Why Do We Argue So Vehemently Over Personal Tastes (Especially Online)?

The Internet is amazing.

The connecting of people from all regions, backgrounds and walks of life has led to a technological revolution no one would have dreamed about even thirty years ago.

But, like fire, airplanes, and automobiles, its greatness is not without drawbacks and consequences. The net gave a voice and a platform to anyone with a computer and dial-up modem. Now, all you need is a phone to be able to publicly broadcast your views and opinions, no matter how ignorant or racist or sexist they may be.

Everywhere you look, the internet (and therefore the country) is sharply divided with no hedging. Is there anyone that doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other about LeBron James or Eminem or Taylor Swift or Kanye West? These people are either brilliant geniuses or talentless hacks. Pick a side and scream about it.

I’m not much better. I lose my mind if anyone dares compare Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan or claims that The Big Bang Theory is better than Arrested Development. The other day, I posted a clip from The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart skewers Fox News over its coverage of the situation in Ferguson. My late best friend’s mother — a wonderful person — made a disparaging remark about it and my initial reaction was to respond with vitriol towards her. That’s not a good thing.

Politics is one thing. What about music, one of the most subjective things in the world?

Last week, someone on Twitter sent me a list on Buzzfeed of the “definitive ranking of hip-hop’s most influential crews” and to say that I disagreed with much of the list would be a gross understatement. It actually kept me awake for a few hours.

Why?

It was simply the shared opinion of two people that are about a decade younger than me and probably from a different area of the country. Of course they’re going to think that Lil Wayne and his crew are more influential than Wu-Tang. Those that left comments almost universally agreed with me, so much so that Wu-Tang was moved up from the mid-teens to number six. Still, I was bothered by the omission of Native Tongues and Juice Crew.

But who am I? What right do I have to be personally offended by another’s musical tastes? Hell, at least they offered theirs for free. You have to pay to get my rankings. I don’t have any professional musical or journalistic cred, so it’s hubris on my part to expect someone to pay to read my lists.

And what does all this arguing accomplish anyway?

So we disagree. So what? Why do I — and virtually everyone else — feel the need to either try to convert someone to our way of thinking or berate them for daring to feel differently than we do? Why do we need others to agree with our views on everything, big and small, important and frivolous? Do we just need our own opinions to be validated or are we afraid to be on the wrong side, whether it be of history or popular sentiment?

All of the above.

When we feel strongly about something, we need to not only express those views, but we also need others to feel the same. We like to be a part of something. It’s why we like being invited to parties and weddings (even if we don’t necessary like attending them) and it’s why we hate being left out of a joke or conversation. This is an idea that I first heard articulated by Kevin Smith and Bret Easton Ellis nearly a year ago, when they discussed how the internet has provided a place for like-minded people to come together and rally around the same thing, much like a group of individuals with nothing in common can bond over a sports team.

We all want to be included. It’s why we form tribes and build societies and create cultures.

If no one agrees with us, then we lose that sense of inclusion. It means that we’re all alone in this world. And then what do we have?


Christopher Pierznik is the author of six books, all of which can be purchased inPaperback, Kindle, and Nook. A former feature contributor and managing editor of I Hate JJ Redick, he has also written for XXL, Please Don’t Stare, Amusing My Bouche, Reading & Writing is for Dumb People, A Series of Very Bad Decisions, and others. He works in finance and spends his evenings changing diapers and drinking craft beer. He once applied to be a cast member on The Real World, but was rejected. You can like his Facebook page here, follow him on Twitter here, and Tumblr here.