Category Archives: Someone Else’s Wordpress

On Being an Extrovert in an Introverts-are-Victims World

I’ve recently come across a blog written by a Kentucky-based talk radio host named Matt Walsh.  He’s young, opinionated, Christian, and fairly conservative or libertarian or something.  Whatever it is, reading his stuff is often like reading a much smarter, more articulate version of myself.  (What an interesting mix of surprise and not-surprise-at-all when I learned that he was a fan of Ron Paul).  I was planning on doing a blog post about how so many people, especially people without children, seem to consciously refuse to understand how children are and what parents can do to “control” them.  It was going to be based on some ignorant comments I got in an ill-advised, YouTube-based argument I had a few weeks ago, but I’m not going to write it now because Matt Walsh nailed it better than I could have.  So read that.  Then come back and we’ll proceed.

So he wrote a post that dealt with three different topics.  The first was homeschooling vs. public schools, then there was our society’s faux “diversity,” and lastly there was a discussion on his introversion and how it is to live in what he perceives to be an extroverts’ world.  This, as was the case several times before, was something that I’d meant to get around to writing about.  Except this time I landed on the opposite side of where he was coming from.  I’m a very extroverted person, and over the last year or so I’ve learned more about what “extrovert” really means other than just being a person who feels energized by socialization.  The more I’ve learned, the more irritated I’ve become at the audacity that so many “introverts” seem to have about how poorly treated they are by society, and how “extroverts just don’t get them.”  In a broad sense, I compare this to how Feminists have written the rules for accepted gender interaction in our culture over the last several decades, but will still blame everything on “patriarchy” and don’t stop to consider what kinds of issues men face.  Though please understand that’s an extreme comparison and I get considerably less angry by the introvert/extrovert thing.

Since Walsh so perfectly set up the kinds of points I was intending to react against, I left a lengthy comment discussing and defending extroverts such as myself.  It’s gotten a surprising amount of praise from both self-described introverts and extroverts, and I like it enough that I’m going to share the meat of it here.  What follows is a mildly-expanded version of the numbered points of my comment.

This is addressed to any introverts who think that extroverts don’t understand them, drain them, and/or confuse them:

1. In social situations I have a nearly-uncontrollable desire to be liked.

Not to be the center of attention–that person hogging all the attention is not demonstrating their extroversion but instead their insecurity. No, I just need to not feel like the other people around would prefer I leave. To the point that if, at the end of a given interaction, it seems that I’m not thought of well, it can haunt me for days and in some very real cases, years. As an introvert your reaction to this is likely dismissive, saying, “you shouldn’t care what other people think!” Save it. I’ve heard that since middle school and spent nearly two decades of my life feeling bad because other people’s impressions of me is something that I can’t help caring about. A lot. I can’t let go of that any more than you can just suck it up and learn to love meaningless small talk.

2. Extrovert is not synonymous with party animal.

When it’s said that extroverts need to be around people to feel energized, many introverts imagine someone like me needing to hop into a massive party and dance the night away to techno music while downing Jaegerbombs and filling the gaps with huge, steaming piles of useless, surface interactions. That could not be farther from the truth.  I can’t speak for all extroverts but I can say that large gatherings are worse than being alone to this extrovert. Recently my wife and daughter took a trip away for a week while I stayed home. I got sick right before they left and as a result spent several miserable days at home alone with next to zero interaction with anyone. By the end of it I felt some considerable depression settling in. Thankfully a cookout had been planned by a small group of friends and I was able to attend. I got re-energized in the best way possible by spending quality time with a handful of people I like, and we simply ate and talked. We talked about politics, pop culture, nerd culture, and personal stories and shared memories. If that gathering instead had been a large number of people interacting on only a superficial level, I would have been worse off than if I’d stayed home. I need interaction and socialization to feel energized, but it has to be real and meaningful.

3. Do you get exhausted by your extroverted friends? Guess what. . . .

I wish I had known more about all this introversion/extroversion stuff when I was in college because in those days my closest friends were at least in part introverted, in the proper sense. If I had my way, we’d have spent every possible second hanging out and talking and laughing both in large and small groups. Instead I was regularly made to feel awkward by these friends (and somewhat shameful, though not intentionally on their parts) because they would get “peopled out” and need to spend a weekend in or something. That’s fine for them but I always felt drained and abandoned at the sheer mention of this. We extroverts don’t always have a couple spare sets of extrovert friends waiting in the wings to spend time with us when the introverts need some alone time.  As an adult now I understand that this is just the nature of things when introverts and extroverts are friends and compromises need to be made for everyone. But the point is that if you feel drained by extroverts, understand that it goes both ways. (And which do you think is easier?  To insist on more alone time?  Or to insist that your friends spend more time with you?)

4. Extroversion is not synonymous with confidence.

I’ve been a socially averse and shy person my whole life. Not a great combination with extroversion, let me assure you. I’ve had plenty of people that I’m comfortable around make the incorrect assumption that I can walk into any social situation and own it, because that’s how I am around them. I’ve also been annoyed by people I don’t know who observe how quiet I am around them and assume that I “must be introverted and needs to be left alone.” This is currently a problem area for me because my church is one that is huge on being outward-focused, so a lot of emphasis is placed on meeting new people on Sunday mornings and not just chatting with your friends before and after service. But my shyness (and fear of not being liked or coming across as awkward–see #1) regularly prevents me from doing this. I’m still riling over a handful of terrible examples of such interactions that took place about ten years ago, too (see #1), so that’s another hurdle.

