Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Art of Originality, or "Being Unique is not being you."

If I could give anybody one piece of advice... Don't try to be unique. Be an individual.

I know that runs contrary to what we're taught. That being unique is great. That everyone is unique and that this very thought is what makes the world go round. That being unique and being an individual are the same thing. But what we are actually doing is simply mixing a couple of thoughts and trying to shoehorn them into one ideal. In reality, being individuals and being unique are absolutely two very distinct things.

Being unique seems to be an obsession these days. It's what lead to the hipster movement. It's what leads people to hold disdain for popular movies or other forms of entertainment. "Oh, I loved that song until everyone else started liking it." It leads to pathological liars and idiots that think they introduced the world to a style of music. It's stupid.

Just the other day, I witnessed someone complaining about those memes that have propped up recently, the ones where it usually shows a job at the top, then shows pictures of different elements of society's views of what someone actually does at that job ("what my mom thinks I do" "what my friends think I do"). The person in question was trying to be "nice" about it, basically condescending to all of her followers that they could do better. Ultimately, I agree. But instead of complaining about the posts, I just hid them. Because that's an option on Facebook. Which led me to wonder why she even bothered posting anything about it at all.

And it became obviously fairly quick. I know this person pretty well, and though we don't really speak very much these days, I know her mindset. She was always one of the first to point out annoying trends or things that were rapidly getting popular, and then endlessly discuss them even though she claimed to hold them in the attention of the greatest vitriol. She would say how much she loved songs until they showed up on "Glee" and then would complain that Glee ruined the song. She also hates hipsters, which is ironic because she is one. The thing about hipsters is that they rarely wear that label on purpose.

And it fits in with the idea of being unique. Everyone jumps on memes all the time. They get popular, they have their time in the sun, and, with the exception of extreme rare cases of the truly funny ones, they fade out and are used only on occasion to annoy someone. Or by that guy who can't let things go. Even he's not unique in that regard.

Being unique, or striving for it, leads to extremely artificial emotions and ideas. Not enjoying something because someone else likes it, when you too liked it prior, is idiotic. Complaining that your favorite "indie" song is now going to be known because of "Glee" is idiotic for several reasons: That artist was probably ecstatic that he or she is now going to get some national recognition and more people will be enjoying that artist because of it. Which, in my mind, can only be a good thing.

Oh, but you wanted to be the first to know about that artist. You want everyone to know you liked that artist before they were popular. Exactly what the hell does that accomplish? Striving for that is insane. If you are desperate to make sure your friends know that you introduced them to a band, you really need to reexamine your role in that artist's success. You neither produced the music or did any -mass- distribution. If anything, if your friends just copy your CD, you've contributed to piracy and have taken money out of the artist's pocket, thus eliminating incentive for them to continue producing the music. And if you did convince your friends to buy the music, then your role in this is still small, given for that amount to really matter would mean LOTS of people told their friends, meaning you still aren't the unique little snowflake you fancy yourself to be.

This same person, hater of memes, also once claimed that "being individual" was a fad, being sang about by the likes of Kesha and whoever else. I didn't have the words for it, but even then I subconsciously could see that she, like so many other people, failed to see the distinction between two different philosophies on life. None of those songs were really talking about individuality. They were about being unique and different, and different for the sake of being different, which is ultimately pointless.

I have a good friend that strives for uniqueness. So much so that he's become, for all intents and purposes, a pathological liar. And I love this guy to death, but the stories he tells have gone from cute little embellishments to outright absurd statements. And it's clear where it comes from. His quest for uniqueness comes from a place of low-self esteem, and he feels he has to compensate for his perceived, either consciously or subconsciously, shortcomings with these stories. He's younger than me, but has claimed on more than one occasion as to having a PhD, no simple feat (an understatement.) He's claimed to have performed surgery on people (which I thought required an MD, but I could be mistaken) and has said that he's a black belt in countless martial arts (which actually seems to be a common claim among those with tall tales.)

He knows of my love for film and filmmaking, so he's recently sought to outdo me on that. Now, if there's one thing I know you can't be unique at, it's indie filmmaking. Because there are a lot of us out there. But it's also one of the most supportive communities of creative people so that's quite alright. But this friend has really tried to make it sound like he's great at editing and has edited several films (of which I've never seen.) And that's fine, but combined with some of his more egregious claims and his lack of knowledge of such things as what a reverse shot is or why you don't "cross the line" while shooting, I'm forced to question his claims again.

All because of a pursuit of being unique.

And then there is being an individual. What's the difference? Well, for starters, you're not trying to make decisions about your existence based on the actions or decisions of others. You like a movie? Everyone else does too? Who gives a crap? Like the movie too.

As well, you really learn to appreciate you. You're not trying to fit into anyone else's schemes or ideas. You're not out to impress. You're not trying to make yourself into something that doesn't work for you. You're an individual. Are you similar to others? Sure. But that's not a bad thing. Remember, it sucks to be alone, and one of the most fundamental elements of friendship is sharing joys with like-minded people.

And by the very nature of genetics, you are inherently unique. That should be enough.

So, instead of trying to make it like you introduced the world to dubstep (because you didn't) and caring so much about how you were listening to your favorite band before everyone you knew, maybe just be happy with the fact that you like them. And that should be good enough.

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