On personal taste, and why sometimes I want to quit the Internet
There’s this band I like. A band that a small group of people also like. A band that certain radio stations like. A band that I know for sure you DON’T like. So I like it and others like it but you don’t like it and this is agreed and this is normal, because we all have something called “personal taste” and we all have the ability to develop this taste on our own.
Instead of “band,” substitute “film” or “television show” or “actor” or “professional sports team” and you won’t get much of a change. Same rules apply. You like one thing. I like another. We are free to like or not like the things that other people like or don’t like.
That’s just how it works.
And yet, here we are.
Because, let’s face it – we’ve all been on the Internet. We all understand what, under the guise of digital avatars, where our voice is not agile enough to be heard, and our face is not close enough to be punched, we are free to voice our opinions in any tenor we chose. We can respectfully disagree with our peers. We can call each other names. We can mock and judge and cast out those who do not like the things we like.
We can defend our personal taste to an army of people who don’t really care about our personal taste, all in the name of downgrading another person’s personal taste, until your message boards and chat rooms and Twitter feeds become an echo of a mangled Orwell quote.
“All taste is equal. But some taste is more equal than others.”
While none of us is really safe from this – and while I understand a half hour of research of my writing could dig up several hypocritical attacks on personal taste, both on this blog and my Twitter feed – I can’t help but want to hide from it.
From the black and white decisions on what music is CORRECT. Which movies are WORTHY. Which issues of personal taste are CRUCIAL. Last night, a stream of #goldenglobes and #nfl suggested that certain things were WRONG and other things were AWFUL and, what, you liked The Social Network, OMG are you RETARDED or something because this film was better and you’re STUPID to think otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong. I love public discourse. I love those “why do you like this?” discussions.
We could always sit around and argue which Radiohead album is better, or whether or not Radiohead is even that good. And we would do it honorably, understanding that while we can be passionate about what we love, that doesn’t mean others have to be as passionate.
It’s when we begin dictating whether my thoughts on Radiohead are RIGHT or WRONG or LAUGHABLE or WHATEVER that we begin veering into the macabre.
It’s art. It’s sport. It’s subjective.
Liking something can’t be wrong, regardless of how popular or unpopular or just-popular-enough-to-be-cool it is. I fear we’re sort of missing the point, in that regard.