5. Extroverts often need to process externally.

Do you find that, in order to finish your creative or critical ideas, you need some quiet time alone? Well I have found that I can only ever get so far with a story idea, or a song idea, or with mapping out my thoughts on a social, theological, or political issue, by working on it by myself. I have to discuss it with someone else, or tell someone about it, and as I walk through it to them the ideas fall into place, I work out kinks in the logic, and I can begin to find some structure. I have a LOTR-style fantasy story I’ve slowly developed since I was 12, and the times I’ve filled in the biggest gaps and ironed out the biggest plot holes were the times I convinced a friend to let me tell them about it. The bands I had in the past–the best songs I wrote we’re ones that came about by interacting musically with my band mates. I’ve not been in a band for 9 years, now, and I’ve only finally been able to write again in the last two months. It took that long to figure out how to do it 100% alone. I’ve known songwriters who can write whole albums by locking themselves in a room for a weekend–take a guess if they were introverted or extroverted. So maybe that extrovert isn’t wasting your time, but is trying to work and process through something. That said I don’t defend people needlessly talking to strangers. That annoys me. Don’t get me started on strangers at work asking me about my lunch.

In conclusion, before you go off about how the world thinks that all introverts are creepy loners, take time to see if  you’re doing what so many others do and viewing extroverts as inch-deep blabber mouths who can’t get through the day without going energy-vampire on some poor, innocent introvert at the coffee shop.  Half of being understood is understanding those around you better.

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My Neurological Condition

So about a month ago I stumbled upon a blog in which the author made a comic about how she has, quite unconsciously, assigned genders and personalities to numbers and letters.

Copyright 2010 AK Tettenborn or something, probably. Don't sue me!

I found it amusing because I do the exact same thing, but what got me excited is when she explained that this was due to her experiencing a neurological condition called “synesthesia,” and this was a mild form of it called “ordinal linguistic personification.”

Do you know what this means?  It means that I HAVE A NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION!  Man, that’s cool.

I do exactly what she does, except all of mine are unique to me.  I also:

  • See various ordered sequences within a defined 3D space.  This is most prevalent with the calendar year and the alphabet, and to a lesser degree the days of the week and past decades.
  • Visualize shapes and colors when I hear songs, though it’s not as strong as some synesthetes, who can paint songs or even develop perfect pitch because they hear certain notes and keys as specific colors.  I once tried to “draw a song,” but I couldn’t pin the images down enough and it was hard to figure out how to draw them within a gravity-less, 3D space.
  • Involuntarily see groups of notes in a song I’m learning as hostile towards the notes I already know, and the tension doesn’t subside until I learn it all perfectly . . . though I never forget their anger.  Never . . .  That actually happens with anything I’m concentrating on immensely, but music is the most common.

I know the first two are synesthetic, but I haven’t found anything confirming 100% that the third one is.  It just seems like it should be.

So in case you’re wondering:

1 is a boy.  He’s the rounded guy.  The straight man.  The Mario to everyone else’s “Rest of the cast of Mario 2.”  The Michael Bluth to everyone else’s . . . the rest of the Bluths.

2 is a girl.  She’s mean.  Like Lucy from Peanuts mean.  It’s probably due to some form of insecurity she has buried.

3 is also a girl.  She hangs out with 2 a lot.  She’s not as mean as 2, but pretends like she is when 2 is around.

4 is a boy.  Just . . . a boy.  Who is unassuming and plays a lot.

5 is also a boy, who spends a lot of time playing with 4.

6 is a girl.  She lives next door to 4 and 5, but never plays with them because she’s too old for them.  Kind of like Angelica from Rugrats, minus the interaction.

7 is a boy.  His age is early teens, but early teens as seen by, say, a kindergartener, not as seen by an adult.

8 is a girl, as is . . .

9, and they are both in late high school and hang out at the mall together and can drive cars and talk about boys all day.

0 is a girl . . . and she’s that one who’s everyone’s acquaintance but no one’s friend.

10 is a boy.  That’s all.

The numbers 11-19 take on the same personalities and genders as 1-9, just a little older, and then 20 is female because 2 is female, 30 is female because 3 is female, and so on, up to 100, who is a boy, just like 10.  Any numbers like 25 or 56 or 92 are seen as pairings of single digits rather than having their own unique traits.

And the letters aren’t quite as detailed.  Due to the length of the alphabet, I’ll copy AK’s method to start:

A,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,T,X, and Y are all boys.

B,P,Q,R,S,U,V,W, and Z are all girls.

O is a girl, too, but she’s kinda butch.

So A, B, and C are buds and hang out a lot, as are D, E, and F, but D and F are closer friends than E is to either of them.  G-L are kind of like jocks.  No specific sport, just that “we’re cool and we know it” kind of thing.  But G and H are kind of their own unit within the group of jocks, though.  M and N are buds, too, and they split their time between being cool with the jocks and hanging out with the ladies, O, P, Q, and R.  S is a very mature girl, and T is her boyfriend.  U and V are T’s sisters.  X, Y, and Z are their own clique, and W is the only one that serves as a bridge between them and everyone else.

I’m not making any of this up as I write this.  Well . . . I’m defining it more than I ever have before, but I’m not making it up anew.  Also, what’s important to remember with this is that all of this was and is completely unconsious and not based out of any purposeful reasoning.  There’s probably some “relationships” that I’ve determined based out of how I learned them, but none of it was on purpose.  One of the more interesting things is that I see “B” as female, despite not only the word “boy” starting with a “B,” but both my first and last names begin with “B.” I can’t explain it; it’s always appeared female to me.  (And NO, it has nothing to do with the shape, either).   Among all the things that have fascinated me about this, what gets me the most is when I see A.K.’s comic, and her gender assignments are almost all opposite of mine, and they not only FEEL wrong, but her drawings LOOK wrong.  For example: 4 in hers looks like a cross-dresser to me.  Seriously.  Like, as cross-dressy if my dad or one of my brothers walked into the room wearing pearls and a dress and eye makeup.

