Active Uninterest

I would like to talk a bit about the phenomenon of being actively uninterested in something. I brought this up once on Twitter, but I did it sweepingly, scornfully, winefully, and “right after a bunch of people I knew had declared active uninterest in something,” which is the award-winningly cheeseheaded way to bring things up. This has left me sheepish about bringing it up again—but the thing is, it’s something I DO want to discuss, not something I want to scornfully dismiss in a Twitter post while a bit fruited.

So FIRST, a better description of what it is I want to discuss. It’s when there’s a major event people are interested in, and other people are volunteering that they find it boring and stupid. I’ll start with the example that makes me wince when I remember my own demonstration of this very behavior: there will be a major sporting event on the horizon, and people will be talking about it and Twittering about it and Facebooking about it and posting pictures of themselves in shirts and facepaint, and OTHER people will start mentioning that they themselves find the whole thing ridiculous and lame and they “don’t even know who’s playing.” (*RETRO WINCE*)

Or there will be an awards show coming up, and people will be discussing nominees and hoping certain ones do/don’t win and making plans for awards-watching parties, and OTHER people will volunteer that they think it’s stupid and lame and they don’t even know what kind of award show it is or who is nominated.

Or there will a celebrity wedding planned, and people will be talking about dresses and ceremonies and whether they might get up early to watch it on television, and other people will tell the air that they think it’s the stupidest thing to be interested about, ever, in the history of time.

I have been thinking this over, wondering specifically about MOTIVATION for such remarks. Certainly I can see that if someone were asked “Who do you like in the game?” or “Who do you think will win for Best Actress?,” someone could say politely, and with a trace of embarrassment at being asked about a topic they don’t know anything about, “Oh…I don’t really follow…those. Who do YOU think?” But the phenomenon I’m talking about here is VOLUNTEERING the information, unasked, announcement-style, often with a bit of an unpleasant tone.

The trouble with exploring this phenomenon further is that, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve done this volunteering-of-info myself. (I hope not recently—but it can feel so different in the volunteering-the-info position, I think it’s actually possible to not notice oneself doing it.) So because I’ve done it myself, I’m motivated to find a gentle spin for this behavior, but I can only think of one: that the excited discussion about something one doesn’t care about can make one feel left out. I’ve had the experience of kind of WANTING to be excited about something so I can participate in the excitement—but I’m just NOT. Declaring that NOT-ness to be the case can be a combination of (1) acting like one doesn’t MIND being left out, certainly NOT, absolutely FINE with sitting over here by myself, and (2) hoping to find others who were also quietly feeling left out, who will now speak up with relief that they’re not the only ones. (Although in that latter case, that’s kind of an icky club to start: The Cutting Down Other People’s Interests Club. I definitely see the appeal of such a club, and have belonged to many, but it doesn’t help with the charitable spin I’m looking for here.)

But that’s the best I can do, spin-wise, and it’s not a justification that works to mollify the people who are excited about something. If you haven’t had that experience, try this: Think of something you’re passionate about. Get it firmly in your mind: is it an event? a hobby? a book or movie series? a cause? Imagine discussing it happily and excitedly with other people who are passionate about it. So much fun! So interesting! Then imagine someone coming over and volunteering, unasked, that what you’re excited about is of ZERO interest to THEM, and/or that they think it’s stupid and lame and a waste of time.

SUPER annoying and hurtful, right? Like someone throwing a bucket of cold water on everyone for no reason. So unnecessary! Why would someone do such a thing? Why not just go find a group of people talking about something they ARE interested in, instead of trying to STOP a conversation about something they’re NOT interested in? Plus, sometimes the person is advertising their own ignorance as if they’re proud of it (“I don’t even know who’s playing,” “I don’t even know who’s nominated,” “I don’t even know who he’s marrying”), which makes it even more annoying and dismissive.

Which leaves us with the question still: Why DO people ACTIVELY express non-interest? What IS the motivation? And more interestingly, to me: Considering that most of us have been on the receiving end of such volunteered non-interest and know how it feels—why do so many of us nevertheless do it ourselves when it’s something WE’RE not interested in? I just spent a whole post failing to find good spin, so if you’ve got some I’d love to hear it.

52 thoughts on “Active Uninterest

  1. Bitts

    I think, especially in terms of social media, those kind of blanket active uninterested statements are a way of dismissing and deriding those who do share the interest, without alienating specific individuals. Like, maybe someone would not go around to each fb friend’s wall to post “your hobby is dumb” but they cover all those bases by making a generalized statement that can be defended by saying, “why, of course I wasn’t talking about YOU! You are the exception to my broadly-applied rule!”

    Also, I thnk it’s a demonstration of some kind of superiority … Like, only unlettered plebeians like the Twillight books, or only shallow materialists follow the royal family. And maybe some commentary about popular culture (and how far it has degraded) while deliberately trying NOT to offend specific individuals who share whatever interest is being dismissed.

