katharine has interests (but probably doesn’t share those interests with you)

A few weeks ago on my Tumblr dashboard, the curator of themodculture shared this experience:

“I once posted a picture of Jimmy (Quadrophenia) on Facebook and people wrote: “Oh look, a hipster” – the only thing I replied was with the Wikipedia page for “Mod (subculture)”, which should be a good start for the ignorant.
But the only answer I got was “I don’t want to get into something I’m not interested in.”
Well, that’s a pretty sad attitude to life, isn’t it?”

Sad, indeed. And yet that’s our collective attitude. If we’re not already interested in something, forget it. If I don’t already know and love a particular thing, it does not exist in my world. And furthermore, it is not welcome in my world. I developed all of my interests and beliefs at age 12 and remain firmly committed to them all. There is absolutely no room for me to grow or evolve or take the time to discover something new or different that might lead to a better understanding of humankind or merely superficial enjoyment. No. Shut it down. Remove all foreign concepts and notions from my sight. I’ll not give any consideration to your interests, ideas, beliefs, culture (pop or otherwise) for they might lead me astray or broaden my horizons.

That reaction seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it? “Keep an open mind,” you say. “Don’t shut yourself off from possibilities,” you say. “You never know until you try,” you say. But what say you if I ask you to listen to some celebrity dubstep or seapunk or bluegrass ballet? How might you respond to a YouTube link of witty Britcoms or baby mimes or “hilarious” crotch kicks set to Philip Glass? Would you be willing to attend my one-woman space opera and foosball match? Where’s your open mind now?

I feel that I’m fairly well-rounded and broad-minded. I know what I like. I know what I’m willing to tolerate. I understand the need for certain things at certain times. And I get that sometimes easier to bend to peer pressure and go along with the majority. Even if the majority heralds crap. It’s my perception that it is crap. What I believe to be rubbish is my taste. There is no longer “good” and “bad.”

Well, there is “good” and there is “bad.” It’s just that quality no longer factors into one’s determination of something being good or bad. More often it’s personal preference that dictates the perception of goodness or badness. A thing can be technically perfect and still perceived as “bad.” A thing can be politically incorrect and morally offensive and still be perceived as “good.” But can I really say something is bad simply because I do not care for it? Is something bad simply because I have been exposed to similar things which I considered to be better? What makes them better? What makes me better?

Maybe someone else’s interest isn’t rubbish. Maybe I’m feeling overextended within my own interests and hobbies and am simply unable to take on one more thing. Is it possible to like too many things? Maybe I’m cultivating an identity around a core group of related interests and don’t want to stray too far from my “brand,” lest I confuse future peer groups. We’ve gotten so snuggly in our own bubbles. We’ve splintered off into niche subcultures and urban (or cyber) tribes. We love to self-identify as stereotypes of our own inventions (Pinterest Mom is the new Soccer Mom). Maybe I just can’t relate to the steampunk-goth burlesque princess or parents who write poetry about the dreams of their food-smeared children.

We often consider our own tastes to be superior to others, sometimes developing a prejudice for a thing without properly experiencing it. We decide that we don’t care for the idea of something and dismiss it. I don’t know that I think dubstep is “bad” or that baby mimes are “stupid.” But I am choosing not to explore and find out. It’s a preconceived notion based on what I know of my own mind and pre-existing interests. Some people may roll their eyes because I like old things like The Monkees and Henry Mancini. I roll my eyes because people like Beyoncé and Bon Iver. At least I feel like I’m choosing my interests rather than allowing the tastemakers of the day to decree that I subject myself only to what is “hot” and “in.”

How do you know what you’re already interested in? At what point did you stop exploring and discovering new things? How do you know that someone else’s subculture doesn’t overlap with your own? What is a hipster anymore, really?

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