 

College was confusing for 4, and eventually he moved to Capitol Hill.

What’s actually a little frustrating is that I’ve learned that more extreme synesthetes are able to utilize their experiences to accomplish tasks better.  I mentioned how some can develop perfect pitch, and others can do math faster, and some have incredible memories . . . where as I can be the focus of an interesting conversation at a party.  One conversation per party, though.  People look at you weird when you walk around the room telling everyone, “Two is a b*tch!  No one except Three likes her!”  Ain’t that just the way it goes?  I kind of feel like Meg when all the Griffins got amazing superpowers, and she got the ability to grow her fingernails really fast.  Oh well–no harm, no foul.

_____
Special thanks to AK Tettenborn for the use of the images, of which she is the artist and owner.  So back up off that.  Her blog is awesome.  Go there.  http://fudgethatsugar.wordpress.com/

The Correlation of A and B

So yet again I was taking a jog around this wonderful neighborhood called WordPress when a commenter on a post caught my eye, and I decided to check out their blog.  That led me to this post:

http://cboye.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/pulpit-freedom-sunday/

I’ll give you a second to read that. . . . And I agree with her (or him . . . I’m not absolutely sure, but with a name like “Katz,” I immediately assume “her”).  I’ve actually written several blog posts around and related to the same idea, such as how Republican and Christian are not synonymous, or how a commenter on a particular documentary hit the nail on the head, or what bugs me about Christian magazines, and how a movie from my childhood perfectly illustrated some of the misdirection that many Christians seem to have on issues with the occult.  (If, as you find  yourself reading this, would like to see anything I could have written on subjects such as these, I suggest looking at my “I’m a Christian” category.)

Let’s step to the side, now, and discuss a separate-but-related topic, which I will drive into the previous one in a minute.

Relativism, and also pluralism in a philosophical sense, is increasingly common in Western culture.  This means that it is more and more believed that “whatever you want to believe is true because it’s true to you, but you can’t tell someone else that what they believe is false, because what they believe is true to them.”  This runs in direct conflict with most religions, when they are followed as they are taught, and Christianity is certainly included in those.  The problem that this worldview has is that it’s internally contradictory, as I discussed in my post from a few months back, “The Inconsistency of ‘Tolerance.‘”  Every religion can’t be right because most religions claim others are wrong, or their teachings contradict each other; you can’t take the buffet approach and expect that to be true, because we live in a world of absolutes, besides the fact that your emotions and desires do not determine reality; saying everyone should just accept what anyone wants to believe is self-defeating because that excludes the people that hold to creeds that claim to be the one truth.

Yet regardless of the clear problems with such a theological and philosophical approach, it is held by a vast amount of people.  Consider some comments on an article written by once-Christian-then-atheist-now-Christian-again A. N. Wilson on the reason for his re-conversion that toss out anything he has to say because they don’t, ” . . . understand […] why people (theist or atheist or any-theorist) have the need to prove that what they have is better than what the other has;” or “Those who believe in a g/God have a need to do so. Those who have no such need tend not thus to believe. At present Mr Wilson has a need.” I also saw some negative reviews on Amazon for books defending Christian faith, such as Ravi Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, making statements like, “In an era where our teachers and ministers alike are striving ever harder to imbue our children with a sense of the beauty of cultural diversity and concord among the peoples of the world, Johnson and Zacharias’ contribution to children’s literature is shameful and backward,” or “I don’t see any difference at all in the real teachings of Jesus, Budha, or krishna [sic]. They all teach Love, Compassion and unity w/ all that is … i.e. god.” Then there were the comments on a post around which I based one of my own posts, in which the author asserted that Evangelical Christian alliance with Mormonism is a bad idea.  Some said things like, “. . . Who are you to say what is right and what is wrong? If you study the orgins [sic] of Christianity from Constantine, you’d be running the other way asking, ‘where is the true Church of Jesus Christ?’ […]  Who is to say the Mormons are wrong? A bunch of preachers in a bunch of Prostestent [sic] Churches that get paid well for what they preach? What did Christ or any of his apostles get paid?  I could go on, I just get tired of seeing people bash other religions when they really don’t have any basis for what they say other then some concocted interpretation of the scriptures . . .” (Fun feature with this last article I mentioned–Jay North commented on it.  As in THE Jay “Dennis the Menace” North.  He’s Mormon.  Okay, moving on.)

Not only is a serious Christian faced with the obstacle of people tossing out what they say entirely based out of this modern idea of “everyone’s right, no one’s right”, thus making sharing our faith very difficult, but we have to stand tooth-and-nail against that approach making its way into our churches and teachings, which seek to sterilize the world-changing message of the Gospel.  This gets to be frustrating.  It’s frustrating to try to express your honest tolerance of the existence of other belief systems, but your unwillingness to accept them as equal to the teachings of Christ, and have people therefore write you off as closed-minded or a bigot.  When that happens, it becomes very tempting to scream “unfair!,” because, regardless of whether people want to admit it or not, people and organizations in America do bend over backwards to try and play nice-nice with many religions (especially Islam) but don’t bat an eye at disrespecting Christianity.  (Please refer to the above blog post by Katz for my final response to such issues).

