Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Water Cooler Daze

An "All Things Considered" piece wondered in the era of myriad media outlets, where the most popular TV shows pull in ratings dwarfed by those of shows 30 years ago, and pop stars sell a fraction of the number of albums that made the top of the charts 15 years ago, whether there could really be any true "water cooler" topics any more, where the proverbial everyone is talking about the same pop culture reference like there was in those days of yore (which, apparently, is construed as the time when I was in my teens).

I found myself thinking: Was there every truly this halcyon time for ubiquitous topics of conversation, or is there merely this perception it existed? Back in the day when a really popular show got 30 million views, that was impressive, certainly, but in a country of well over 200 million that's less than 15% of all people actually participating in watching, much less discussing it during their coffee breaks. So, to consider that to be "everyone" is merely actively ignoring all those who are ignoring what you are regarding.

But even accepting the premise: Why do we need everyone talking about the same thing? That seems hideously insecure. And having such a paradigm where there's supposed to be these touchstones that all of us share makes those who were not involved even more outcast than they already were.

Is it really worth romanticizing this period of fewer choices, when fewer voices were heard? Even though a lot of the voices we hear now are abysmal, there's plenty of alternatives.

Now we're all outcasts in a way, and as such, none of us are outcasts. That, I'm sure, was far more worthy of being romanticized, and those who were outcasts and wore that as a badge, who liked being outside the massively popular world, probably lament that the mainstream has moved into their territory (intentionally or coincidentally).

But pretending that time ever actually existed, it is gone, and it ain't coming back. Well, there's probably some channel showing reruns where it is...

1 comment:

  1. I like the splintering of media and the disappearance of "water cooler topics," because even when media was homogenous, I didn't usually watch or listen to what others did, so I was never part of the conversation. Now the conversation doesn't even happen anymore, and I don't feel left out. ;-)


So, what do you think?