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I was discussing popular works with Serdar, and both had experienced the pressure to enjoy something everyone else was enjoying. I felt it had gotten worse in the last two decades and was honestly getting the hell on my nerves. There were more choices, but it seemed more pressure to like certain things, and I’ve been trying to articulate it.
I grew up with “Must See TV” and every year had some blockbuster in the theater, but that was different. Dallas was big, but people seemed to accept it might not be your cup of tea – and I was ten, so I didn’t care. I loved Star Wars, but it was a bolt-of-lightning thing, and no one expected everyone to like it. There were Big Things, but I don’t recall the sheer pressure to like them.
The ever-expanding world of cable television, foreign films, anime, and the internet brought us even more options. In the 1990’s the idea of something being Mandatory Fun (apologies to Weird Al) was alien to me – there was something for everyone and more of it all the time. Why have something feel mandatory?
Then came Harry Potter. I am loathe to discuss it due to the author’s horrid transphobia, but as this is a historical rant and thus I strive for accuracy.
Harry Potter was something everyone seemed into, and I felt pressure to read it, which irritated the hell out of me. I think the fact that it was an internet sensation made it omnipresent, people didn’t get you might not be into it because all their friends were. It was an internet-fueled Blockbuster.
(I did eventually read it, by the way, after people had backed off.)
To this day, the internet and social media have a selective amplification effect. Something can take off, amplified by social media algorithms and good marketing, and soon you’re sick of hearing about it. Chats, posts, memes, etc. all amplify certain things repeatedly – people doing marketing for free. At some point, you’re missing having a political argument with your crazy relatives because they’re busy telling you about this new TV show you have to watch.
The wealth of movies, shows, and books we have doesn’t free us either – and I blame social media and marketing for that as well. People can easily find fellow fans – and assume everyone else has similar interests. Algorithm-driven ads target you relentlessly. More choices somehow led to more pressure, and we’ve forgotten not everyone cares about the same things. Now we just have more not to care about.
Finally, you have the synergy of media universes: Marvel, Star Trek, and Star Wars. These giant unified properties (and marketing efforts) amplify each other. Show A leads to movie B, leads to webseries C, all funneling you into a giant media matrix. Throw in social pressure and social media amplification trying to manipulate you, and you start feeling like you’re a very poor take of They Live, only you’re not as cool as Rowdy Roddy Piper.
We’re living inside a giant marketing machine of technology and social habits.
I’m not proposing a way out, I’m here to analyze and complain. Perhaps I’ll present some brilliant solutions in the future, but right now, I understand better, saying “no” more, expanding my horizons, and just doing what I like.
Maybe I’ll have more to say. But now I’m just glad to have it out of my head – and into yours. So I’d love your thoughts.