Somehow I messed something up. Don’t know how that could be with all my computer savvy.
Recently I’ve been spending more time at public libraries, reading magazines, attempting to keep up with the various, fresh information that’s constantly flooding in. One of today’s eye-catchers, The New York Times Magazine: What does it mean to be popular now? My effort to keep semi-current propelled me to read it.
The article features many lists of products, people, and their ideas that are currently permeating our mass consciousness, although it points out there is no longer one mass, but many, many mini-masses living in their “isolation booths” as “the emperor[s] of a personalized kingdom of popularity.”
This means that almost anything ,and anyone who has ever spent an hour of their life on YouTube, knows I mean anything can be popular simply by getting enough hits and re-tweets. With the internet literally at our fingertips at nearly all times, we seem to spend more time watching others’ experience and making it popular – I should also say making them money – instead of creating our own enriching experiences. Can this constant bombardment of pop culture really be good for us as a species? I think over exposure to pop culture just further stimulates our addiction to consumerism and our mass A.D.H.D consciousness.
Yes, we can tailor our virtual experience and that can be pretty awesome, but are we mentally, emotionally, and dare I ask, more physically better for it? I don’t observe so, therefore, I don’t think so. I think the more energy we expend on what’s hot and what’s not according to other people detracts from our personal value. There is is a tendency toward superficiality, rather than meaningful encounters in the world. This isn’t a new criticism, and yet, ever more silly pop culture reproduces like a virus. Most of pop culture is garbage if one were to really analyze bit by bit. Trashy songs, shows, and people affect our lives more than parents or teachers in some cases. Even when we know it‘s bad we still can’t help but talk about it.
For instance a couple weeks ago, I logged onto Facebook and noticed a few of my friends commenting on a certain Miley Cyrus performance at the V.M.A.’s. I had to know, so I contributed a ‘hit’ and watched her twerk – a word I didn’t even know until that moment- her way into complete immaturity and embarrassment for herself. Her performance was by far the nastiest thing I have ever seen any pop star do. She exemplifies a sad little girl who needs to re-evaluate priorities and values with a good therapist. And I, well, I really wish I didn’t have write about this. But this is my commentary on trashy pop culture, so I must. I can say for certain, that small moment benefitted no one, especially Miley, but it got thousands of people’s attention. And possibly more downloads of that song. So I suppose she got the exact outcome she aimed for. Popularity.
Now I can’t deny I have spent my past time neck deep in pop culture and loving it. You know, back when I was in middle and high school and knew nothing about life! I had no life. I was underage, and living in the well-crafted age of marketing to children. I had no control over what I was exposed to: I had a television in my room. Then I grew up. I can’t be a self respected young adult and also keep up on pop culture at the same time. I think T.V. rots the ability to critically think for oneself. Too many people accept what they see broadcasted as truth and reality. Little children are the most at risk. And yet, so many people still own multiple T.V.’s!
Pop culture appears to me as madness perfected. It’s such an obscure way to live: constantly “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, Ooops, I mean, keeping up with marketing gimmicks. To me that’s all it really comes down to. Not ‘is pop culture any good?’ It’s typically not. Even by this article’s stand point “If something is popular, it can’t also be good.” It just comes down to how well they can promote something not remarkable to anyone, enough, to make it remarkable to everyone, even if it’s only for a couple weeks. Can they get us to chat about something and make it feel important to chat about? A Japanese word I recently learned, Otaku, is having a desperate desire to care about something. These are the people who are relentlessly attacked by pop culture, and can’t seem to see the world beyond it. I see them everyday just dripping in trendy, product-promoting t-shirts, drinking soda, and listening to Top 40 on their iPods: Not a care in the world. (I ride public transportation.) They don’t always seem completely unsatisfied, sometimes I’m mystified to think I might be observing the opposite, but I still feel bad for them. Being there myself once, and feeling exhausted by a never-enough feeling, I can’t help but have to urge to scream, “Stop it! Put the pop culture down and go live your life!”
I feel supremely blessed to have been removed as early in life as I was. I would be a totally different, hopelessly consumed person, had I not had some great people enter my life and change my reality perception. I can say in absolute truth I don’t miss any of it. I don’t miss T.V. I’m fine that I don’t have internet at my house, and I love shopping second-hand/consignment. Cooking for myself is certainly not popular in my family, but they go without me, and I eat better than they do. It’s definitely not exciting by most, to come home and be in silence for long periods of time, but I detoxed from the noise pollution and now I look forward to it as the end of my day. There is almost nothing in pop culture that touches me unless I put my feelers out first. The only minor downside is that I often feel, especially in very large groups of people, like either they or I am alien. I feel very far from others, because I could not care any less about the things that sustain their lives. And from that, it can seem a lonely world: One that ultimately I am ok with. On the flipside, there can be found a minority awakening in some people, we just may be harder to find because we like the solace of staying in and reading an old fashion book, no Nook included.
So of all the things this magazine listed as most popular now or ever in human history, I can say proudly, there was only one that I truly like. Movie with the highest box office of all time, Gone with the Wind, 1939. A classic. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. I bet, if, of course, I were into betting, next to no one in the Gen Y population have even heard of that movie.
The article ends on a cheery note suggesting that if “you put aside reflexive aversion to the popular, you’ll discover something new that brings you pleasure.” Yet still, I feel like I need to ask; is the unarguably fleeting pleasure worth the validation and promotion of every little product, person, and idea? Maybe not anything and everything is worth all the attention it gets. Just a thought.