I’ve never seen an episode of Stranger Things, Game of Thrones or a single Harry Potter movie. I don’t find this to be a particularly interesting fact about me, but it makes me an undefeated Never Have I Ever champion.
The thing that is interesting about this, though, is that mentioning this to someone usually evokes an immediate reaction.
“It’s so good, though!”
“I think you’ll love it.”
“You’re seriously missing out!”
And I sincerely believe these are all great shows with incredible stories. But I won’t love any of them. I’m not missing out. Sure, there are memes I don’t understand and there are references in pop culture that I don’t understand. But mostly, nothing is different.
This feeling of low grade guilt where we are somehow on the outside if we don’t participate in something that “everyone else” is seems to be growing consistently. It’s not FOMO, exactly. It’s more like that nagging feeling school projects used to give me. Like, I know I should get an early start on them, but there are other ways I’d rather spend my time, so I’m going to wait until the last possible moment.
I don’t mean to say that I’m an expert at productivity or that watching Stranger Things is a waste of time. Rather, controlling the way that I spend my time is the only real currency I have right now and I have to use it in the most effective ways.
The way I see it, I am one individual who is not wealthy in any real way, and I exist in a huge capitalist machine. There is not much I can do to make a meaningful impact, no matter how much I want to. That can feel defeating in a lot of ways, especially when a company, or a person in power, does something to disappoint me.
Let’s say, for example, you’re a trendy, affordable retail store who makes a tone-deaf decision in the spirit of diversity that winds up insulting millions of people, both directly and indirectly. That sucks. And it shouldn't happen. And it probably wouldn’t happen if companies took diversity initiatives seriously. I want to fix that problem so that it doesn’t happen again.
But even if I had the right solution to peacefully and amicably bring diversity to every major company in the world, I am one person with no influence.
I know that. I understand that. I accept that.
And still, when a company disappoints me, I feel a sense of activism that needs to go somewhere.
In those moments, instead of encouraging the public shaming of a company or an individual by adding to the online outrage, I (and probably all of us) should try to shift the conversation to things that we enjoy instead. Replace the urge to punish the offending party until they start to “act right” or give an apology they may or may not mean with the action of giving money and attention to things we support.
Use the only currency we have in a way that helps people.
It’s the same principle we apply to our interests. When I watch Friday Night Lights, I’m not making a statement about the quality or validity of Stranger Things, I’m only saying that I support Friday Night Lights (because: Tim Riggins).
Put another way, when I recommend shopping at Green Box Shop, mostly what I’m saying is they are a group of people who I believe are worth supporting and who offer products that I like.
Inevitably, this will be making a statement, because theoretically, our money or attention will start going other places. But the intention of that statement will be rooted in positivity instead of outrage. Support instead of punishment. Uplifting instead of shaming.
It’s not a revolutionary idea, but it’s worth a shot.