Wednesday, July 04, 2012

They Know Who Is Righteous, What Is Bold, So I'm Told

Patrick Kingsley:

Predictably, Twitter was outraged. "Dear @CERN," wrote one science buff with a taste for typography. "Every time you use Comic Sans on a powerpoint, God kills the Schrödinger's cat. Please think of the cat." Another groaned: "They used Comic Sans on the Higgs boson powerpoint presentation … Nope there is no hope for mankind."

Ah, Twitter and ironic status-seeking. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

I recently read something Chuck Klosterman wrote in Killing Yourself to Live:

People behave this way all the time; we all sign a social contract that requires us to universally ridicule certain sentiments on principle, even though no such principle exists. When I was in sixth grade, there was a kid in fifth grade whom everyone called Ippy... Ippy was precocious and clever and popular, inasmuch as any fifth grader can be popular. He could draw exceptionally and was well known for his pencil sketches of military aircraft.

But then Ippy became a sixth grader. And then—all of a sudden and for no valid reason—everyone decided they hated him.

For the next two years, Ippy was mercilessly attacked on a daily basis. Almost nobody talked to him, unless they were trying to trick him into drinking a can of Mountain Dew that was half filled with piss. I remember two kids stealing his gym shoes and dropping them into the locker room whirlpool. People would throw half-chewed food at the back of his head while he worked on math problems. This was real horror-show, Welcome to the Dollhouse shit, and it emerged out of nowhere. He had done nothing to warrant this. Moreover, the torture ended as capriciously as it began: Halfway through his eighth-grade year, Ippy was completely reabsorbed into the junior high coolness coven.

...But this is how popular culture works: You allow yourself to be convinced you're sharing a reality that doesn't exist. Every summer, Hollywood movie studios convince millions of people to see blockbuster movies they know they're going to hate... But it's still information they need to have. This is because those people care about something else entirely; they're worried about the possibility of everyone else understanding something that they're missing. This is what they're afraid of, and this is how they deduce societal truth.

I find it difficult to believe that, were it not for the fishbowl environment of social media exacerbating natural attention-seeking tendencies, anyone but a handful of specialists would give the faintest fuck about arguing the virtues of fonts. But almost everyone cares deeply about being part of what appears to be a discerning conversation, and about being accepted by those having it. Everyone's gotta have a strong opinion, even on ludicrously insignificant things, and everyone's gotta express it in a more over-the-top fashion than the last person.

On the bright side, if I ever had to deal with unwanted popularity, especially from idiots like that, I could just redo the blog in Comic Sans to scare them off. Sort of a "Break Glass In Case of Emergency" option.

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