From the Editor’s Perch…

Editor: This seems a timely moment for this thought.

audience4

Popularity

 

“While popularity is a trait often ascribed to an individual, it is an inherently social phenomenon and thus can only be understood in the context of groups of people.”  – Wikipedia

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How much popularity is a single person due?  How much attention should one person presume to deserve: below which she/he can feel rightly aggrieved, and above which he/she should feel blessed?

Tough questions, whose answer comes in fits and drabs, “Yes”’s  and “No”’s throughout  – and for the rest of – one’s life.

According to Wikipedia some of the personal traits which are correlated with popularity are attractiveness, competence, and a high level of aggression.  Social status is seen as a gauge of popularity.  And “social influence plays a large role in determining what is popular and what is not through an information cascade. Independent of personal information, the information cascade acts as a strong influence, causing individuals to imitate the actions of others, whether or not they are in agreement. When downloading music, people don’t necessarily decide for themselves what exact song to buy. Instead, they look at the list of most downloaded songs and decide to get those same top songs.”

The reality is -as in the quote above – that popularity is much more a function of what the crowd desires than what the person is.  Walt Whitman probably said it best: “”To have great poets you must have great audiences, too.”  And books could, and have, been written about what inflames the crowd – with all sorts of caveats and contradictory information tossed in.

Truly, our desires are a lot like that girl with a make-up kit, and popularity is the beholder who fancies that girl’s wiles!  Without a lot of glandular-ridden men, a woman’s charms go for naught.  Beauty needs those construction workers on their lunch break in order to shine.   In fact, we might describe art as the thing which would cause a person to act… which would fashion that overwhelming desire from within the crowd.

Put this way, the popularity we are due, is due to the popularity we create in an audience we can’t know.  And as a personal counselor once noted, “most people listen autobiographically”.  So in a way, popularity is like a charmed circle, and one is either on the inside – or on the outs.  And that is the popularity you are due.

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This information is sometimes best taken with a drink.  And often is.  Ha!

So.  Perhaps a better question to ask might be, “How much audience does a person need?”

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Well, here again, it can depend.  Say you’re an entertainer.  A large amount of paying audience is required, or you can’t pay your bills.  Your career ends.  Say you’re a business person.  You need a certain amount of traffic in order to move your product, or you can’t meet your overhead.  Your career ends.  Say you’re in a marriage where you need a certain amount of attention, or your partner does.  Or the marriage ends.  So here it is.  We probably all need just as much attention as is required to survive in the social net in which we swing.  We need all of the attention we want.  Which is why we want it.  And when we can stop needing attention, we’re fulfilled, and can probably feel that we have – at least the necessary  minimum – of all of the attention that we are due.  ..Whew!

But, how do we get all of the attention we want?

A Buddhist might say that the answer is simple: we decrease the amount of attention we want, until the amount we have is sufficient.  That is, if nobody acknowledges you, treat this as a blessing! and a chance to live as unrestricted and freely as you would.  Enjoy “the sun in the morning, and the moon at night”.  Focus on the joys of pet ownership.  Buy a fish, or go over the top and swim with the dolphins, if you will.

On the other hand, a Christian might say, that we are urged by the Lord to go out and proselytize of His blessings; that this is our number one reason for being.  Or as Robert Jensen has put it, “Christians serve a chatty God”.  “…a God who creates by word, redeems by an incarnate Word, whose Spirit delivers long, complicated texts to a community whose assemblies are full of words,”as Peter J. Leithart in “First Things”, puts it.  And so, a Christian must go out the door each morning and find a way to generate audience – to ‘knock the scales’ from people’s eyes!  This latter can be the tougher road taken, as the Lord’s work is never done, and people can be especially hard to button-hole.

What to do?

A lot of people take the middle road – and enjoy talking to ever so many people about the delights of life – as they walk their dog.

Popularity3

Photos from Google Images and Carl Nelson

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2 Responses to “From the Editor’s Perch…”

  1. Donn Trenton Says:

    All well and good, but it doesn’t explain Macklemore.

  2. schn00dles Says:

    Ha! 🙂 ” I can’t handle the truth.”

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