When a society produces things in abundance, it also tends to produce the leisure to judge things. As the 21st century grinds on, we find ourselves surrounded by vexing irritations, almost all of which we have invented. And while evil and injustice stalk the world with the same strength they always have, we prefer to issue petulant rants about useless ephemera. Below, a short list of things that do not deserve another declamation of dudgeon.
1. Facebook. I get it: Facebook is dreadful. The selfies, the sunsets, the endless soul-searching debates about the Ice Bucket Challenge, the stupid political memes. It’s a carousel of duckface and lazy birthday wishes.
And yet, we’re all still on Facebook, aren’t we?
I’ve read more listicles of 8 Things Not to Do on Facebook and The 74 People Who Are Ruining Facebook and 592 Times Facebook Rendered Me Literally Unable to Even than I care to recall. And it’s all one repetitious tilt at a world-spanning windmill. Facebook isn’t going to change. It’s Facebook.
Facebook is the place where people post their lives. When they have a baby, they’re going to post baby pictures. When they get a puppy, they’re going to put up videos of their puppy doing adorable things. When their lives are filled with fun and friendship, you’ll see visual confirmation of this, and when those lives are all frustration, depression, and anxiety, out come the cryptic status updates and inspirational quotes. And you find it utterly ridiculous in scathing terms right up until the point where you find an opportunity to post something of your life.
Let me cop to it: I find, as a general rule, nothing sillier than Facebook Foodying. The only thing people want to see less than food before you eat is food after you eat it, amirite? What presumption! What ridiculousness!
And when myself and the wife had a rare date night away from the kids? Totally took a pic of our beer flight. And did it garner likes? Of course it did.
Facebook provides an almost immediate feedback mechanism. When people like something, you are validated. You’ll give the people want they want, and if they stop wanting it, you’ll give them something else.
Those baby pictures you hate? People love them. Those sport season histrionics? All the fans were on board. The stupidest, most question-begging, strawman-burning political/religious argument? It got the blue thumbs-up.
The only thing wrong with Facebook is that people on Facebook act like people. You can pour out earnest slabs of text about how everyone is Doing it Wrong, or you can scroll past the stuff you don’t like and never think about it again (or even edit it out of your newsfeed). Or you can leave Facebook altogether.
But if you were going to do that, you would have done it by now.
2. Pumpkin Spice Lattes. And the white girls in yoga pants who love them. This meme was funny for about five minutes last October, before Twitter beat it to death like a red-headed stepchild on a rented mule. It’s now a hundred times more tedious than the people who get goofily excited about Starbucks’ cinammony seasonal coffee drink (especially as it has now spawned slapfights about what the word “basic” means).
People (and not just suburban white females) like pumpkin drinks as the leaves turn. The liquor stores fairly burst with pumpkin beers of every type. I’m surprised Jim Beam hasn’t put out a Pumpkin Bourbon yet.
Ridiculing these trends is the cheapest and dullest way to set yourself apart from the crowd. It requires neither intellect nor risk. Thoughtfully demurring from an accepted idea takes many forms, but none of them are putting “OMG I saw an ACTUAL WHITE GIRL in ACTUAL YOGA PANTS ordering an actual #pumpkinspicelatte #thememehasrisen” into your Twitter.
Let’s move on.
3. Millennials. At age 37, I’m not a Millenial, but a Gen-Xer casting a gimlet eye at approaching middle age. But talk about the significance of “generations” is almost always tendentious and overstated. The Boomers are not all one way, and Gen-X is not all the other. Being born around the same time as other people gives you a set of similar cultural memories and very little else. It doesn’t make you a cohort of any kind of eschaton.
The Millennials are fine (apart from being stuck in a crappy job market. Sorry, kids). Yes, they have their own set of odd extravagances, their rock-and-roll and their eight-track-tapes. Yes, they talk weird jive. You know what that makes them? Young. They won’t be young forever. They’ll settle down, make money, buy real estate, eat too much, sleep too little, until they pop their heads up and realize that they’ve never heard of any of the bands on GoogleMTV.com’s VMA streamcast, and they’ll shout at the kids of the 2040’s to get off their organically-seeded vegetable lawns.
It is inevitable. It is their destiny.
4. Things Celebrities Do. If there’s anything in the world less worthy of my time, it’s whatever Renee Zellwegger’s face looks like, or why it looks like that, or why people do that to themselves, or what she has to say to the haters, etc. And I’m looking forward to the earnest discussion of the ugly-shaming about as much as I enjoyed the wearisome think pieces about how she ballooned up for the Bridget Jones movies.
You can plug any name in here. There is not a single celebrity, of any kind, whose life touches mine in any way. Britney Spears is playing Vegas now? Good for her. Amanda Bynes may be nuttier than a Planters can? Hope she gets better. Justin Bieber is kind of a dick? Life will fix that for him one way or another.
Anyone remember Paris Hilton? Anyone remember how absolutely essential she was to the zeitgeist? Anyone remember how strong we had opinions about her? Because I haven’t hardly heard a word from her in forever. I may have seen her in some movie recently. I don’t remember. I hope she’s okay.
Fame is a brutal circus. Success is rare; permanent success rarer still. Nothing about the lives of those who attain those glittering heights bears resemblance to our own. They have nothing to do with us except in a narrow and particular way. Let’s leave them to their business, and hope as few of them as possible end up like Robin Williams or Philllip Seymour Hoffman. No one deserves to have their final moments debated by strangers.
5. Bad Taste. There once was a time I would have had lots of breath to spare about the existence of Honey Boo Boo. Or Miley Cyrus. Or any of the other offerings of garish shamelessness by which our society provides bread and circuses to anyone who can afford a basic cable subscription. But whether it’s a combination of having kids, or just getting tired of the conversation, I no longer have that breath.
People are odd creatures. They differ so strongly about certain things. When their opinion is at odds with the majority, they demand the liberty to act without the judgement of others. When they align with the crowd, they insist on the right to judge. A person can easily switch from one argument to another, not without noticing the hypocrisy, but having already explained it to themselves satisfactorily. The thing they judge others for is the important thing, you see.
We all do this. At times, even I find myself scowling at these things that people like that are just wrong. Why is there maple-flavored whiskey? Seriously, who drinks whiskey and says to him/herself, “You know what that needs to taste like? Pancakes.” If you don’t like whiskey, leave it to those of us who like it, and drink something else! STOP RUINING MY THING!
But are you? Are you really? No. The manufacturers offered something new, and some of you decided to try it. And some of you decided it wasn’t bad. There is no moral caculus under which this equates to evil (no, not even the Augustinian logic of defining evil as spoiled goodness. If the purpose of whiskey is to give someone a pleasant way to imbibe spirits, then maple whiskey is in no way spoiled). It’s just a reflection of individualized tastes. In a free, non-aristocratic society, individualized tastes are supreme and inviolate.
I could moan and snark until the cows come home about other people’s bad tastes, but that will never change them. The only thing that fixes bad taste is competing good taste. Breaking Bad trumps Honey Boo Boo. Game of Thrones will be remembered when no one recalls that Real Housewives was even a thing. So you enjoy your maple-cinammon liqueur, and when you tire of it, we’ll sit around with a bottle of Bulleit Rye and wax philosophical. As one does.
Oh, you don’t like rye? No accounting for taste, I guess.