, and drop them a comment or email if you want to take part!

46 comments

  1. DUDE! You also rock my world!!! Thanks for the shout out!

    Also, I am very looking forward to you taking up the challenge in NZ. So many opportunities for awesome activities there.

    Also also, I think this week’s activity will be snow shoeing on V-day (weather permitting). Be prepared to watch me fall. all. over. the. place. (sans alcohol excuse…)

    Also also also, FIRST! (yes? can’t tell).

  2. DUDE! You also rock my world!!! Thanks for the shout out!

    Also, I am very looking forward to you taking up the challenge in NZ. So many opportunities for awesome activities there.

    Also also, I think this week’s activity will be snow shoeing on V-day (weather permitting). Be prepared to watch me fall. all. over. the. place. (sans alcohol excuse…)

    Also also also, FIRST! (yes? can’t tell).

  3. DUDE! You also rock my world!!! Thanks for the shout out!

    Also, I am very looking forward to you taking up the challenge in NZ. So many opportunities for awesome activities there.

    Also also, I think this week’s activity will be snow shoeing on V-day (weather permitting). Be prepared to watch me fall. all. over. the. place. (sans alcohol excuse…)

    Also also also, FIRST! (yes? can’t tell).

  4. DUDE! You also rock my world!!! Thanks for the shout out!

    Also, I am very looking forward to you taking up the challenge in NZ. So many opportunities for awesome activities there.

    Also also, I think this week’s activity will be snow shoeing on V-day (weather permitting). Be prepared to watch me fall. all. over. the. place. (sans alcohol excuse…)

    Also also also, FIRST! (yes? can’t tell).

  5. You do have a great point Colin, in fact is a point often overlooked. We are sometimes so used to how things work that we don’t care about breaking the mold.

    I must say that when I started making changes in my life, I began looking at the old machine as a really broken one. It was stagnant and couldn’t even keep moving.

    I think innovation doesn’t come only as a social challenge, but as a personal one, again you are a good example.

    @Kristin. Yes, you were the fist one. =)

  6. You do have a great point Colin, in fact is a point often overlooked. We are sometimes so used to how things work that we don’t care about breaking the mold.

    I must say that when I started making changes in my life, I began looking at the old machine as a really broken one. It was stagnant and couldn’t even keep moving.

    I think innovation doesn’t come only as a social challenge, but as a personal one, again you are a good example.

    @Kristin. Yes, you were the fist one. =)

  7. You do have a great point Colin, in fact is a point often overlooked. We are sometimes so used to how things work that we don’t care about breaking the mold.

    I must say that when I started making changes in my life, I began looking at the old machine as a really broken one. It was stagnant and couldn’t even keep moving.

    I think innovation doesn’t come only as a social challenge, but as a personal one, again you are a good example.

    @Kristin. Yes, you were the fist one. =)

  8. You do have a great point Colin, in fact is a point often overlooked. We are sometimes so used to how things work that we don’t care about breaking the mold.

    I must say that when I started making changes in my life, I began looking at the old machine as a really broken one. It was stagnant and couldn’t even keep moving.

    I think innovation doesn’t come only as a social challenge, but as a personal one, again you are a good example.

    @Kristin. Yes, you were the fist one. =)

  9. Hey, thanks for the shout out over here! I’m going to need as many supporters as I can get. Today is day number 3, and it’s almost over. I haven’t hyperventilated yet. This is good news.

    P.S. I always worry that people are going to assume I am a biker chick when they read the title of my website. Not that that’s a bad thing, but, you know–black leather pants make my butt look big.

    P.P.S. Society needs a little crazy. Ever notice that the uninhibited ones are also the ones having all the fun? Societal mores are unspoken rules, but the way that they become rules in the first place is through the collective agreement–spoken or unspoken–of a culture. Disregarding them is the first step to forming the possibility of new collective agreement. It’s a slow process, but nevertheless malleable. It’s the social rules that make a culture its own, but it’s what the people do with those rules, that give the culture its character. Damn, that was profound.

  10. Hey, thanks for the shout out over here! I’m going to need as many supporters as I can get. Today is day number 3, and it’s almost over. I haven’t hyperventilated yet. This is good news.

    P.S. I always worry that people are going to assume I am a biker chick when they read the title of my website. Not that that’s a bad thing, but, you know–black leather pants make my butt look big.

    P.P.S. Society needs a little crazy. Ever notice that the uninhibited ones are also the ones having all the fun? Societal mores are unspoken rules, but the way that they become rules in the first place is through the collective agreement–spoken or unspoken–of a culture. Disregarding them is the first step to forming the possibility of new collective agreement. It’s a slow process, but nevertheless malleable. It’s the social rules that make a culture its own, but it’s what the people do with those rules, that give the culture its character. Damn, that was profound.