Now let’s head back to the beginning of this post, where we find those claiming the Christian faith are, on one hand, fighting for “their rights to be Christians,” and demanding respect from the world because they are Christians, while on the other hand, they are trying to resist the worldly pressure to “just say that your belief is one of thousands of ways to be a good person, nothing more.”  Are you noticing a correlation here?  I am.  I’m going to step out on a limb and declare causation, too.  A very logical conclusion is that (B)–widespread acceptance of relativism has led to a great deal of, if not all of, (A)–Christian culturism and the digging in of heels.  I think this is a good thing to notice, because it helps give me a better understanding of where someone who equates their Christianity with conservative social movements is coming from, and also gives me a better awareness of how a non-believer may see me as “just as bad as them” since I don’t think Mohammad and Jesus basically said the same things.  Interesting how this leads me back into that place of “the radical middle.”

As is often the case, I don’t have much discussion prepared on this beyond the initial observation.  So please share thoughts with me in the comments if you want to expand more.

About Facebook

As I often do, I read an interesting blog post via Freshly Pressed here on WordPress.com.  Typically, when I read an interesting post and then blog about it, I run off on a related tangent and expand on it.  Not this time.  No, this time I’m writing out a direct reaction to this post, Is Facebook a Farce?, by WordPress user Fungai Neni.  In it she explains that she conducted an experiment by switching her birthday on Facebook from April 2 (the real birthday) to September 13 (the fake birthday).  She was shocked when nearly 100 Facebook friends wished her a happy birthday for the second time in six months, many of whom (apparently) should have known better.  Only one person noticed and pointed out the error.  The message that Fungai Neni drives home with these results is that so many of us are becoming too dependant on tools like Facebook to keep track of important things, such as our friends’ birthdays.  So many of the nearly 150 commentators are right in line with her, saying such things as, “It just goes to show we are obssessed [sic] with typing away on FB and not considering actually meeting up with friends on a face to face basis and actually asking ‘How are you doin’?'” and “Good point, I really hate the fact that people distance their self from real life friendships but keep putting more and more time in meaningless status updates, while thinking they’re staying in touch. Nice experiment!” or “My ‘real’ friends are close to me and know when my birthday is without FB reminders.”

First, I want you, the reader, to do a quick experiment with me.  How many of your friends’ or family’s phone numbers can you recall without checking your phone?  Now remove any phone numbers that you knew before 2003.  I’m willing to bet the number is somewhere between zero and five.  It’s exactly zero for me.  I can sometimes remember my wife’s cell phone number, but that darn prefix keeps throwing me a loop.  418?  409? 427? 555?  I’m never sure.  You already know why this is, right?  Because almost all of us use a cell phone, now, which stores numbers in it and we just look up the person’s name in a menu, rather than dialing the digits.  The disadvantage is that if you’re ever caught without your phone, you will have a hard time reaching someone; the advantage is that the list of places you can call without looking something up in a phone book or searching through your purse or wallet for the number is dramatically increased.

This is technology, and this is the advancement of our society.  We are constantly gaining new tools that allow us to make one or more tasks easier so we can focus on other things.  How many of  you grew up with a dishwashing machine, and then didn’t have one in your first place on your own and were completely overwhelmed in the first week with how much time washing all your own dishes takes up?  How many of you, after getting your first car, stopped walking or biking to your friend’s house that was only about nine blocks away?  Did anyone else watch a movie on VHS after more than a year of getting used to DVD’s, and then about faint when you realized you couldn’t skip chapters in 0.3 seconds and had to rewind when you were done?  Facebook is an advancement in technology that makes certain things easier to allow us to have more time to do other things.  Granted, it’s notorious for the abuses it receives, from status updates listing the day’s mundane errands, to joining or “liking” every community or group about any pointless thing, to obsession with games like Farmville or Mafia, but I truly think that speaks more to the kinds of people using the tool rather than the nature of the tool itself.  People abuse conveniences all the time, and will always continue to do so; that doesn’t mean we should get rid of the conveniences.

Let’s be honest here–Facebook is a great tool.  You can conveniently set up events and guest lists; you can keep a group of people around a certain interest informed more easily; you can quickly share something you found on the internet that you enjoyed, like an article or a cartoon or a video; and, of course, you can catch up with friends you lost contact with years ago and keep in contact with friends who have moved away or changed jobs or changed churches, etc.  On a personal level, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances.  I’ve lived in a few different places and have met a lot of people I like and want to say “hi” to once in a while.  I’m also part of a church filled with people who really like each other, but the list of friends is too big to keep up with all of them on a face-to-face basis.  Facebook allows me to manage this.  I’m not even sure much of how my own social life operates would be possible without Facebook, or some other form of social networking.  There are those who would go on and on about how you’re not really “friends” with those 350+ Facebook users, so you’re really only deluding yourself, but I think that’s being cynical and snotty, as well as missing the point.  Who says that you have to be super-close and in regular contact with anyone you’d ever call a friend or acquaintance?  What’s wrong with having that connection there so that it’s there at a time when you’d want to use it?  Maybe I’m out of touch, but I’ve never heard a SINGLE PERSON EVER use their number of “Friends” on Facebook as a bragging point.

But what about the improper and over-usage of the site?  Isn’t it a legitimate concern that people aren’t socializing face-to-face anymore, that more and more of people’s lives are being lived out on the internet?

Sure, that’s concerning, alright.  Every time I go to the mall, I’m shocked at how empty the place is.  I’m amazed that NO ONE ever seems to go out to dinner with their friends anymore, or go to a park on a nice day, or go see a movie, or go to a baseball game, or just get together at a coffee shop to talk.  No sir, I don’t see any of that at all.  The people I do see are just agenda-laden with their blinders on, trying to get the stuff done they have to get done so they can get back to Facebook to “spend time” with their “friends.”

