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Can You Hear Me Now? No.

You know when you’ve heard thousands and thousands of people, in person or via email or via Tweet, tell you about something that you have to do? We’ve all been there and it’s fucking exhausting.

When faced with watching any Coen Brother movie or reading The Bone Clocks or consider anything Hamilton or KonMaring one’s life or bowing down to Balmain or watching Breaking Bad, I get a bit tired. I’ve heard everything about it already: why would actually ingesting this material myself be important since I’ve already done it secondhand? Yes, realistically, I know I need to witness the mastery of whatever media phenomena for myself, to have a one-to-one connection with it, to dive into the pool of cultural consciousness, to splash others with the jizz of my fortune in being able to partake in said media. There is a fatigue surrounding hearing about something so much. It’s like anti-FOMO.

This concept actually has a name: as The Guardian‘s Oliver Burkeman points out, this is called “optimal distinctiveness theory” and it’s all about rebelling against the zeitgeist because the zeitgeist has, in a way, already penetrated you.

One explanation is what psychologists call “optimal distinctiveness theory” – the way we’re constantly jockeying to feel exactly the right degree of similarity to and difference from those around us. Nobody wants to be exiled from the in-group to the fringes of society; but nobody wants to be swallowed up by it, either. In toddlerhood and teenagerhood, this manifests as a bloody-minded refusal to do what we’re told, precisely to show we can disobey our parents. Perhaps it never entirely goes away.

That explains so much: that want to rebel and run away from that which everyone is talking about comes from our want and need to be in control again. Instead of sheeping into what everyone is into, you look away. Not every time—but those sometimes? That’s why.

So revel in your being just not that into whatever everyone is into: it’s part of our nature, recently exacerbated by technology.

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