Some people are so desperate to be nonconformists that they devote a great deal of their time to doing exactly the opposite of whatever "the masses" are doing. This form of "nonconformity" is more like what I would call "anticonformity," because you're not really doing your own thing, you're just doing the opposite of someone else's thing. Not only is it at least as stupid as being a conformist sheep or whatever, it's actually worse in a lot of ways.
I'm going to illustrate this with a series of comics. You might be wondering why all the comics are about goths, and the answer is because they're easy to draw. I'm certainly not saying that goths are the worst anticonformists. That would be hipsters. But nobody wants to draw hipsters, they'd have to be wearing something different in every panel and then there goes your whole day.
So let these goths show you how anticonformity sucks.
Whoever you're rebelling against -- The Man, your parents, corporate America -- if they change their habits, you have to change yours. What you wear, what kind of music you listen to, has to change every time their tastes and ideas change. Everyone has a PC? You have to get a Mac. Macs becoming the hot new thing? Time to go Linux. Every time something turns "mainstream," you have to change your lifestyle. You're on their schedule, not yours.
As the brilliant lyricists Green Day once said:
The minority, regardless off what the minority (or majority) stand for. So taken to its logical extreme, if your goal is just to be a rebel, instead of an actual belief of some kind, you'd actually have to switch sides once your side wins. For instance, once upon a time, you were in the minority if you considered all races to be equal. Nowadays, that's a majority point of view in America. If you want to be a rebel and buck the majority, you are going to have to start being a racist.
The problem with doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing is that quite often everyone does something one way because it's a good idea, and sticking to your principles and doing the opposite means you are stuck with something stupid.
Some anticonformists, notably hipsters, insist on fixed-gear bicycles ("fixies") precisely because they're not used by "normal" people.
So they're stuck with a less practical and more dangerous bike that can rip their fingers off even while they're fixing it. Some of them even insist on removing the brakes from their fixies. And then adding a bunch of stuff that's about as effective as a giant spoiler is on a car.
Now, fixie fans insist that if you know what you're doing, a fixie is perfectly safe, but the person that is buying a fixie just to be different is the kind of person who looks down on people who know what they're doing on a bike.
Who admittedly can be a little hard to take seriously.
It's tough, I know, but sometimes uncool people happen to be right and there are just some times when you really should do what everyone else is doing. Like breathing.
If a bunch of you strive to be 180 degrees from something, you're all going to end up in the same spot. This wouldn't be a problem if you all just picked things you liked instead of trying to all be as different as possible from a specific target.
Take the Twilight craze for example. Now, Twilight is pretty awful. But even worse than Twilight fans were anti-Twilight obsessives. This is a group of people that would take any pretext to hold forth on why Twilight is awful, as if they were breaking the news to people who had been trapped in a cave for 20 years. Not just because they didn't like Twilight, but because they were attempting a saucy in-your-eye rebellion against some kind of monolithic Twilight-loving establishment they thought was dominating society because two or three women in their life wouldn't shut up about the series.
I admit it's grating, but they're not the whole world.
And the fascinating thing was that there were a ton of people like this, and you couldn't tell them apart, because their rants were almost identical. Here they were thinking that they were rare rebels brave enough to tell it like it is, in a way that would upset the mouth-breathing Twilight lovers they assume populate any place they go to, when they're actually part of a lockstep army of people not only stating the same opinion but even making the same jokes and fixating on the same points (Taylor Lautner sure does go shirtless a lot! Edward is actually more like a stalker! The vampires SPARKLE!).
So, again, they wind up forming a group just as monolithic as the one they hate. And that makes perfect sense as a behavior; people want to belong to groups. It's human nature, we're social animals. Blindly rejecting it just automatically enrolls you in group of other people also blindly rejecting it. The difference is they don't know they're in a group, so wind up having less self-awareness than the people in the mindless horde.
It's a rare person who actually changes anything significant about their personality straight out of anticonformity, or spite. Nobody, in an effort to avoid joining the crowd, changes their work ethic or religious beliefs -- not for more than a couple of weeks anyway. That kind of change is hard.
So if you're just trying to be different because you want to be different, you usually change your hair color or your clothes or the music you listen to. Maybe you change your hobbies from tennis to writing depressing poetry. Maybe you throw out your Barbies and start collecting newspaper articles on serial killers. Maybe you make everyone stop calling you Gordon and start calling you Ryuzaki.
Or you paint anime eyes on your eyelids.
None of that really changes much about who you are. If anything, it might give you a false sense of accomplishment that you've distanced yourself from your embarrassing past or your sordid family history or whatever you're trying to get away from.
Really changing your life takes a lot more work than that and sure isn't going to happen with a knee-jerk reaction against some cosmetic things that symbolize your past or background. You'd have to really look at your deep-seated bad habits (or even addictions, if you have them) or maybe change your career, or go into counseling to fix a relationship, or maybe even change your diet. These things aren't fun and don't give you the little rush of, say, getting a new hat nobody else has. But they'll actually make a difference.
Jeffy here on the right really loves his TMZ. He is really confused because he's changed his clothes, his hair, started listening to the "right" music, and eschewed the consumerism of corporate America. Yet he still finds himself sneaking off to Perez Hilton's website when nobody else is looking.
Now, granted, Jeffy has very poor taste. But that's who he is, and all his attempts to be "different" to try to find a distinct identity and separate himself from the mainstream have just put him in another little box of rules that still keep him from doing what he likes.
The point is that whether you're trying mainly to be like other people or trying mainly to not be like other people, either way you'll be too busy to learn how to try to be yourself.
No matter how different we are, we're all going to die one day.
When that day comes, and you're halfway down the digestive system of a bear, do you want to remember having lived your life based on what you wanted and what you thought was right, or do you want to remember a life based on either what other people told you to do, or not do? You'll be in unimaginable agony either way, but still, I like to think it matters.
For more from Christina, see 5 Reasons Women are as Shallow as Men (According to Science) and What Movies Would be Like if the Characters Didn't Make Horrible Decisions.
And stop by Linkstorm because everybody is doing it.
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