The lure of popularity seems stronger than ever these days – viral videos rule YouTube, everyone talks about the popular TV shows and movies, people use the bestseller lists to decide which books to read or what music to listen to. What is the attraction to popularity? We want to believe that for something or someone to be the most popular, they must also be the best in their field; but is this really the case? If everyone who “votes” for someone or something was really taking an impartial view of their quality, then popularity would, in fact, at least represent a preponderance of “yes” votes. But, this is not how it works in most cases. Due to laziness or belief in the opinion of others, people will view something JUST BECAUSE it is popular. We have many online sites that allow people to VIEW something. A small number of these people may LIKE something, but far fewer people will actually RATE something.
On YouTube, popularity just means most viewed. Once a video has been seen by a threshold number of people, others will watch at least part of it because it is “popular”. Now their viewing is added to the number, even if they didn’t like it. Now it is even more popular, attracting even more to view it. Now, it has gone viral, with millions of views. Yet, in reality, perhaps only a few thousand of the people actually liked it!
Advertising’s goal today is to make something appear popular before it is even available to the general public. Once it is deemed “popular”, a movie or book or song can create a lot of sales before people stop to decide if they really like it or not. This is called “hype” and, of course, has been around for years, but with the use of the internet, it is so much easier now to create a “buzz” for something so that it will be a hit “out of the gate”.
Even news media get “caught up” in covering the same stories that other media are reporting on, because these are the “popular” stories. It’s somehow assumed that everyone wants to devote most of their news bandwidth to this small set of stories instead of a broader coverage of stories that might actually affect our lives. We all must want to know when Lindsey Lohan will go to jail and how long she will have to stay. “Sensational” is so much more “popular” than “Inspirational”; “Entertaining” is more popular than “Informative”.
NEWS FLASH! Paris Hilton just broke a heel and fell IN FRONT OF PHOTOGRAPHERS! We now return you to the possibly helpful but less exciting article that you were reading…
What does the word “news worthy” mean any more? What is the difference between “news” and “entertainment”? A typical news program today is about three stories that are broken into bite-size chucks that are used as “trailers” for the early part of the newscast, and then repeated with a little more video later in the program. “In-depth” reporting is a thing of the past — our videogame attention spans won’t take it!
The average movie running time has grown shorter and shorter over the years. You could say this is just another example of charging the same (or more) for less, but in reality it is because the audiences don’t want to sit still for two hours anymore!
Now what was I talking about? Oh yeah…popularity! What makes this so desirable? People want to BE popular, because popular people can more easily make money and meet people (i.e. obtain sex); that’s understandable. But why do the rest of us CARE so much about who or what is popular? If a jerk is popular, does it make them less of a jerk? If you really want to be more successful and happy, will following popular people and buying popular items help you achieve that goal? Probably NOT!
While everyone else is following these popular trends, you could be looking for what has been successful in making others successful and happy – timeless wisdom from somewhat less popular people and books. Maybe some of these wise but not popular people are your own parents and grandparents telling you what they have learned. Popularity is shallow; wisdom is deep. To be engaged with life, you must get below the surface – look past the flash and seek the glow within!
One of the very first steps to true wisdom is to learn to greatly reduce the amount of emphasis placed on other people’s opinions! Even if they are truly wiser than you, they are NOT you and may not know what is best for you. It is your fulltime responsibility to do what is best for you; no one else can have this focus. So take advice from those sources you respect, but always make sure it “feels right” for you before trying to apply it in your life. Know that the heart and mind are the sources for everything we are; build your temples of gold there.
Taking the most popular path in life will lead you to the same level of happiness and fulfillment as a large number of people, but these aren’t the most happy or fulfilled. If you want more than this out of life, if you want to be inspired – literally, infused with spirit — you will have to take the path less travelled, the path of the mystic who thinks for himself. The path to truly knowing and understanding yourself is a path only you can walk, but its rewards will be well worth the difficulty of being your own pathfinder.