    No positive spin yet. Sorry! By the way, I’m a shallow materialist, according to my own definition. ;)

  2. Suzanne

    I don’t even know why bloggers bother to post about stupid things like active disinterest. I couldn’t care less.

    I suspect your reasoning is dead on – I know when I have announced things like “Confession: I have no idea who is even nominated!” it is because I am hoping to find other people who are ALSO not interested so we can talk about something else. But there have also been times where I have not cared about a specific event happening and seen lots of active disinterest about it but still feel icky about participating.

    I think people often forget they do it. I once said something on Twitter like “Quick! Tell me something you really love so I can talk about how stupid it is!” and got tons of responses from people saying “Yes! Why do people do that?!”…who happened to be some of the very same people who HAD been doing it. It’s like how I conveniently forget I often forget to bring in the trash cans while I loudly complain the neighbor’s trash cans are still out.

  3. G

    Ridiculous optimist here. Therefore….I think it really does come down to wanting to be included.

    Whatever the “conversation” is, the dis-interested person–on some level–wants to contribute to it. But they really don’t care about the actual topic, so all they CAN say is that they don’t care, which they then have to justify.

    It think it happens less often in real-life, face-to-face conversations, than on-line. When it seems like EVERYBODY on twitter/facebook/messageboards/blogs/whatever-it-is-you-read is talking about THAT THING, then the dis-interested person is shut out of their favorite on-line form of chit-chat. They wouldn’t be shut out like that at a social event, because they’d be more likely to be able to find a conversation about something else, or at least to give your described polite contribution and have that change the subject.

    Advertising one’s own ignorance is a pet peeve of mine, though, so when people do this, I want to roll my eyes so far back in my head they may never come out. (For example, I was a math major, so it drives me nuts when people laugh about how they “can’t even balance my checkbook!” Because the lack of a basic elementary school math skill called subtraction is funny?)

  4. Alyson

    In my head I do this all the time. Like the average Joe who takes all of his family’s meager excess dollars to take himself to the superbowl every year to watch a bunch of ridiculously overpaid men (who don’t care whether he lives or dies or whatever) run around thereby perpetuating the cycle of the superbowl! But I don’t do it out loud as much because it’s silly. I’ll do it if asked or I’ll write something like: “Knitting through the Oscars, haven’t seen any movies this year” on facebook.

    I think a bunch of it stems from the fact that on certain days I can go on facebook and be drowned in Jersey Shore or the Superbowl or the Oscars and the people just SCREAMING that they don’t care. do you notice it’s worse since the dawning of the Age of Facebook? but I think a lot stems from our innate snark. The one that will say, “can you believe she’s wearing THAT?”

    I don’t know if it makes sense…it did in my head.

  5. Slim

    The worst part of this is that I see my kids doing this sort of thing — an older kid mocking a younger kid’s enthusiasm — and it is totally heartbreaking.

    So I have no better idea why people do it. I can see the wisdom of your theories, but I don’t know why people don’t stop to realize that the attempt to make themselves feel better by making others feel small is so very mean, and thus doomed to failure (but still mean, even if not doomed).

    PS I get the urge to post Health at Every Size stuff when I see people talking about their weight loss efforts, and even then, when I am objectively right, I know it is also obnoxious. But the urge is there.

  6. d e v a n

    Oh dear, I’m sure I’ve done this before. I hadn’t even realized how annoying it was. Urgh.
    In my own case, sometimes when everyone is posting about something I really don’t know about or watch (award shows, for one) I mostly don’t say anything but sometimes I say something that shows active disinterest. I guess I’m hoping there are others like me? I hadn’t really thought about it…

  7. Slauditory

    I agree with you SO MUCH. I can’t stand when people are all, “eh, X event is stupid and ridiculous, and so are those who like it!” It happens a lot in New Orleans, as we have so. Many. Events. I’m like, “If you don’t like it…move! Or just don’t say anything, Debbie/Dudley Downer.” I know I must have done this before, but not as much as some of my FB friends have!

  8. the Joneses

    I hadn’t actually thought about this in depth. :) I’ve stopped myself from doing the same thing recently, but I used to do it ALL THE TIME.

    A good spin, huh? How about this: we’ve all bee raised on sitcoms, where everybody’s jazzed about whatever the big event it, and one character comes in and says, “Great! Um, who’s getting married again?” gets a huge laugh (from the laugh track).

    So maybe sometimes, somebody’s just trying to be funny.

  9. Life of a Doctor's Wife

    I love this exercise, because I have definitely been the jerkface in this situation… and it’s interesting to come up with a motivation.

    I think you hit the nail on the head about the inclusion issue. But I also wonder if there’s a sub-issue at play? A feeling of OBLIGATION at joining in the conversation, and EMBARRASSMENT at not being able to offer a reasonable contribution?