  11. Hey, thanks for the shout out over here! I’m going to need as many supporters as I can get. Today is day number 3, and it’s almost over. I haven’t hyperventilated yet. This is good news.

    P.S. I always worry that people are going to assume I am a biker chick when they read the title of my website. Not that that’s a bad thing, but, you know–black leather pants make my butt look big.

    P.P.S. Society needs a little crazy. Ever notice that the uninhibited ones are also the ones having all the fun? Societal mores are unspoken rules, but the way that they become rules in the first place is through the collective agreement–spoken or unspoken–of a culture. Disregarding them is the first step to forming the possibility of new collective agreement. It’s a slow process, but nevertheless malleable. It’s the social rules that make a culture its own, but it’s what the people do with those rules, that give the culture its character. Damn, that was profound.

  12. Hey, thanks for the shout out over here! I’m going to need as many supporters as I can get. Today is day number 3, and it’s almost over. I haven’t hyperventilated yet. This is good news.

    P.S. I always worry that people are going to assume I am a biker chick when they read the title of my website. Not that that’s a bad thing, but, you know–black leather pants make my butt look big.

    P.P.S. Society needs a little crazy. Ever notice that the uninhibited ones are also the ones having all the fun? Societal mores are unspoken rules, but the way that they become rules in the first place is through the collective agreement–spoken or unspoken–of a culture. Disregarding them is the first step to forming the possibility of new collective agreement. It’s a slow process, but nevertheless malleable. It’s the social rules that make a culture its own, but it’s what the people do with those rules, that give the culture its character. Damn, that was profound.

  13. Excellent points. Usually, when people respond to a question with “That’s just the way it is”, it means they’re too lazy or apathetic to actually think of why something is done the way it is done.

    As to nay-sayers, I just shrug them off and tell them that I’d rather fail doing it my way than succeed doing it by someone else’s book.

  14. Excellent points. Usually, when people respond to a question with “That’s just the way it is”, it means they’re too lazy or apathetic to actually think of why something is done the way it is done.

    As to nay-sayers, I just shrug them off and tell them that I’d rather fail doing it my way than succeed doing it by someone else’s book.

  15. Excellent points. Usually, when people respond to a question with “That’s just the way it is”, it means they’re too lazy or apathetic to actually think of why something is done the way it is done.

    As to nay-sayers, I just shrug them off and tell them that I’d rather fail doing it my way than succeed doing it by someone else’s book.

  16. Excellent points. Usually, when people respond to a question with “That’s just the way it is”, it means they’re too lazy or apathetic to actually think of why something is done the way it is done.

    As to nay-sayers, I just shrug them off and tell them that I’d rather fail doing it my way than succeed doing it by someone else’s book.

  17. “someone decided that a social rule simply didn’t apply to them” – YES YES YES!!

    Nail on the head, there.

    And these conventions aren’t just bad news for society, they’re bad news for individuals as well. If you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, then you’re likely suppressing something harmless which stands a good chance of making your life easier and/or you happy.

    Six pairs of ties? Why the f*ck not if it floats your boat.

    Awesome!

  18. “someone decided that a social rule simply didn’t apply to them” – YES YES YES!!

    Nail on the head, there.

    And these conventions aren’t just bad news for society, they’re bad news for individuals as well. If you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, then you’re likely suppressing something harmless which stands a good chance of making your life easier and/or you happy.

    Six pairs of ties? Why the f*ck not if it floats your boat.

    Awesome!

  19. “someone decided that a social rule simply didn’t apply to them” – YES YES YES!!

    Nail on the head, there.

    And these conventions aren’t just bad news for society, they’re bad news for individuals as well. If you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, then you’re likely suppressing something harmless which stands a good chance of making your life easier and/or you happy.

    Six pairs of ties? Why the f*ck not if it floats your boat.

    Awesome!

  20. “someone decided that a social rule simply didn’t apply to them” – YES YES YES!!

    Nail on the head, there.

    And these conventions aren’t just bad news for society, they’re bad news for individuals as well. If you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something, then you’re likely suppressing something harmless which stands a good chance of making your life easier and/or you happy.

    Six pairs of ties? Why the f*ck not if it floats your boat.

    Awesome!

  21. If there’s one phrase in the world that bothers me it’s “That’s just how it is.”

    Wonderful post as usual man.

  22. If there’s one phrase in the world that bothers me it’s “That’s just how it is.”

    Wonderful post as usual man.

