Norms and Rules

In a boxing match, there are certain areas where you can’t hit. And there are other areas where you can hit with a single penalty and remaining areas to hit as you please.

So you need to win without breaking the rules. Also, there are certain norms like not hitting when someone is down.

Nothing illegal, but if you win this way, you won’t be applauded.

The New Norm

Earlier film critic used to give away the ending just like that. But now the norm is to say, ‘spoiler alert’ to give away any critical information.

Ninety years ago, Agatha Christie wrote a novel in which the illustrator hires a detective to find the murderer inside the mansion. And at the end, ‘spoiler alert,’ the illustrator is the murderer.

At that time, it wasn’t the norm that the illustrator would be the killer. She saw the norm and choose to change it.

Seth’s Observation

In one of his modern blog posts, he noticed either both motorcycle couples wore helmets or none did in Provincetown.

Later he found that the choice was given to the couple. The first person who spoke become the norm.

The shop owner had the option to change the norm by saying that everyone wears a helmet and so it’s recommended.

Rules Vs. Norms

Rules are usually enforced, and norms are acceptable behavior.

For example, consider measles disease. More than a million people have died earlier. Now you have vaccines but now the norm today isn’t to be vaccinated for measles. But the measles disease doesn’t care about the norms; they care about spreading as their rule.

Another example, stopping at the four way is a law. But in some cultures, it is an acceptable norm to go ahead despite the red sign if no vehicle exists. In this case, the governing body just doesn’t enforce the law because the norms are different.

So if people from this culture move to a different city, then they will get the ticket because the rules are enforceable because the norms are different.

The Wrong and Right Usage

Many people in authority aren’t working hard to make sure the rule becomes the norm. So that there wouldn’t need to be any more rule.

For example, speeding is against the rules, but not all are punished, so it becomes the norm to speed despite the law.

Smoking was considered cool because of the marketing, so it became the norm. One way to change this was to have a rule that puts teenagers in jail and enforce it, but that would be devastating.

What they did was made a rule to have huge taxes on cigarettes and thus made smoking not cool a new norm. And you can see the change happening.

The Confusion

When you were in school, the norms were never told to you. And when you go to high school, the norms shifted, and thus it’s no wonder that you are confused about it.

Some kids grow up thinking norms are rules and thus don’t break them. While some kids grow up, thinking rules are norms and thus break them all the time.

Norms are usually – people like us do things like this. So if you can generously break the norm to help others, it is lauded in an open culture and not appreciated in static culture.

Rules are made when the norms are violating others. For example, there is a rule of spitting because the norm of not spitting couldn’t be set. But there can’t be too many rules because then norms can’t be shifted.

The Problem and Solution

When the health department makes a rule not to serve raw things that sit for a long time, then it is a good idea. But they shouldn’t be allowed to make norms on how to eat the food in combination.

Rules exist to serve the norms or when you can’t make a better decision.

Wikipedia has a problem because there are fewer rules but so many norms that you might consider off-putting to edit the articles.

But the change of norm happens this way. Sometimes with powerful and productive people at the center like how to format the article. Or sometimes from the outliers like what to wear now – edgy fashion choices.

Hence you will find people trying to break the norm so that the culture changes.

Sometimes the norm is slapped down, or it is embraced.

Society can’t make rules for everything. And it is the norm that makes the forward momentum. There is always room for innovation. You are in a culture where changing the norm is the norm, and that’s for the better.


  • As a filmmaker, I released my first movie in Amazon prime. But since the payment is negated, I am considering Patreon. What do you think?

You can bypass the middlemen and connect with the audience. And the best part is you are making things for the people who already support you.

This is artist dream come true. But because the alternative is to deal with trying to sell your thing and it can be frustrating.

Here is a myth; people won’t come and start paying you if you make a Patreon page.

It’s not that you can skip the line to get paying patrons. It can work only if you have earned enough fans, then the Patreon is an extension to make your life easier.

Someone might get viral. But you probably won’t get there. The work is to make sure you have permission-based fans one by one. Once you have 1000 people on your list, then you can start making money on Patreon. But let’s be clear it is the last step.