    Of course, there are times when the tone is clearly derisive rather than self-effacing. But sometimes, I think the “I don’t even know who’s playing!” is a little plaintive. An admission of guilt.

    The reason I think this may be the case is because of G’s comment above. I have DEFINITELY been in situations where someone was discussing something I have no expertise in – like math – and instead of keeping my mouth shut, out of some internal pressure I would say, “Ugh! I am terrible at math!” Which is embarrassing, to me, and always has been. But I think putting it out there feels like I’m not trying to hide it. Or that, once I put that failing out there, others will pipe up with the same thing and (temporarily) soothe my years-in-the-making feeling of inadequacy. Likewise, I think people may feel like they might as well admit that they CAN’T join in the conversation, straight up, rather than sitting on the sidelines, feeling a)excluded and b) hotly aware of their inability to contribute.

    Okay that is a WEAK spin, if it makes sense at all. And it doesn’t apply in 100% of the cases of active uninterest. But there you go.

  10. MomQueenBee

    Here’s how I feel when I’ve done that (and yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve done it): “Your club is stupid. I hate your club. And you didn’t even invite me to be in it.” I know it is my own darned fault that I just can’t stomach the whatever-fun-thing-everyone-else-is-talking-about but it still leaves a left-out feeling, and I will proactively leave myself out. So there. Now I feel better.

  11. Beylit

    I think it is partially feeling left out and partially being ridiculously annoyed that that is all you are hearing about for days on end. There comes a point when you feel that if you see one more post about the Rangers game you will kick a kitten and therefore feel the need to remind the general public that there zealous proclamations over the event is becoming tiresome.

    Not that I ever feel that way…often.

    Seriously though, especially in social media, when there is a thing like a professional sporting event (and living in Dallas I have 4 professional sports teams to hear about, and I don’t give a fig about a one of them), or an award ceremony, or really anything, that the majority of your friends are talking about non stop for days on end, it gets annoying. Personally I am really good at hiding peoples posts and keeping my mouth shut because I don’t want to be a kill joy. I also have been known to gush over things myself so who am I to stop their constant posts about football? If someone directly asks me about it I am not always the best about hiding my frustration for hearing it over and over again, but I try to be polite and just say I neither know nor care about what they are talking about.

    Really in the end though it is always just more polite and usually easier to walk away and start a new discussion with someone else.

  12. missris

    Hmm yes, I know of this phenomenon and am probably guilty of it myself on several occasions. I think that when it comes to me, especially with regards to sporting events (I have a sporting events learning disability, I think, and will never understand how they work or which player is supposed to do what), I’m trying to find other like-minded people who have no idea what’s going on. I always secretly hope that we can just have our own conversation on something I actually have a clue about.

  13. M.Amanda

    I am guilty of this regarding Facebook, which seemed to be The Thing To Do for a while (or still?) and when I tried it… nothing. I didn’t get the appeal, didn’t “connect” with anyone I wanted to connect with, didn’t have fun, and didn’t get why nobody else was freaking out about all the security issues mentioned in the press. I was very proud of myself for recognizing this wasn’t for me and bowing out rather than forcing myself to participate in order to not be out of the loop. And more than once I obnoxiously declared my pride in living a Facebook-free life. *cringe*

    Perhaps it has to do with that same self-consciousness where you suspect your outfit doesn’t really match at all and nobody notices or cares, but you feel like they are all judging you, so you say, “Hey, look at this quirky outfit I chose today. I’m such a risk-taking fashionista.” And you feel like the issue can be laid to rest, but everyone else is all, “Wuh? Is she high?”

    Then there is the hipster attitude, which I’ve been happy to see openly mocked on the internet. “You sheeple are sooo boring. I’m too cool/smart to be interested in such silly things.” Most of us have been THERE, just not very often since our teen years.

  14. nicole

    I appreciate the idea that someone might say such a thing in an effort to find others who feel the same way. I just wish they weren’t so often rude about it. I don’t mind someone saying/posting something like “Sports aren’t really my thing. So I’ll talk about books if you’d like to join in.” That is friendly and an effort to start another conversation. I hate the holier than thou, I’m smarter/more cultured/deeper than you kind of statements that indicate anyone who cares about sports/awards shows/pop culture is lame and dumb.

    So, I think some people absolutely do it to show some smug superiority, while others really just want to start a new conversation. Which they could do by just starting it without actually referring to whatever else is being talked about.

  15. Jen

    I really think this is a social media phenomenon, the result of being sort of disconnected from actual people. For example, if on Twitter everyone is going on and on about something, it’s very easy to tweet a snarky comment of dislike. But could you imagine saying it to someone’s face?

