When you drive into Area 51, past the sign that says “Restricted Area,” you know what rules you’re violating. You’re trespassing on secret government property, you can be searched, photos are forbidden and boy, you better not launch any drones.
But there’s also a set of unwritten rules of Area 51. Nobody knows exactly what they are, but they’re what leads to all the rumors and myths surrounding the place.
- Will you never come back?
- Will you come back, but not be the same?
- Can you ever talk about what happened?
Every place on this earth is like Area 51. There are rules, written and unwritten, and they depend on the time, the people, the country, the culture, the politics, and a whole lot of other values.
Following these rules as best as you can is less a sign of being a blind follower than it is a gesture of respect for others. Adapting can be a way of being kind. That said, sometimes you can also lead by making your own social rules and hoping others will follow.
- When you enter a quiet room, be quiet. When you enter a lively room, be lively. Read the room.
- When your opposite is talking to you, don’t use your phone. Don’t even touch it. When your opposite is on their phone, don’t be on your phone also. Maybe you can bring them back.
- When people pass you in the street, acknowledge them. Look, nod, be part of the world. Don’t stare at the ground. Don’t be an antibody.
- When you love someone, don’t tell them all the time. Just show them. Look at them, be attentive, listen. They’ll understand, even without words.
- When you disagree with someone, ask: “Does it really matter that I disagree with them?” Is it worth starting a fight? Most of the time, it’s not.
- When you can help people without really going out of your way, do it. Including, but not limited to, holding doors, standing up and giving exact change.
These are some of the ones I try to follow. So far, I haven’t ended up in Area 51.