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[personal profile] scottahill
Perhaps this is obvious, but I was listening to Wil Wheaton's podcast "Radio-Free Burrito" and he said something interesting. He said that he enjoys reading/watching/listening to things which require a certain level of effort to appreciate, partly because when he meets someone else who also enjoys that thing, it's "like a secret handshake". My take on this is that when you meet someone who also enjoys this challenging work (e.g. medieval poetry) then their appreciation tells you something about that person, about their tastes and their intellectual capacities as well, which is a hint that you and they might get along well. This might not be such a big deal for extroverts, for people who enjoy meeting new people and experiencing a wide variety of personalities. But I'm not such a "people person", and so figuring out which of the 50 people in the room I will enjoy spending time with is challenging, particularly when a wrong choice might snag you in a conversation or even a relationship which is more tedious than enjoyable.

It also occurred to me that this partially explains why popular music and television shows are so annoying to me (and maybe other people, too): if something is too popular, then it doesn't tell you anything about the other person: it's not a "secret handshake" which helps you size up the other person. For example, if you meet someone who enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, that doesn't say a lot about that person because a lot of people watched those movies and obviously enjoyed them. It might be enjoyable to talk about the movies with the other person, but it doesn't serve the sizing-up process which is an important part of casual conversations among people who have just met. It's rarer to meet someone who has read the books, and so that means something; one is thus tempted to mention how the movies are different from the books, to see if the other person has read the books too. (And if they know who Feanor or Ungoliant are: boom! That's a real indicator!) But once the movies came out, the names "Gandalf" and "Frodo" were no longer useful "secret handshakes" because everyone had heard them, and you have to dig a little deeper; thus the popularity of the movies made socializing a little harder, and a little more annoying.


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