    Think of a friend saying “I loved the most recent Twilight movie”. Polite response in person would be to say “I haven’t seen that yet”. I think only on social media are people brave enough to say “Ugh, why are people so interested in such trifle as the most recent Twilight movie.” Your friend might not see your post/tweet or the comment made her feel so dumb or hurt, she’s definitely not going to mention it to you.

    I really think it’s not being able to see someone’s reaction to what’s being said that makes people brave enough to espouse such things. I’m certain I am guilty of this too…I think we all are.

  16. Marie Green

    I think social media is especially prone to this because you show up, wanting to see what everyone is up to, just like any other day, and then it’s post after post after POST (or tweet) of the same thing. I think especially in the case of someone live-tweeting a game with vague tweets (Oh damn! I knew we couldn’t count on Joe!), tweets that are almost MEANT to make a large number of people feel left out… I don’t know. And all I want to do is have conversations as normal, but there’s no conversations happening, except on The Topic. It’s just a weird situation all the way around.

    Usually when I’ve posted things like this, it’s because *I* feel so lame for not knowing what’s going on. However, scornful tones are contagious, so perhaps these types of active uninterest comments BECOME more scornful on accident, without the author realizing his/her tone? I’m pretty sure I don’t usually FEEL scorn when I type these, but I bet I take on the tone of others sometimes.

    Interesting topic…

  17. Swistle

    Beylit- AH! Yes, good point! Like an attempt to remind people that they’re leaving other people out—the way someone will if a group at the Thanksgiving table is talking on and on about the game.

  18. Therese

    This is a great post and conversation. Like you and other commentors I have been on both sides of this situation (not proud when I’ve been on the other side but it’s true) and my thinking is that in general (there are always exceptions) people who do this are expressing some level of smug superiority. Now, there is most often a deeper underlying reasoning behind that –whether the individual acknowledges it or not– (i.e., they feel left out and it’s a protection mechanism, a passive agressive way to find other like-minded people, just being rude…) but in the end it turns into smugness. Again, I say all of this knowing that I have been that “smug” person before and I am not proud of that. I can looke back in hindsight and say I most often did it as way of covering up for feeling a bit left out but there were also times that I really did think I’m “above” whatever the situation was and wanted to put my 2 cents in. Again, not saying I’m proud of this but it has happened and I think pointing things out like this and having this type of “safe” discussion about it allows for better self-awareness and hopefully change. I think it’s also helpful because it helps me be more mindful and possibly understanding when others do this behavior and then maybe not “take the bait” so to speak. Maybe by the time I’m dead, I’ll get it right! :)

  19. Jessica

    I think there’s often a fair bit of narcissism involved when someone does that. For instance, if everyone is talking about something on facebook, twitter, etc, then someone (let’s call her Susan) shows up and says “Wait, guys, I don’t LIKE that thing and I don’t even know who’s playing/nominated!” she seems to think/hope everyone else will think (non-ironically) “OH, Susan doesn’t like football! OF COURSE, we’ll talk about something else now. We can’t have her left out!”

    It goes beyond trying to find others also left out to talk about something else – the person wants everyone to talk about something else. Susan isn’t necessarily saying an interest in football is stupid, just that everyone should talk about football when she’s not around. Because when she IS around, clearly, the conversation should revolve around her interests.

    (And I’ve done this too. A sort of dismayed “Oh, we’re talking about THAT today? But I don’t know anything about that. Isn’t there anything else we could talk about?” (*RETRO WINCE*))

  20. Sarah

    Wow, this is fascinating! And the timing is incredible. We’re having a bit of a football program meltdown in Arkansas and my Facebook feed is filled with people talking about it and then one girl has to chime in about how there are “sooo many other important things in the world.” No shit girlfriend, but this is the topic du jour. I took it as she wanted to be included, but since she doesn’t care about football or the school, this was her only way of interjecting – like when adults are speaking and a child is screaming and pestering his mom, “Hey everybody, LOOK AT MEEEE. Put the attention BACK ON MEEEEE!”

    So I guess I’m saying it’s about feeling left-out paired with feeling superior: “You stupid peons who care about football! I care nothing about football. I’m smart and cultured, but hey, it’s lonely out here in Superiorville!!”

  21. Shelly

    Ah…yeah, I feel compelled to confess that I did this IN PERSON just this past Friday. Some people from my book club were meeting to watch the Hunger Games movie and one lady mentioned how she had gotten sucked in to the Twilight books and movies and really liked them. And then, a few minutes later, I had to snottily point out that the Hunger Games books are “SO MUCH BETTER” than the Twilight books. WHY? I don’t know. To show that I’m a book snob? By distinguishing between YA book series? How lame. I realized (uh, AFTER I said it), how it sounded, but I didn’t know how to make it better, so I left it alone. Cringe, cringe, cringe.

