If you’ve ever wondered whether an iPhone can bring down a plane if left on during takeoff and landing, I have personal proof that it takes more than one. My seat partner on my journey out to E-Tech yesterday felt no urge whatsoever to follow the flight attendant’s instructions and power down his iPhone. I suspect he probably wasn’t the only one, and I have my own suspicions about the validity of such restrictions, but the flight attendant pointedly stopped and asked him to turn it off. He went through the motions, continuing his usage after she moved past our seats. This individual considered himself the lone exception to a standard the the majority had no issue complying with.
For all our recent love affair with group involvement, community-based efforts, and other multi-person action, individuals still consider themselves the exception to certain rules. This belief is two-pronged: on the positive side, there’s the individuals who take a stand against, often alone, the powers that be to accomplish change that benefits the whole; on the negative side, there’s the individuals who believe that their actions needn’t follow the “rules.” I find myself awkwardly straddling this argument because I’m by no means a believer that one should follow the rules “just because.” However, if you choose to participate in society, some of the trade offs do include a willingness to not be the lone exception.
For example, what if I elected to ignore the traffic signals while driving? The people around me have no way of knowing (and then taking safety precautions) that I’ve chosen to not follow the rules until I broadside someone in an intersection. To me, the continued use of the iPhone wasn’t the issue so much as it was the thinking that drove the behavior. Where do we draw the line between acting against community standards and crossing into the dangerous territory of individual behavior negatively impacting the surrounding people?
This question goes back to one of the original ideas behind this blog: how much thought do we give to our actions? Whether it’s the words we speak or the behavior we choose, I believe we don’t give it enough thought. Perhaps we think about what happened afterward, but because of the fast pace many of us take in life, the idea of thinking before acting seems down the priority list a bit. There will always be a place for the lone exceptions of the world, but it stops being lone when everyone believes their behavior is exempt.