Have you noticed the sarcasm?  Because you’re swimming in it.

Now I have laughed at the sight of a row of people in a coffee shop all on their laptops with headphones on, but let’s rewind society to before laptops and Facebook and the internet.  What would they have been doing then?  Probably not sharing friendly conversation with perfect strangers with reckless abandon.  They’d probably be reading the paper, or a book, or getting their coffee to go so they can be on their way to some place that has something for them to do on their own.  Nowadays, that “thing for them to do on their own” actually involves interacting with some people on some level.  So what was that thing about people not connecting anymore?

So there we are; I hope I’ve made my point.  The world’s not falling apart at the seams because people are on the internet.  No one that has a grasp on reality depends on status updates as their actual human contact, or thinks that 500 Facebook friends actually means that they’re superior to someone with 200 friends, or has replaced time with friends in person 100% with Facebook Chat.  Things have just changed recently, and it’s fun to shake your fist at something popular.

Represent.

Hipster Syndrome

Let’s start with a joke.

Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: It’s this really obscure number, you’ve probably never heard of it.

Now let’s move on to the disclaimer.  While I never have and likely never will consider myself  a “hipster,” I’m certainly a fan of things such as movies and songs, etc., that aren’t immensely popular, or that are somewhat or largely unknown.  I prefer to go to the small-guy-owned music store or video game store, and have paid more than I could have in a few situations to support them.  The same goes for certain brands of food and drink (micro-brews, anyone?  Am I right?).  I’m by no means exclusively “anti-mainstream” with any of this stuff, but I operate out of the understanding that popular does not always equal good.  Especially these days.  These days, popular means that it’s been marketed a certain way, and said marketing is backed by some deep pockets.  Quality is an entirely different issue.  Music is the easiest example of this.  The acts that sell out arenas today almost always fit into one or more of these three categories:

  1. They are an act that has been around for at least 25 years and revolutionized popular music in some fashion at some early point in their career;
  2. Their primary fan base is composed of girls somewhere between the ages of 8-18;
  3. Their image, songs, and performances boast some kind of faux, extreme sexual identity, drawing on nothing else for artistic inspiration.

Notice that none of those indicate quality.  They instead 1) give you what you already know; 2) exploit the impressionable, and/or 3) appeal to the most primal of human urges to keep you from noticing the lack of talent or originality.

Now, let’s move on to my main point.  I hope that my reasoning for that was driven home in those few sentences, because that’s all the time I’m spending on this side of the discussion. There are actually hundreds of different ways to approach and discuss this kind of topic, but I want to focus on one specific side of it:  when an individual decides that they do not like, want nothing to do with, and will stand against any celebration of something that is popular, based on nothing more that the fact that it is popular. I’m going to call this “Hipster Syndrome,” because I honestly tried to come up with something better but couldn’t.  If you’re not sure what a “hipster” is, go back to the beginning of this post and read the joke again.  That should give you enough basis to be able to follow my logic, because, honestly, this isn’t specifically about “hipsters” at all.

Sorry.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon for a very long time.  I certainly noticed it in myself, but was more amazed at how I saw it in others.  (In fact, it might be that I did see it in others that made me become more conscious and averse to it in myself.)  A few days ago I read a blog post by someone on the East Coast that told their story of their first, and possibly only, visit to an IKEA store.  You can read this post here.  Before proceeding, I want to make it clear that I am meaning no disrespect towards, or attack on, the author of that post.  But I am using him as my guinea pig.

Most of the commentors seemed to take from the post exactly what the author intended–a humorous and somewhat negative observation of IKEA stores and products.  I found something different.  Notice that he decided on his personal boycott of the IKEA store based off of nothing other than the fact it got lots of local media attention.  He justified it further by hearing other people tell “(stories) of how wonderful the store would be,” and seeing people line up for days in advance leading up to the opening of the store.  If that’s not striking  you as odd, let me explain to you why it should.  Logically, when one sees other people getting excited about something and talking at length about how good it will be, the reaction should be intrigue at the least, if not equal enthusiasm.  Certainly not disdain.  So why does this guy experience the opposite?  Why did I decide I hated any ska bands that made it on MTV when I was in high school?  Why did that one guy at that birthday party I was at a few years ago hate video game consoles?  I don’t think the IKEA guy hates furniture or Sweden.  I loved ska.  And believe me, that guy at that birthday party was a GAMER if I ever saw one.  So why?

First, I think that, for some or many of us, seeing other people become very excited about something about which we know nothing produces a feeling of isolation and exclusion.  (There’s a tangent there that I could go down, but I won’t this time.)  We might not immediately identify it as such, but trust me–that’s what it is.  So all of these other people like this thing that we’ve not heard of until after everyone else was talking about it; OR what happened was some people talked about it/we noticed it a while ago and we had little or no interest to check it out then, and now it’s really popular but we didn’t join the club early.  So we’re at a crossroads.  We can get into whatever-it-is, too, but then it might look like we were getting into just because everyone else is.  This is 21st century America–we don’t follow, so that’s likely out of the question.  We can choose to ignore it, but chances are that if it’s big enough to reach this point, it’s too big to avoid for the forseeable future.  Lastly, we can just go ahead and decide that we don’t like it, whether we’ve checked it out or not.