  22. Kim

    I have a friend (from the blogosphere, but a friend all the same) who makes it a POINT to be the annoying, go against whatever the topic is, naysayer on many of my fb updates. I know it shouldn’t bother me and she does it to other people as well, but I often wonder why she gets such a kick out of it. With her, I think it goes beyond trying to look cool or be different but maybe is a defense mechanism of some kind. Or maybe she’s just an asshole.

  23. Nik-Nak

    I do do this. Mainly when I’m at work and a group of people are all outside smoking and the conversation turns to a big event or something that I don’t want to spend my seven minute break talking about. Usually its done in an effort to turn the conversation to a group friendly topic. It usually works too.

  24. Josefina

    My thoughts are pretty much the same as G’s. I feel that I understand and sympathize with those who are, for a time, left out. How many of us have plopped down to relax in front of Facebook or Twitter or what-have-you, having just changed into the comfiest clothes and grabbed the comfiest of food, only to find the screen covered in passionate discussion of something that really bores us? So disappointing. I think that may be what sometimes adds the air of bitterness to the active disinterest.

  25. Lawyerish

    I would like to think that when I’ve done this, as I am sure I have even though I TRY not to, it has been a matter of wanting to find others who are left out of the main conversation — I like the Thanksgiving table analogy, because at in-person events it CAN be isolating to have everyone talking about one thing that you’re not interested/involved in.

    However. It seems to me that the TONE that SOME people have when they say these sorts of things (I am thinking largely of a few people I am social-media friends with (it is NO ONE HERE, I promise) who do this at EVERY SINGLE OPPORTUNITY, whenever ANYTHING is going on in the popular consciousness) is one of derision and superiority. The tone conveyed is that they only like OBSCURE things and that things that become popular are silly and frivolous and anti-intellectual, and they are SO sophisticated that nothing so plebeian as the Twilight or Harry Potter series, or God forbid sports, could capture their interest.

  26. Kate

    Well, this is a timely post! I was just thinking about this issue. I have been on both sides of it, but lately I find myself actively trying to avoid making the big declarations of uninterest because I realize how smug it always sounds. I think in the past, when I’ve said these things, it was probably a passing irritation at not feeling included.

    Lately though, I have this one friend who is rather aggressive about it. Instead of making the generalized statement of ignorance/uninterest, he will actually @reply people and directly criticize whatever the thing is they are discussing. He will just insert himself into a conversation about running, or Buffy, or pinterest, or pie, or whatever, just to deride everyone else’s interest in the topic.

    It’s become so bad it’s now a subject of discussion for the rest of us: “Why is he always starting these Twitter fights? What is he going to deride or dismiss next?” Once someone asked him about it and he said both that he thought we shouldn’t “bore” him with the constant updates about whatever the topic was (so, out of consideration for him, we should shut up about it), and that starting “debates” was his “fun” way of communicating and we should all get over it. I now just maintain my active lack of interest in his twitter stream by never replying to him at all. Sigh.

  27. Anonymous

    Oh Swistle. I’m at work and shouldn’t be farting about on theinternet anyway so I haven’t read the comments, but I have to shime in because this is something I am ACTIVELY INTERESTED in.

    I HATE this behavior so much. I feel like because I have OFETEN beem on the receiving end, I am extra sensitive to not ever participating in it. (I will say that you are always well spoken, so I’m sure if/when you did this, it wasn’t as bad as you think) Specific examples of this surround such things as Twilight movies and anticipated book releases and such. I have been known to wait in long lines or dress up or whatever, and have been told many times, all dismissively how lame and dilly getting excited about something like that is.

    I just think it is SO MEAN. Like you said, why bother? Why do some people feel the need to piss on the harmless pursuits of others?

    Thank you for addressing this!


  28. Anonymous

    I think there’s a difference between disparaging a hyped-beyond-reason pop culture event (the Superbowl, the People’s Choice Awards, a movie release) and someone’s actual hobby (knitting, model trains, running). I don’t begrudge football players or actors their careers or their paychecks, but neither can I consider taking their work seriously a good use of my time–much less following their personal lives. You certainly may if you’d like to, but it’s only a good topic of conversation among people who already have an interest in it.
    But unlike some of the offenders mentioned, I will at least bring up a different topic (the weather if need be) rather than suffer through the conversation in person, or hide the story on FB, or just log off Twitter.

  29. Jess

    I always take this as a dig. I think the declaration of uninterested is really saying: I am better/smarter/cooler than all of those people who like/follow/read about that silly wedding/game/gossip/hobby.

  30. Ann Wyse

    Ah, Swistle – this is really a great topic. And I’ve definitely been on both sides!

    Two quick thoughts:
    1) I think when somebody is talking about something enthusiastically, it’s human nature to want to respond to it enthusiastically. Whether you agree or not. (That’s the best I can do for positive spin.)

