When I Cheated on Pop Culture with Pop Culture

By: Maram Faragallah

Photo Credit: @uphollywoodsssss

It was a normal day, I was sitting with my friends when they started to compliment this newly released song. They started to reply with, “it was amazing” and “I loved it”. Seemed to me that everybody heard it and it became their new favorite song. My friend turned to me and asked, “Did you like it?”

And without a second thought a ‘yes’ came out, “I totally loved it.” I was sure the song was a mainstream pop song that would pound on the radios for the next month, but I never listened to it.

With that, I became a part of pop culture, I went home and made sure to listen to it, twice. And I was obsessed with it. And even more, I had it on repeat. And it became a cycle!

A way that helped me get over this was the realization of being manipulated. The tone of the song was made to manipulate the ears, the marketing was manipulating, and society too. The manipulated, also known as my friends, became the manipulators, and we all succumb to it. The  very first step to overcome this phenomena, is to actually be aware of what’s going on around you. As Suzy Kassem said, “A conscious person is driven by their conscience, not popular opinion.”

The urge to fit in is always too strong, and I would rather be called a follower than an outsider. Humans are my source of destruction and survival both. When left alone, I’m brutally devoured by self-hate. So I decided that I’d stick to humans even if it meant lying to fit in. It’s a part of me to try to appeal to the group I have all the time, especially if they are my only choice.

Fitting in a group sometimes means a person has to follow their trend: Listen to their music and watch their movies, and maybe even dress like them. This world has a lot of groups that are defined by their type in trends, so once one joins, everything is decided. It feels good to be accepted, to feel like you belong. That is what makes  humans follow different trends. According to the trends you follow, you are classifying yourself as something. No matter what it is. You belong somewhere. As Julia Coultas, a researcher at the University of Essex, puts it, “For an individual joining a group, copying the behaviour of the majority would then be a sensible, adaptive behaviour. A conformist tendency would facilitate acceptance into the group and would probably lead to survival if it involved the decision, for instance, to choose between a nutritious or poisonous food, based on copying the behaviour of the majority.”

It’s in human blood to try to appeal to others. Everyday we’re being influenced by others. Their opinions, whether we like it or not, defines how we see ourselves. A compliment can make someone’s day, but a criticism can scar someone’s day too. To a lot of people, following trends is the safe way. As Mark Twain puts it in ‘Corn-Pone Opinions’, “The instinct that moves to conformity did the work. It is our nature to conform; it is a force which not many can successfully resist. What is its seat? The inborn requirement of self-approval.”

Popularity is our source of decision. If other people do it, that means it’s right, right? To learn what is correct, we look at what other people are doing; the phenomenon of social proof. “The hoopskirt runs its course and disappears. Nobody reasons about it. One woman abandons the fashion; her neighbor notices this and follows her lead; this influences the next woman; and so on and so on, and presently the skirt has vanished out of the world, no one knows how nor why, nor cares, for that matter. It will come again, by and by and in due course will go again.” People can’t help themselves when they open Netflix, for example, to watch the famous shows everyone is talking about. Or listen to mainstream music. Or follow the hashtag #trending on all social media apps to know what’s going on. Following what everyone is doing is the key to survival.

The loved mainstream song is entirely forgotten two weeks later because another song is released. That’s the thing about pop culture, it changes. Following fashion trends from a thousand years ago is a very big example of how fashion changed over the decades. Women suddenly started wearing pants in the 70s. Before that it was very rare for them to wear pants, nearly unlikely. In the present day, wearing pants is the standard and wearing dresses is called “Dressing up”. Men went on from continuously wearing suits in every occasion, to wearing it only in special events. Even jobs in companies and organizations don’t require men to wear suits, it became a rarity too.

One year chunky heels were a trend, the second year thin heels became dominant. Thin eyebrows were a trend, the next year thick ones were the fashion icon. Then came the long eyebrows drift. The following year, it shifted to short ones. What’s very significant about this is how people mindlessly changed their clothes and their form of expression to blend in with society. Bell bottom pants changed to skinny jeans and comfy sandals became nike sneakers. And society blindly follows it, are they conscious of the change?

But despite your clothes, your music and your movie-type, you’re following a trend. We are all trend-followers. Not all of us are following the same trends but we are all following some specific trends.We are considering ourselves to be a part of a particular group. Following their trends, opinions, and choices. Unless you’re walking in the streets wearing animal fur, you’re following a trend. Sometimes it may not be the most popular one, but it represents your ideas and your group. Especially if those ideas are represented online or sold in stores, that means it has its own audience and are selling.

“I view myself as being the average woman. While I am first lady, I wasn’t first lady my whole life. I’m a product of pop culture. I’m a consumer of pop culture, and I know what resonates with people.” Said Michelle Obama. That’s my confession. No matter how much we try to deny our obsession with pop culture, we are its main consumers. What we are wearing today, listening to now and watching on TV is not our choice. It’s fed to us, making us think we chose to do this when realistically we’re being unconsciously manipulated to the supply in stores, the list of movies on TV and most importantly what people think. We think we have free will in our choices, but we’re choosing from a list that we cannot choose.

Because most people are not conscious of any of this, they follow popular opinion blindly. A lot of articles have been written and the spread of criticism increases everyday, but despite this, pop culture changes, people follow blindly.  

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