The Time When You Age Out of Pop Culture

In this week’s Crack Cobain Mailbag, we talk about when you should bail on keeping up with pop culture and whether you should have ramen for dinner. Got a question for next week? Leave a comment here, hit me up on Twitter or shoot me an email at kevin.bigger[at]gmail[dot]com.

At what age did I stop knowing who people are in tabloids?

I imagine in the pre-internet past the answer to this question was something like “whenever you have your first kid” or “whenever you turn 30” or “whenever you decide to abandon modern society and move deep into the woods with your wild animal friends.”

Nowadays and moving forward, it is and it will be pretty hard to tell when people will stop generally knowing what’s going on in pop culture. There’s an entire robust sub-section of the pop culture media hellbent on making sure none of its older audience members ever experience pop culture FOMO. Trending topics on social media means you’re just a glance to the sidebar away from staying in the loop. Explainer pop culture media exists for the very reason of preventing people thirty and older from ever feeling that thick and dark and well-deep despair of no longer knowing what’s cool or what’s interesting. I mean, my Mom probably knows more about Kendall and Kylie Jenner than I do. That should say it all.

I do think though sometime in the imminent future — gun to head I’d say within the next three years — our cultural paradigm will officially retreat from its desire for on-demand ubiquity. A confluence of technologies and generational psychology and motivations as well as simply the ever-natural, vertiginous vacillation of coolness will return what’s cool and what’s interesting to the shadow-shielded exclusivity-driven confines of culture. Recently Bloomberg featured an article titled “How Snapchat Built a Business by Confusing Olds” that gets at this with this particularly illustrative paragraph (if you know, you didn’t quite understand the deal from the title of the article itself):

Compared with Twitter or Facebook, Snapchat can seem almost aggressively user-unfriendly. If you’re new to the app and looking for posts by your kid, your boyfriend, or DJ Khaled, good luck. It’s hard to find somebody without knowing his or her screen name. This is by design. “We’ve made it very hard for parents to embarrass their children,” Spiegel said at a conference in January. “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display.”

Nowadays you have Snapchat royalty like DJ Khaled in addition to people famous solely for their Instagram, crazy popular YouTubers, Vine superstars, the Tumblr meme illuminati and super popular Twitch streamers as well as the immensely popular and even more immensely under-the-radar Weird Facebook and Weird Twitter. While, right now, we’re still at a point in time where these stars either crossover into more mainstream modes of media (and thus become easily known) or become known by the many new adopters of the platforms on which they are popular, you get a growing sense the closer you observe these things that eventually the culture will become too segmented and each segment will become too voluminous, dense and conceptually complex for the masses of people to infiltrate and pay attention to all or even many of these things.

So to ultimately answer your question, I don’t know if there’s a universal time anymore where our awareness of pop culture falls out from under us into a trap door henceforth inaccessible to you but I will say that during the aforementioned period when what’s cool and what’s interesting seems to retreat to somewhere more privately ensconced, you will see a lot of people who currently engage and opine on pop culture fall off, either by choice or by the inability or the inconvenience to continue doing what they’re doing. My guess is people will then begin to occupy sort of silo-like segments in which they are fluent and active and in turn, these segments and its mechanisms will nurture its denizens to such a satisfactory extent that they will have no desire to seek exploration of further segments.

You so badly want ramen for dinner that it hurts. Your partner wants to make a grilled chicken salad. What do you do?

Go with the grilled chicken salad. As someone who almost always wants to eat ramen for dinner, I’ve come to appreciate in the long view the instances when someone or something intervenes and gets in between me and my ramen cravings not to mention my general unhealthy food cravings, which are copious and constant. In other words, a reason to eat ramen will always be there for you. A reason to eat a grilled chicken salad comes and goes.

As I alluded to in my first mailbag when talking about becoming a parent, we too often tend to see things like parenthood or in this case our diet and health as things we need to do on our own or without outside help.

I understand the impulse and the sense of self-responsibility is admirable and laudable. However we too often mistake ambition for intelligence. This is odd because we approach so many other things in life with the desire to collaborate. We understand that collaboration can create an environment of accountability and motivation pretty much unattainable on an individual level.

Yet when it comes to certain things, we see asking for help as a display of weakness. This is particularly deleterious because simply put, there are so many truly incredible forces conspiring against your ability to eat healthy and these forces are so very, very well-equipped to break down a single person’s will power and dietary diligence. Getting people more or less addicted to junk food is a great business model in the same way getting people dependent on alcohol is a great business model. You don’t want to go at this alone and you shouldn’t want others to either. That’s why it should feel like a miracle when someone comes along with a boring ass grilled chicken salad trying to help slow down your slow death march to permanent unhealthiness.

Again, thank you for your questions! I’ll be getting to some of the others in future mailbags! If you’ve got a question or want to ask another, hit me up in the comments here or get at me on Twitter or email me at kevin.biggers[at]gmail[dot]com.

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