    2) When I was living in Germany and struggling with a lot of what I thought were cultural differences, I read a book about how to get along with Brits. It said that Brits like to argue simply for the sake of an argument, not necessarily to win. This was revolutionary thinking to me. Arguing for the pure sake of arguing?!? Not to win?!? Just to argue?!? (Would we be less offended by these types of active statements of disinterest if we presumed it wasn’t about being right or wrong?) Anyway, something to think about.

  31. Elizabeth

    I think in some instances, it’s the person wanting to say how cool they are that they don’t care about ________. I am reminded of the Missoni freak out at Target. I had SO much fun going and freaking out over the Target stuff! I made a special date with my neighbor and got a bunch of cute stuff for Katie, and it was so fun to see everyone else excited about it. Then everyone started in with how it was so ugly and stupid and poorly made and it felt so WEIRD that people needed to deride this thing that I thought was fun and just…not a big deal! But in that case I think it was a way of saying “look how great I am, I am way cooler than this pedestrian thing everyone else is doing.”

    In other cases (and this one often happens to me) I think it might be that the person is vaguely interested in something (say the Oscars) and doesn’t really have the time, currently, to pursue that interest. So then you hear ALL ABOUT IT all over the place and at some point you wish you had time to get really into it too, and instead just say “OH MY GOD NO MORE OSCARS TALK ON TWITTER!”. The sports thing, I don’t know. I wish I could explain it. It’s so weird to me that other people are SO INTO something that I just COULD NOT care less about that sometimes it seems like they must be pretending! But I guess generally I just ignore the tweets about football or whatever, mostly because it’s boring to me. And lord knows, boredom is one of the hardest things to forgive.
    Did any of this make sense? I feel like maybe I am also trying to justify this WEIRD behavior because I know I do it! I think sometimes it’s just SO MUCH hearing about something I am not doing.

  32. Lyndsey

    I have done it, although not recently. And I make a habit of NOT doing it now. Because for me, at least, it was not out of feeling left out but rather out of annoyance. Because it can be super annoying to be overwhelmed with the same information again and again and again on cnn and twitter and Facebook and on tv and etc etc etc. And so sometimes my frustration would get the best of me and I’d say something rude like: Overwhelmed today with talk of the Royal Wedding. could. not. care. less.

    But obviously that’s rude and unnecessary… so now I just do my best to ignore the obsessions of others that I find obnoxious.

  33. LizScott

    It is self defense for me, in a way. If/When everyone is going on and on about something I can’t speak to, I feel left out. I hate feeling left out (youngest sibling FTW!), so I tend to overplay it — you can’t leave me out of this conversation because I’ve already chosen not to participate, SO THERE!

    (I’m not suggesting this makes it a GOOD thing. Just that it’s more internally judgemental than external, if that makes any sense)

  34. Anne

    I work SO hard not to do this….and had it done to me the other day. Telling a cute story about my oldest daughter, and my SISTER (her AUNT) butted in during the middle of the story (seriously, I was actually in the middle of a sentence) to say “this story sucks, Anne” with a snicker. I cried. It was hard to come back from it, and I TOTALLY felt I had a bucket of cold water dumped on me. Suffer through the boring story, keep your uninterest to yourself, or tell a likewise uninterested friend about it later. Be POLITE, people!!

  35. Swistle

    Anonymous 11:58- I think it would be hard to make that distinction, between what’s “an actual hobby” and what’s not—at least as far as “whether it’s okay to disparage it or not” or “whether it makes a good topic of conversation whether people are interested or not” are concerned.

  36. jen(melty)

    I do it too because I’m a closet hipster and it annoys me when something is so popular that it’s ALL ANYONE IS TALKING ABOUT but I stopped it as much because I know it’s annoying. But I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors when you say “I don’t even know who’s playing lololol!!!” I think when I was younger and uptight I used to just hate whatever was popular on principle alone, but now I just go with the crowd no matter how stupid it is… because this is how people socialize and have fun. Don’t blame me, blame my sociopath parents. But there are some things that I find really annoying that are popular and I can’t stand it. Like everyone thinks sloths are cute.. and they are one of the few animals I’d run over repeatedly with my car because they aren’t cute they are kind of really really disturbing! Though I really really enjoyed that Kristen Bell/Ellen video.

  37. Nicole

    The motivation is to feel superior.

    I had something similar happen to me at the grocery store of all places. I was buying strawberries. They were on sale. I had four packages in my cart. A woman I know came up to say hi. Conversation lagged, and I lamely said what a great price the strawberries were. The woman said “Oh. I only buy organic. I NEVER buy that…stuff.” Now. Great if you only buy organic. Great if you never buy that stuff. BUT STILL WE ARE IN A SOCIETY. The polite thing, what I would have done, is said “That IS a great price. Well, I better get on with my shopping! See you!”

