It helps to be an outsider. Writers need to see clearly and most of us take our surroundings, friends, culture for granted. Well, we’re normal, aren’t we? We’re all part of the superorganism [sic].
I came across an interesting blog by Justine Musk recently. She discusses a premise that “we are all weird now” from Seth Godin. I like the blog, I like Justine’s idea on thinking how we should frame our blogs. I like the finishing quotes from Godin about our riches.
But I was taken aback by her descriptions of Godin’s thesis:
There used to be a bell curve of ‘normal’, a.k.a. ‘the masses’, and then a handful of freaky outlier types to either side.
Then something happened.
The Internet took the concept of ‘choice’ and blew it to pieces.
People used to be ‘normal’ for lack of options: we all listened to the same few bands on the radio, watched the same lame sit-coms on TV. Options were limited.
Now, however, we can let our freak flags fly.
Whatever our tastes, our true interests, we can not only find them somewhere on the Internet, we can find other people who like the same things. So as choice continues to shatter into a zillion more, we flee the ho-hum hump of the middle for the interesting stuff at the edges and our fellow comrades in ‘weirdness’.
The bell curve, says Godin, is in the process of flattening out.
That big group of the middle keeps dividing and dividing again, into loose communities organized around interests and topics and subtopics and sub-sub-topics.
I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on that but, in terms of the interpretation she gives, I just don’t quite see that vision. Sure we have weird groups but there have always been weird groups – it’s just now they are mentioned on twitter or have pages on FB so we can all see them. The world is more interconnected so toe nail worshippers from Chicago can share pictures of their shrines with toe nail worshippers from Camberwell. In the meantime there’s a vast hump of people sharing cute kitten videos on YouTube, from America through Europe, Asia and, well, anywhere: millions of cute kittens.
If you look at any ONE vital factor, the normal distribution – of a given population – is unlikely to change drastically. Even memes take time to change. Kittens remain cute – in cultures where kittens always have been cute. Some people turn vegetarian but supermarkets find other ways to hide the fact meat came from a cute almost-as-cute as-a-kitten-animal from most of us. Westerners become taller and fatter but droughts are killing thousands in sub Saharan Africa. The overall distribution is made up from individuals but, OVERALL, the shape is “normal”.
“Normal” as in the statistical sense. That doesn’t mean you are “normal” – or I, or anyone – in any boring, pejorative sense, it merely means that for most population traits the collective graph is bell – normal – shape.
We’re all part of the normal distribution – and yet we are all weird, all individuals.