If it ended there, there would be really no discussion.  I have no doubt that for some people it does.  But the fact is, many put their identities into their opinions.  You don’t have to look too hard see this.  I had  a co-worker who was passionately anti-plastic and pro-organic.  I have an old friend who is viciously child-free.  I know tons of people from the midwest who base their lives around being pro-life or as creationists.  This finds its way into “lighter” subjects, too.  Ever meet someone who really doesn’t like Pepsi or Coke, or both (RC rules!)?  Try having a conversation with someone who is in their teens or early 20’s that doesn’t like Justin Beiber.  An amusing recent one was people who didn’t like Lost.  Are you old enough to remember Sega vs. Nintendo, like I am?  Oh, and a really valid example within video games is this apparent new school vs. old school gaming rivalry going on today.  The list can go on.  I even fall into this, unfortunately (I’m working on changing that, though).  Talk to me about “emo” music sometime; yeesh.  In each of those cases, it’s likely that at least some of their identity, as they see it, is found in those opinions.  The litmus test for this is to take the opposing point of view and see how they react.  Do they shrug off the fact that you see something differently than them, or do they debate with you?  So now they have an opinion about this thing that other people got into that they didn’t, and part of who they think they are is found in what they think about that thing.

What happens next for the full “Hipster Syndrome” effect is that the superiority complex shows up.  It says, “Not only do I not like this thing they like, but I am clearly much smarter than them to not have bought into it!”  After all, if it was actually worth anything, you’d have been into it, too, right?  The interesting thing here is that it doesn’t take weeks or months to reach this point–often, the “Hipster Syndrome” sufferer can end up at this point within a few hours to a few days of the topic in question first coming up.  And once you’re here, it’ll take an enormous amount of humility to get past it; especially since so many modern people (as I’ve observed over the last decade or more) are blissfully unaware of their own internal, mental workings (or at least blissfully dishonest about them).

So the IKEA guy knew little to nothing about IKEA when it was announced one was being built in his town.  He didn’t get or understand the hype*, so rather than shrug it off and not be worried about it, he found identity in being someone who refused to have anything to do with the place.  This was intensified when he finally did make a visit while looking for something he needed and experienced frustration with various aspects of the store, retroactively justifying his dislike for it and likely further solidifying his identity as an IKEA-hater.

I was into ska music right before groups like (early) No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones became popular.  When I would mention that I liked ska to someone, they would often ask if that meant that I enjoyed those bands.  Since those bands already had a large, mainstream following by that point, I could not lay claim to “knowing the band first.”  Rather than seeing if I liked their music on my own, I instead touted my superiority to not only those who thought those bands were better than the bands I did like, but also to those who just liked them in general.

. . . except creepier.

While I can’t confirm this at all, I have my suspicions that the gamer at that birthday party a few years ago loved his Compy back in the 80’s.  When the NES and other gaming consoles hit the scene, he either didn’t get around to getting one or his parents said, “You have a computer, that’s enough.”  After trying games here and there with a game controller throughout his childhood and adolescence, he became frustrated because he was more used to keyboard-based input, and likely felt left out of the conversations that his peers would have at lunch about the new games that were out, or even watching them swap games to try, or talk about visits to the video store to rent some.  By the time the mid- and late-90’s came around, and PC gaming began leading the industry again, he was able to justify his distaste for consoles by quoting the superiority of his prefered method.  Now that PC games are arguably even with console games in their capabilities, he’s dug his heels into the ground of his camp and displays distrust and condescension towards anyone who sees things differently.

So, in an attempt to tie all this together, I stated earlier that I don’t operate out of the assumption that popular equals good, as some do.  But the other extreme of that is believing that popular equals bad.  I don’t know the IKEA guy’s background, but his initial reaction to hype surrounding something he didn’t know led him to an immediate distaste for it.  I remember once hearing the band Save Ferris, recognizing them as ska, and then just days later saw that some of the more popular guys at my school liked them–solidifying the fact that I would detest them henceforth.  And the gamer?  I quote, “I don’t DO consoles . . .” in the middle of a conversation about Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Consoles equal bad games.  I would want to suggest that people pay more attention to their motivations, and don’t let “popular or not” influence you one way or the other . . . but I’m not preaching here.  I’m thinking.  And when I think, I provide no solutions.

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*Let us be clear that to have bought into the (possibly excessive) hype surrounding something, and then experiencing it and being let down, is not the same as outright despising something that has hype surrounding it.  The author of the IKEA post does end up going to the store and determines that he finds the patrons to be zombie-like, the names of the products to be laughable, and the floor plan to be frustrating.  That’s justification in retrospect, and it’s also entirely possible that his experience was as negative as it was because he entered into it with such low expectations.

The Inconsistency of “Tolerance”

Here on WordPress, the main page of the site produces several blog posts that are published on that particular day, and it’s great to skim what others write and even find some really fun blogs and/or interesting discussions.  The latter was the case last Friday when I read a post that was a call for society to practice tolerance across the board; that we should recognize, as people, we are all different and will have different likes, preferences, beliefs, desires, etc., and we should respect and accept the fact that those differences do and will exist, and accepting this is important above all else (and of course, it is most important in the areas of sexuality, religion, and culture).  You can read the whole thing here.

Now I, like many Christians, have an immediate clash with this kind of approach.  However, while many who share my uneasiness tended to take the “if you tolerate everything, you have to tolerate intolerance, which contradicts the purpose of tolerance in the first place” angle (some did so eloquently, others no so much), I opted for more of the “such a call to action is as much a ‘do things my way’ demand as anything else” angle.  Yet I’m not writing this to reiterate my comment.  The author did reply, clarified (I assume) her own meaning a little more, and thanked me for adding to the discussion.  On such a forum I could not ask for a more mature response.

