“Clearly, I am not happy with the recession in societal norms and values and fear it is becoming all too common these days as a lot of people have forgotten to know how to act in public in a civilized and dignified manner.”

How many times have you been on a plane, a train, or a bus recently and noticed someone on a loud phone call, listening to loud music without headphones, or even kicking your seat and not apologizing? I would say it’s happened to most of us at some point, but these kinds of rude behaviors seem to become more common post-pandemic.

The receding of the pandemic did not just cause the deaths of millions of people, long-lasting economic damage, but most recently an erosion in social norms and values. Clearly, I am not happy with the recession in societal norms and values and fear it is becoming all too common these days as a lot of people have forgotten to know how to act in public in a civilized and dignified manner.

As the pandemic has receded, selfish and unruly behavior has increased in my view, and it has been well documented in popular forms of media. How many videos or audio clips have you seen of airline passengers fighting with flight attendants or gate agents? There have also been scenes of people stealing and looting from stores in mass causing chain stores and the local mom and pop shop to have armed and unarmed security patrolling the toiletries aisle. For the rest of us who play by the rules, it’s unfortunate that we must deal with the agitation of greater security and more surveillance because others have to act in such a selfish and anti-social manner.

While there is some blame to go around including growing wealth inequality, the cost-of-living crisis that continues to worsen, and a lack of proper education in the school system on basic behavior and etiquette, it does not excuse being negligent of how to behave in public especially for an adult who should know better. I would like to think that we all are taught whether by parents, guardians, or by teachers themselves the difference between right and wrong, how to behave oneself when others are around, and that stealing, cursing, and dismissing others in public as unseemly behavior. The pandemic has worn a lot of us down physically, mentally, and financially but it does not excuse anti-social acts and/or behaviors against your fellow man or women.

Together, in a society, we should remember both the spoken and unspoken rules of how to behave and it seems like a few of us need to re-learn that or we have to strengthen these rules in our institutions and in our laws to fight against this rising tide in unseemly behavior. There are consequences to your actions and while we should continue to notice these anti-social behaviors and call them out, there must be a strengthening in terms of preventing those from breaking these rules and to hold them accountable when they happen.

A good example of an anti-social behavior I’ve noticed is in major U.S. cities including New York City and Washington, DC. Fare beating and or jumping the gate to avoid paying the fares to keep our transit system from functioning well is something I condemn strongly. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, there has been a spike in people not wanting to pay their transit fare and getting caught on camera while not doing so. Multiple times, the station agents and transit police do not apprehend these individuals to cite them for the fines or at least verbally reprimand them for their actions. If you do not enforce the fines or at least the rules, it emboldens this kind of anti-social behaviors and people will keep them doing them.

Recently, increasing the fines and changing the fare gates to be more difficult to physically jump or avoid has become a solution to this fare beating issue, but it is more than just changing the gates or enforcing the fines, there should be more ways to let people know in public service announcements (PSAs) or through schools, community centers, or in the home that this behavior is not tolerable.

I very much encourage free transit programs for those of lower economic status and for young people who are going to school or work as an alternative way to invest in those people who need the financial assistance and may not understand how fare beating is unacceptable. Increasing fines and security presence for stealing, farebeating, loud music in public, is not so much a solution, but rather a band-aid on anti-social behavior that may discourage these actions but won’t go fare in terms of ending it.

In a society, I believe people need both ‘the carrot and the stick’ in the sense that good behaviors should be encouraged and even rewarded such as cleaning up after yourself, lining up in a proper manner, helping the elderly and disabled. We should do as much to encourage healthy social behaviors as much as discouraging and shaming unhealthy anti-social behaviors.

For myself, I have a pet peeve of people playing music in public places in my near vicinity without earphones or headphones or keeping it to a low volume at the minimum. It gives me no great pleasure to call anyone out on this kind of behavior, but it was never acceptable before the pandemic to do so, and it should not become a new norm in this post-pandemic world. If it bothers me or causes me to not focus on my reading or my work, I will be happy to call this selfish kind of behavior out. It’s up to the individual on how they act but it used to be a given that you wouldn’t disturb others’ peace in public and keep your music, gossip, or phone calls to yourself or at a low volume. I’m not exactly for policing of rules or regulations as an ordinary citizen but if it disturbs my peace or my ability to enjoy my train, plane, or bus ride, I do have to call it out or let someone know of the issue.

My overall hope on this rise in anti-social behavior is just as much as we focus on enforcement and punishment to a reasonable degree of these actions that we do a much better job as well on teaching people in society why we have these rules, how they benefit us all in a public setting, and to educate people why we have fares, quiet hours, no music in public places, etc. so the average person will know why they have to act in this way for the betterment and peace of us all.



The Life and Times of Ben Weinberg

English Teacher, Entrepreneur, World Traveler, and Writer from New York.