I’ve noticed something interesting, as I’ve been looking back over the stats on my own blog. Apparently, some of the posts that get the most readers are the ones in which I write about something connected to current events. Whatever it is, from politics to last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, people seem to take notice when it has to do with something that’s already on their minds. So that’s good for the person who writes a blog – just write about current events. The problem is, I’m not a big fan of current events.
I don’t watch the news or read the paper, and I hate the political discussions. I guess I’m more interested in past events. Past events are important because they explain why things are the way they are. Current events, I suppose, are tomorrow’s past events which may explain why things will be the way they will be, but I find it hard to care about that. And don’t even get me started on the Hollywood fan culture. I loathe anything having to do with so-called reality television or the latest gossip about the stars and their off screen drama. But I guess I’m in the minority there. Most people seem interested, though I can’t understand why. Can anyone tell me why?
And although I myself am a “blogger,” I find it hard to be impressed by what the bloggers are saying. You know, when you hear about some conversation that’s become a big deal on the “blogosphere” (as if there is such a thing), or when something goes “viral.” As if the very fact that a lot of people say or think something (or that they “like” something) makes it significant. It doesn’t. Quantity is not quality.
I learned a new word yesterday. My son used it in a sentence, as if everyone should know what it means. The word is: meme. It’s not really a new word, but it’s now used of something that has been repeated on the internet so much that it’s become common, or commonly known, and then imitated. So I guess the talking dog on YouTube is a meme (and by the way, the talking dog is hilarious). But the curious thing is that in the process of figuring out what a meme is, I’m coming to realize that there’s something about the whole thing that I find offensive, or perhaps a better word is, disgusting. I’m not entirely sure why, though part of it is certainly the way that people talk about the internet as though it’s an organism, rather than just a tool. But also, there’s something about popularity that makes me want to run the other way.
I’m sure you’ve realized that one common marketing technique is to claim that a product is a “best seller.” It’s the “leading brand,” or whatever. And whenever I see that in a commercial or ad, I’m still somewhat surprised that the ad people think I should be impressed by that. Maybe this goes back to my basically negative anthropology, but if you tell me that a lot of people like something, that does not impress me. It does not make me think I should like it – in fact it makes me think I will probably not like it. If you tell me everyone’s doing something, that’s the best way to get me to lose all interest in doing it.
The point is this: Significance is not proven by popularity. Significance is in the substance of something. That means you might have to wait until something is a past event to see if it’s important. It has to prove itself by standing the test of time. Having a lot of people like something today means nothing if all those people are on to the next thing tomorrow. Why would I want to invest any time or energy in something so fleeting? I would rather ignore the things that are “timely,” and focus on the things that are more timeless.