    People just need something to feel superior about, I think. And often that comes from thinking such-and-such event is just too bourgeois for my taste. Just a little too PEDESTRIAN, you know.

  38. Bibliomama

    You are SO good at pinpointing these things. A blogger/tweeter I follow specifically because I often disagree with her (she does her research, she’s passionate, and I’m trying not to lock myself away in a filter bubble), tweeted, a propos of NOTHING, to NO ONE “I have never read The Hunger Games or Twilight (and something else I can’t remember). And I’m okay with that.” I tweeted back “what’s your point? Should I feel shallower than you because I consume popular culture?” and she tweeted back “Not at all. I watch Desperate Housewives.” So what was her point? I understand being irritated by hype, but I don’t understand insisting something is crap simply because it’s overly hyped – if you want to denigrate it, read it first. Or shut up about it.

  39. Maureen

    I look at this as a deeper problem with our society. Suddenly we are all supposed to think alike, and agree on everything. What ever happened to polite and respectful disagreement? We all don’t think the same, and that is actually a GOOD thing, you know? So, people who dump on others who are excited or enthusiastic about something, it is just plain mean. Why not a pleasant, “oh, I don’t follow that?” or even ask what it is about the subject that they enjoy so much. I am also going to say this-listening is becoming a lost art. Even if you aren’t interested in the subject, you can still contribute to the conversation.

    Anne’s comment about her sister saying her story “sucked”, that about made me cry. What a rude thing to do, I hope you called her on it.

  40. bluedaisy

    I am SO guilty of this whenever I see/hear a discussion of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”–I don’t watch either show b/c they drive me nuts! But I never thought about that type of comment as disparaging to those who watch/discuss either of those shows. But it really IS! This will make me think twice next time, for reals!
    (Also, I have my own guilty pleasure type of shows, so it’s not like I’m above it…I just don’t think those particular shows)

    Having been on the receiving end of those comments, I don’t think they bother me much on things like FB. But that story about the sister saying a story sucked, yeah that one would have burned :(

    One last thought- I think it’s equally mean to make fun of someone because they HAVEN’T embraced a pop culture item. Like if someone asks me,
    “Hey have you read/watched/followed ______?” and I say “No” or “Not yet” and then I get the “oh, you’re missing out!” That kind of comment irritates me.

  41. Joanne

    When I do it, and I’ve done it, and this is just me, I’m being a dick because I’m kind of jealous, in a way. I’m thinking specifically about a certain wedding in a certain country with a certain young prince and his good looking bride. I had friends who were very into it and I wasn’t, but also I couldn’t get up early because my frickety fracken kids never sleep and I was just jealous and mad that others had the kind of time to devote to some WEDDING when I am knee deep in diapers and sleeplessness and doubt. But that’s just me. For me, when I am being a dick like that, it has WAY more to do with ME than with THEM. I try NOT to be, mind you, because I am blessed to know people on the internet who point out that it’s kind of bad behavior. But in my heart I am still being a jerk.

  42. Elizabeth

    Swistle, you are such a thoughtful person. I wish we could be friends!

    I have noticed lately that it seems cool to not care and sort of silly to care. This seems particularly true in the mothering arena — anecdotally, it seems that mothers revel in telling each other how little they care and making fun of those who put forth great effort. Maybe those expressing active disinterest are just using ther natural apathy as a currency.

  43. goingloopy

    I don’t do much of this, mostly because I don’t have all that much time to devote to social media. In person, I do tend to express my boredom and/or annoyance with sporting events, but this is because my domestic partner has this bad habit of turning both tv’s onto sports (LOUDLY) and then watching different sports at his computer with his headphones on. Also because every time we get in the car, it’s on sports radio, and it’s all people yelling at each other even though they mostly AGREE.

    But I do think the motivation for the active disinterest is about being left out. Since a lot of people’s social interaction comes from FB and Twitter, it does sometimes feel like you’re the one standing at the cafeteria door holding your tray and realizing that you don’t have anywhere to sit because your friends are mad at you and everyone else thinks you’re a loser.

    I sometimes wonder if we ever really leave junior high.

  44. Frondly

    Aaaaaaa! You totally caught me!

    I have a Problem Area: Sports On TV

    I bet my sister can back me up on this. When I express my total uninterest in most sports on TV, I am taking out years of frustration at my dad and brother on everybody else.

    The taking over of the television for HOURS AND HOURS AT A TIME! The yelling when a family member crosses in front of the TV to get to the bathroom! The monopolizing of the most central and comfortable room of the house, and not just for a one-day event, or for a one-hour weekly event, but ALL DAY EVERY SUNDAY! The relentless, incessant sounds of football games and sportscasters!

    So happy I married someone who shares my uninterest.

    The things is, I got into the Red Sox for a while this one year. I went to some games, I learned the names of some players. And it was totally fun.

    Well. This has been a good reminder to not bag on other people’s interests.