Instead, what I’m writing about today is about many of the other comments that were left by the hundreds of readers of this post.  The following is a very clear example of what happens when you get a bunch of people into the same place that have all opened up their hearts and turned off their brains.  Sometimes they claim to agree with the author but add their own two cents, thus contradicting the original post, then the author would thank them for reading and say that she agreed–neither one of them noticing that their ideas are incompatible.  Other times they contradict themselves in the same sentence.  Even the author is so bent on mushy feelings that it seems she won’t even stand up for what she has said.  As I said before, I think she’s mature in the way she’s handled the comments, and I have no intention of belittling her, but that doesn’t mean I think she knows what she’s talking about.

Here are some excerpts from some comments and my responses to them.  (All comments are copied and pasted, so . . . you know . . . [sic]).

(the Author, in response to my comment) I respect you opinion and that you disagree with my approach, but I am not trying to say that it is the way I think it should be, therefore it is the gospel truth. All I tried to do is put into words what i feel, which is what most people tried to, is what you tried to do with your comments. . . .

Except that she DID say that it was the way she thought it should be.  That was the very nature of her post.  It’s right there in the title: “The World Would be a Better Place If . . .”  Maybe she’s new to the “game” when it comes to expressing these kinds of opinions, but honestly if you aren’t prepared to commit to what you say you shouldn’t get in the ring.

If people give up identifying themselves as separate to each other, then and only then, we will witness a shift in the consciousness of the world.

How about some Sociology 101?  There are essentially two different, overarching, cultural structures:  collectivism and individualism.  Collectivism is a society like China or North Korea where the individual’s desires are irrelevant, and the desires and expectations of family and society trump all.  Individualism is the opposite, meaning each individual person is allowed and expected to define themselves.  “Tolerance” is an individualist point of view in that each person is expected and encouraged to find their own truths and respect those that others make for themselves.  This comment, though presented as being in line with the post (and even agreed upon by the author), is a collectivistic idea, in that our lives are all intertwined and we need to understand that the things we decide for ourselves effect others.  The two are contradictory, but neither the author nor the commenter noticed.

It’s true that a lot of us struggle to take in ideas and concepts which are different from ours, once we grasp the idea of respecting another individual for who he/she is, the world would definitely be a better place.  I think we do not need to harness hatred for others, but it is not necessary to preach the love for all humans. Acceptance will do It is very neutral.

I find this one fascinating because this person is insisting that “loving one another” is unnecessary–just accepting is fine.  Well, I could argue all day about how demanding the minimal “acceptance” is not nearly enough to make any place better, but instead let me ask a different question, since this is the perfect opportunity to pull out an old debate:  isn’t “hatred” an idea or concept that is different from your own, and therefore should be taken in or respected?  If that strikes you as a silly or tired argument, then let me ask who draws the line, and where?

(In response to another comment that stated such things as “rapists should rape other rapists,” etc., seemingly facetiously) If a person kills another, that is clearly wrong and the LAW should deal with them. If a man loves another man, who has been harmed? I think you are confusing ‘harming people’ (which is wrong) with ‘offending people’s sensibilities’, which is due to their own beliefs.  Lifestyle choices should not even come into the realm of law and punishment, unless that lifestyle choice ends in somebody being harmed. . . .

There is an assumption made here that this commenter thinks is basic, human understanding, but is actually based out of beliefs: harming someone, anyone, ever, is wrong.  Not every society ever (and currently) has agreed that harming anyone is inherently wrong.  In fact, the “do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody” philosophy is not only one point of view among thousands, but is also fairly recent.  This also flies in the face of the relativism of “tolerance” because that is an absolute statement.  There is this ignorance among the “tolerant” in that they don’t always realize that many of the truths to which they cling are dependent upon a system of absolute truth.  More of this on its way . . .

Thank you for this post and your thoughts. It’s disappointing how some people go to that slippery slope when thinking of acceptance of difference.  Certain things are true: abuse of power, or acceptance of what happens within the context of any power imbalance is wrong: that means certain things should never be accepted: acceptance; hate, hypocrisy and abuse.

On what is this person basing their belief that “certain things are true?”  Who determines this imbalance of power?  Based on my own beliefs, demanding that every religion be accepted as equally valid is an imbalance, because those other religions are not truth.  Giving equal precedence to (what I believe are) lies and deceptions is not balanced, so you can begin to see how the phrase “power imbalance” is cripplingly ambiguous.  More coming still . . .

We all just want to be accepted as we are. Who knows why God made some people Gay? Who knows why God made my eyes blue? But they are and that cannot be changed Being Gay is not a choice and being Gay is NOT A SIN. Best response is simply to give thanks and accept yourself first.

I have gotten into discussions before where I suggested that homosexuality is not genetic but could be a result of genetic predisposition and certain environmental factors that would vary from person to person.  I’ve made the “mistake” of suggesting this to be similar to how someone could be predisposed to be an aloholic or have a violent personality, and the person on the other side of the argument almost always hits back with, “are you suggesting that being gay is like being an alcoholic or abusive?”  The hole in the logic of that rebuttal is a mile wide, but  there’s no strong way to respond without saying, “Yes, I do.”  In a nutshell: I hate that rebuttal.  So I want to say that if I can’t use that comparisson to support my view, you cannot compare homosexuality to being born with blue eyes.  But alas, back to the other issues in this comment.  Note the lack of reference here.  ” . . . being Gay is NOT A SIN.”  Why isn’t it?  And why is accepting  yourself first the best response?  I believe the opposite of those things and my reference is the Bible.  Agree or disagree, I have a reference; this person’s reference appears to be how they feel.