  23. I’m all for tap dancing in super markets… on sidewalks… in cafes… maybe that’s just proof positive of my love and passion for dance.

    Also, love the picture.

  24. I’m all for tap dancing in super markets… on sidewalks… in cafes… maybe that’s just proof positive of my love and passion for dance.

    Also, love the picture.

  25. I’m all for tap dancing in super markets… on sidewalks… in cafes… maybe that’s just proof positive of my love and passion for dance.

    Also, love the picture.

  26. I’m all for tap dancing in super markets… on sidewalks… in cafes… maybe that’s just proof positive of my love and passion for dance.

    Also, love the picture.

  27. What you say is so true. People are so afraid of looking stupid (i.e. doing something different than everyone else) that they hold back. I know I do it and I wish sometimes I didn’t. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago and it is difficult not to have a drink in a social circumstance… but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

  28. What you say is so true. People are so afraid of looking stupid (i.e. doing something different than everyone else) that they hold back. I know I do it and I wish sometimes I didn’t. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago and it is difficult not to have a drink in a social circumstance… but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

  29. What you say is so true. People are so afraid of looking stupid (i.e. doing something different than everyone else) that they hold back. I know I do it and I wish sometimes I didn’t. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago and it is difficult not to have a drink in a social circumstance… but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

  30. What you say is so true. People are so afraid of looking stupid (i.e. doing something different than everyone else) that they hold back. I know I do it and I wish sometimes I didn’t. I stopped drinking a few weeks ago and it is difficult not to have a drink in a social circumstance… but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

  31. I love the idea of ‘breaking the mold’ it resonates with me and my business… you are breaking the mold in a huge way with your traveling and business model, and i think more people, especially young entrepreneurs/bloggesr, should jump on the ‘out of the box’ train :)

  32. I love the idea of ‘breaking the mold’ it resonates with me and my business… you are breaking the mold in a huge way with your traveling and business model, and i think more people, especially young entrepreneurs/bloggesr, should jump on the ‘out of the box’ train :)

  33. I love the idea of ‘breaking the mold’ it resonates with me and my business… you are breaking the mold in a huge way with your traveling and business model, and i think more people, especially young entrepreneurs/bloggesr, should jump on the ‘out of the box’ train :)

  34. I love the idea of ‘breaking the mold’ it resonates with me and my business… you are breaking the mold in a huge way with your traveling and business model, and i think more people, especially young entrepreneurs/bloggesr, should jump on the ‘out of the box’ train :)

  35. my first reaction upon reading the list of faux pas was, “that sounds like fun…”

    i would rather be known as that girl who wears rainbow knee-high socks and dances in half-empty swimming pools at night with all of her clothes on than be sitting against a wall watching that girl dance around, having fun.

    beyond just the basic idea of the most enjoyable way to live is the fact that you never know what it will lead to. unlike doing what you should, which has fairly mundane consequences, the rainbow socks made me a friend in French customs and my swimming pool theatrics got me a shout-out by some famous rappers.

    why not live a life less ordinary and see what happens?

  36. my first reaction upon reading the list of faux pas was, “that sounds like fun…”

    i would rather be known as that girl who wears rainbow knee-high socks and dances in half-empty swimming pools at night with all of her clothes on than be sitting against a wall watching that girl dance around, having fun.

    beyond just the basic idea of the most enjoyable way to live is the fact that you never know what it will lead to. unlike doing what you should, which has fairly mundane consequences, the rainbow socks made me a friend in French customs and my swimming pool theatrics got me a shout-out by some famous rappers.

    why not live a life less ordinary and see what happens?

  37. my first reaction upon reading the list of faux pas was, “that sounds like fun…”

    i would rather be known as that girl who wears rainbow knee-high socks and dances in half-empty swimming pools at night with all of her clothes on than be sitting against a wall watching that girl dance around, having fun.

    beyond just the basic idea of the most enjoyable way to live is the fact that you never know what it will lead to. unlike doing what you should, which has fairly mundane consequences, the rainbow socks made me a friend in French customs and my swimming pool theatrics got me a shout-out by some famous rappers.

    why not live a life less ordinary and see what happens?

  38. my first reaction upon reading the list of faux pas was, “that sounds like fun…”

    i would rather be known as that girl who wears rainbow knee-high socks and dances in half-empty swimming pools at night with all of her clothes on than be sitting against a wall watching that girl dance around, having fun.

    beyond just the basic idea of the most enjoyable way to live is the fact that you never know what it will lead to. unlike doing what you should, which has fairly mundane consequences, the rainbow socks made me a friend in French customs and my swimming pool theatrics got me a shout-out by some famous rappers.

    why not live a life less ordinary and see what happens?

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