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.