What’s with people taking tolerance into the deep end?? Is racism tolerant of people with different cultures or ethnicities? Is murder tolerant of the desire for someone to live a full life? Tolerance is a slipperly slope apparently! One day we accept homosexuals as normal, next we’ll accepting the pedofile down the street to watch the kids! A loving, tolerant community wouldn’t allow sex trafficing, pedofilia, rape, or anything that harms the community. (and no, having homosexuals around doesn’t harm the community.) It’s not intolerance, it’s just true human nature.

This person obviously finds the (admittedly tired) argument of “if you accept everything, you must accept pedophilia” to be invalid.  I feel the need to remind them that as recently as 30 years ago, and certainly 50-60 years ago, the idea of government-recognized gay marriage was laughable, so don’t underestimate the power of some confused person’s sympathy to a misguided person’s ploy over time.

. . . No God of mine would support such lack of compassion.

Interpreted:  “My ‘God’ agrees with me.”  One of the more serious problems I see in all of this is those who aren’t atheists or agnostics seem to think that their self- and culturally-determined beliefs are also what God deems good or bad.  That’s rather egocentric, don’t you think?  I certainly believe God loves us and that God is infinitely more compassionate than we could imagine, but I’m not basing that idea off of my list of preferences.

. . . It seems that some people are really caught up in believing their thoughts. If everyone paid a little less attention to their thoughts and a little bit more to the present moment, we’d be on our way to a happier place.

What’s so funny to me about this last one is that I completely agree with the first sentence, albeit with an entirely different focus.  But the rest of the comment, not so much.  What dictates that “the present moment” is superior to other moments?  I should just give up my beliefs and opinions and go the way that society is going?  Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the direction of the present moment is a direct result of someone’s thoughts.  I think what this person means is “people need to pay less attention to the thoughts they have that don’t agree with what I think is right.”

There’s a lot more comments in there, but I think I’m done.  It does frustrate me to hold to my point of view on these things because people assume that playing “devil’s advocate” with their philosophies means that one supports hatred.  Well of course I don’t.  Yet I don’t think, either, that hatred is our world’s number one problem. . . . that’s a post for another time, though.

Are Those New Clothes?

A couple years ago I had a friend who had posted (or linked to, or something) an account of a person who was a non-Christian and visited a church.  This person pointed out how people would get uncomfortable when he/she would mention that they studied a lot of Eastern philosophies, how the worship leader was very formulaic and forced, and how the people in the congregation did or didn’t do this or that.  It seemed that my friend was convinced that the people at this church had done something wrong–been “fake”–and that we all had a lesson to learn from it to be better Christians.  I wasn’t so sure.  The author of that little story came across as arrogant and judgmental to me.  At first, I also thought that the people were being “fake,” as my friend did, but a closer examination of what was written raised a lot of questions.  How did this person present to members of this church that they were into Eastern philosophy?  Is said member a worse person or Christian for not being able to participate in such a discussion?  On what was his/her observation based when he/she perceived that the worship leader was not genuine?  The list goes on, but my intention is not to nit-pick all of that here.  I’m more interested in the larger question this all raises.  When do we put more stock in the observations of an outsider vs. the assurances of an insider?

It seems to me that the current zeitgeist is to default to the opinion of the outsider.  I know I’m guilty of it all the time.  I tend to assume that the people within a certain circle or a certain group are blind to their own actions, and therefore my observation, or the observation of someone who got closer to them, is very reliable.  I still hold that this is certainly valid with a number of things, but then again that is based on my own point of view.  The first thing to mind would be Scientology.  I don’t think that a Scientologist could convince me that their “religion” is a good thing, no matter how they approached the subject.  But why?  Well, primarily, I’m a Christian, and my beliefs are at odds with a religion whose primary focus appears to be individual success and self-achievment.  However, a fairly large section of my distaste for Scientology is fueled by short documentaries and articles (oh, and that episode of South Park).  I trust those sources more than I would trust the word of a Scientologist.  It seems more logical that someone who set out to observe is more objective, and therefore more reliable, than someone who is a part of what’s being observed.

Yet that can’t be the end of the discussion.

This past weekend at my church, during worship, I saw my worship leader improvise a short vocal line right before going into the climatic chorus of the song.  It had me wondering–how would that person who wrote the article that my friend shared have reacted to that?  I think an especially cynical individual could have viewed that as “showing off” or seeking attention.  They could leave it at that and think that our worship team is about performing and show-boating, and aren’t being real about what they claim to believe.  Except I know that worship leader.  I’ve known him fairly well for going on seven years, now; I’ve been on the worship team under his leadership for nearly four years.  I can tell you that he is someone who works very hard at keeping his heart humble with things like performance.  I know this first-hand.  But what happens when a third person is told my side and the cynical outsider’s side?  Which one would–which one should–be trusted?

Let’s carry this on to a less touchy issue.  At least in the long-term.  I have a relative who hates the show Lost.  What he knows is based 99% out of forums and discussions with other people who don’t like the show, for whatever reason.  So when a third person inquires to him and to me if Lost is worth watching, who should they believe?  (In case you don’t know, I’m someone who got completely drawn in to that show from the first episode and had two, maybe three, moments of thinking, “That could have been done better.”  The rest of it was perfect to me.)  Am I reliable as an opinion?  Or is my relative?  He could cite an objective laundry list of problems with the show, not being tainted by having seen it; I could say that I watched it all and I loved it.  When you understand my larger point here, you realize this is not an easily answered question.  Can we only ever trust the word of people on the inside, who know first hand?  But wouldn’t someone on the inside be blinded to the rest of the world, to rationality, based off of a bias they have developed?  Yet if we trust the word of an outside observer, how can we account for their own biases?  It’s not always so clear.

As usual, I don’t have a solution.  I just know that I stay out of and away from anti-Scientology protests.