The Tyranny of Popularity

Book Cover: Salsa Dancing with PterodactylsFrom the time we begin the socialization process of leaving the cosseted safety of our family home (sometimes as early as a few weeks old), we are encouraged – even coerced – into wanting to be popular.

Popular means that we fit in, follow the crowd, don’t stand out; stay in line, do as you are told, be backward about coming forward; don’t speak unless you are spoken to — clear directions to create an automaton, assembly line worker bee – a drone.

Although we are born to use all our resources and talents to advance and achieve, we are socialized to suppress our abilities in order to get along. We are born to do and make, to conquer and succeed but if we do, we are ostracized for showing off and being different.

Each of us has the capacity, regardless of our birth circumstances, to change our lives and achieve our goals and yet, we risk our place in our community and the comfort of friendships if we make the effort to change.

We all have strengths and limitations. How we use these is our choice. If we choose not to make the most of our strengths and dwell on our limitations, we have no complaint against anyone by ourselves.

But we have tremendous opposition and obstacles to overcome. We have a natural and insatiable desire to learn but many of the efforts to channel this desire in strict directions serve only to suppress our curiosity. Seeing the value of information to ourselves before we engage is natural. We see the worth of acquiring knowledge, especially when we know the benefits.NB5#2-300Where this socialization process veers into the realm of sacrificing individuality for the sake of conformity, we are faced with momentous decisions. Do we, as Shakespeare enjoined, ‘to our own selves be true,’ or do we opt for being like ‘everyone else’ — do as everyone does?

All of us come to the point of taking a road less travelled, marching to a different drummer. Whether we do so is a personal choice and never easy. The advantages of being popular often seem tantalizing and exactly what we are looking for in our professions.

Those often faced with this decision are artists of all forms of expression. If we choose popularity, we sometimes do so at the expense of originality. Ironically, if we choose originality, we may instigate a trend that grows in popularity to the point it is no longer original or “cutting edge.”

The patronage of the reader, listener, audience is entirely subjective and fickle.

Are we artists if no one has heard of us? Of course we are.

The advent of independent recording, publishing, film-making, among many other paths to reaching an audience for our work, has opened the portals of creativity to everyone who has the will and the energy to commit thoughts and ideas to form. And there are no restrictions on our originality, except those we place on our work, to achieve whatever our purpose is for expressing ourselves.

Every time we choose to follow the popular rather than our own conscience, we lose a part of what makes us individuals and gives us a sense of pride in who we are. These ideas appear in everything we create and form the core of our creativity, the reason for our self-expression. We do not want to be part of the crowd. We risk everything to follow our artistic vision, whatever it is.

Congratulations! Being different is the coolest cool.


I write about the people who stand alone, for what’s right, and dance to the beat of their own hearts.

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