Monday, January 31, 2011

Hype Aversion

I certainly chuckled when I saw the Urban Word (Phrase. Whatever.) of the Day this morning:

Hype Aversion

Rejection of an insanely popular idea, game, show, place etc. simply because it is so insanely popular.

"I'm enjoying season three of 'Lost'."
"Season three came out four or five years ago."
"I know, I suffer from hype aversion."

I'm pretty sure I did this about MySpace, Facebook, & Twitter before I eventually joined those three platforms 6-18 months after the rest of the world had already been enjoying them as new ways to connect with other people. You could consider me a contrarian market indicator: if you happen to hear me hating on some new technological phenomenon, invest in that stock right away before I start to love it.

(BTW, there's still time: I remain skeptical about Microsoft Kinect. Even though I've never tried it. Just as I was before ever logging on to MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter...)

I've thought about this in a related way before when I wrote on hyperbole. Sometimes we lose touch with the amplification of our language. And in doing so we may lose perspective. It's the reason, I'm convinced, some are moved to hate Duke basketball or Tim Tebow. I'll let Tuscaloosa News Sports Editor Cecil Hurt, in a column from 2 years ago, take it from here:

I was never convinced (Tim) Tebow’s decision to sign with Florida instead of Alabama was quite the inner struggle that it was purported to be on the ESPN special chronicling his recruitment. But he says it was tough and I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s been on my past two Heisman Trophy ballots and if, unlike Glen Coffee, he decides to return for another season in college, he’ll probably make my list for 2009 as well.

I refrain from calling him “Superman,” as television commentators do repeatedly, not because he isn’t a great player and a fine young man, but because ultimately, the over-the-top hyperbole doesn’t do Tebow any good, either.

The Florida quarterback seems to have turned just about every person with a microphone into a blathering fan. In the end, one fears, it will end up having the same result as Dick Vitale’s endless paeans to the Duke basketball program. You’ll start to resent the subject because the messenger — or, in Tebow’s case, the legions of messengers — finally push you to a point where you say “enough is enough.”

I ended up watching the BCS championship and wondering if Tebow had any teammates. That’s not Tebow’s fault, but it was the impression you were left with by the Fox broadcast. It’s great to say that Tebow was “willing his team to victory,” but there must have been at least 21 other Gators who were doing a little something.

And so hype aversion sets in, and people begin to talk about how Coach K or Tim Tebow must be frauds. People sense a need to voice negativity as a strange counter-balance to unencumbered love-fests.

Don't believe in it yet? Ask a regular viewer of ESPN their opinion of Brett Favre. Better yet, do it in July or August.

I could be way off-base, but it occurs to me that a whole cultural subset has emerged out of peoples' deep need to counter-balance excessive hype. We call them hipsters. They don't shop at The Gap or Old Navy essentially because the style of clothes at those stores get too much play. So they develop more eclectic tastes. Same goes for tastes in music & entertainment. In essence their whole lives, it seems, become a counter-balance to what prevailing culture says is "awesome!" or "great!"

Which seems silly to me. Sorry, hipster friends. Even my own behavior seems silly in retrospect. How could I have hated something so neat as a tool like Facebook that helps me maintain relationships with people I haven't seen in years? What's more, hated it before I even tried it, before I even fully understood what effect it would have, almost entirely because others around me were singing it's praises? That's silly.

So I'm going to try to stop being averse to trying new things just because a lot of hype surrounds them. And I'm going to try to manage my aversion to hype and hyperbole in ways other than imposing a personal embargo.

So somebody tell me more about this fun new toy I've heard about called the iPhone.