    Oooh, but I have to say this: I have a friend who was really into a sports team, and when the team lost, he was a JERK. He would come out for drinks and just be grouchy and dismal and short with everyone because his team had lost. I think that kind of behavior encourages us to make fun of . . . sports on TV.

  45. jive turkey

    Man, does social media ever turn people into total asshats sometimes.

    I know I was definitely guilty of this back around the royal wedding, and now I feel like a jerk. Like, who am I to decide what people want to talk about on their PERSONAL TWITTER ACCOUNTS OR FACEBOOK WALLS?! If I don’t like, it I can go read something else, seriously.

    I appreciate trying to find a positive spin on it (and maybe for some people it really is coming from a place of feeling sad and left out), but I think it’s a clear-cut case of “It’s the Internet so I can get away with behavior that I’d never attempt in real life.”

  46. Sam

    I don’t know how often I voice it, but I’m not into Facebook. I use it a little bit but meh. What I want to say to MANY MANY people is to walk away from it. Because all the “OMG FACEBOOK DRAMAZ” makes me crazy. SO NUTS AHAHHHHHHAAAHHH. Why do people complain so much about something that makes them miserable? WHY!!!??? Which probably has nothing to do with your post because the muscle relaxers have kicked in an now I’m just bitching about something many people love. *sigh*

  47. CARRIE

    Totally guilty of this on Facebook over March Madness basketball–for all I know, you could be referring to my string of active disinterest posts.

    I do it for a couple reasons:

    1. It really sticks in my craw that people blather on endlessly about basketball and that is ok on FB, but when other people do the same thing about politics (as they do during an election year), these same folks make comments like, “Politics should not be discussed on FB since it is for fun and social shits & giggles.” Why is it ok to discuss sports but not politics? In my state, basketball is about as divisive.

    2. The nonstop basketball posts are just endless, and it doesn’t stop for the whole month of March. Like nothing else is going on in the world or their lives. And so if it is perfectly ok for them to go on and on about basketball, I feel it is perfectly ok for me to go on and on about how I don’t understand basketball. Why should I regulate what I want to say on FB when they aren’t regulating what they say and how often?

    3. I’m just sort of an ass sometimes.

  48. Elle

    I just spent 30 minutes searching all my saved blog archives (and honestly, googling phrases like, “when did it become cool to be negative about what other people are excited about,”) because I KNEW someone wrote this post and it feels SO APPROPRIATE to re-read it with satisfied vindication on this day of “It’s a boy!” followed depressingly by “Didn’t we fight a war so we didn’t have to care?” Harumph. Anyway, thanks for articulating this, Swistle.

  49. Cayt

    I think for me, it can be an expression of frustration that coverage of one particular event is inescapable. Whether that’s the Oscars, a big sports event, a celebrity wedding, whatever, not being able to engage in social media without opting into coverage of this one event I don’t care for is really frustrating. And if I tweet my frustration/lack of interest, it’s in no way aimed at people who are interested, though I can see that it would feel like that to those people. Like everything else on twitter, it’s just expressing thoughts, not actively trying to rain on someone’s parade.

  50. Carrie

    Oh yes, I’ve been guilty of this, but I’ve gotten better. MY reasons:

    1) Superiority–sort of. If I was not interested in something everyone else is going on about, and I say so, it was usually to let everyone else know that OBVIOUSLY I am interested in other, BETTER, more important things! Usually it was just a cry out to change the subject so that I could actually take part in the conversation.

    2) I am mostly culturally illiterate these days. It all started after I had babies and couldn’t STAND to watch the news anymore because of all the DEATH and SADNESS and my poor widdle mother’s heart just couldn’t bear it. I also read way too much and most days don’t even turn on the TV. And since I’ve been unemployed, I haven’t even had the luxury of office gossip to at least keep me on the fringes. Now I’m ignorant of most of what is going on. If I say “I don’t even know who’s nominated!” it’s my embarrassment that I’m completely out of the loop–and yet do NOT make ANY effort to put myself back in the loop! Cover up the embarrassment by telling the truth (but, hopefully NOT in a snarky way?).

    Interestingly, social media has helped me grow out of this as now I see the asshats and do not want to be like them, so if I’m uninterested I just DON’T COMMENT. (Er, I HOPE so.)

  51. Joyce

    I’ll give you one more nice spin on this. It doesn’t apply to the Internet though.
    I am an introvert with a little social anxiety. The bigger the group of people talking, the harder it is for me to join the group. Sometimes I’ve left an event having not said one word. For real, people. And by the time I have something to say, the current of conversation has moved on, and it’s too late.
    When the only topics of conversation are things I have no interest in, I’ll be there for another hour or 2, and there’s no other group to join, expressions of disinterest are my last chance. It’s much nicer to even have a small argument or debate than blend in with the wallpaper.

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