With so much talk and advertisement – mainly aimed at us young folk – to “be ourselves”, to not be afraid to “be different” and “stand out from the crowd”, it’s a wonder that there’s any social clubs or societies left, because god forbid we have the same interest as someone else! We are encouraged to pursue what we enjoy, not matter what that is or what people think about it. Don’t just do what’s “cool”; dare to be different. An encouraging message, no doubt, but what happens if the thing you are so passionate about, happens to be something that is popular, trendy and “cool”?
This strive for diversity among young people today has itself almost become a trend- the very thing it was created to avoid. So much emphasis is put on finding and following your passion, whatever that may be. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of what other people may think. Do not, as sang harmoniously in the first High School Musical film, stick to the status quo. Countless films and books have thrived off this shift of dynamic of the youth, allowing them to take a fresh take on growing up. We all know the stories: young girl wants to do X hobby that is frowned upon by peers, overcomes an obstacle and subsequently finds the strength to pursue said hobby. And to that I say, good for her! There is absolutely nothing wrong with being brave and standing up for what you believe in. But it’s also equally okay to enjoy the same activity as many others. What is wrong with being alike, and enjoying the things other people do?
Repetition is natural to humans; we take comfort in it. Why do we like Fairy Tales so much? Besides the Prince Charming storyline and the envious fluffy friendships the Princess possesses, the generic plot line and structure create a sense of safety and habit for us. We become used to the “happily ever after”, which follows the “once upon a time”. There is security in repetition. It is natural for us to follow example and copy what others do. Such is how trends are created, and industries like the film, beauty and fashion survive.
But for some reason, uniformity and following trends have, in recent times, been shunted to the back in order to welcome a new way of living – a new, diverse, different way. We need to express ourselves, to stand out. Following the norm is not enough anymore. We need to find that something special within us that sets us apart from the crowd, and flaunt it.
But there is nothing with being like everyone else. Scrolling through Instagram, looking at the countless people who are living and embracing with their differences – their hair, what they study, where they live, what they wear, their political beliefs, the food they eat – can be overwhelming. The pressure that was once felt to conform, has evolved and become the pressure to be different. If you aren’t, you are normal. Bland. Just like everyone else. Mainstream.
Yet since when did being mainstream conjure up such negative connotations? “Oh my god, you’re so mainstream” cuts to the core, doesn’t it? We are ordered to express ourselves. But what if, in order to express myself, I want to learn to cook just like Jamie Oliver? What if I want to listen to chart music? What if I want to start a blog, just like thousands all over the world, because I love to write?
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I am not especially different. I don’t instantly stand out from the crowd. I have my quirks, but I also enjoy doing things that many others do too. I was afraid to start a blog; afraid that people would roll their eyes and think, “here’s another one”. Well they’re right. Here’s another one! There’s nothing wrong with joining in with a trend, if that is what you enjoy.
Just as diversity is sought after and encouraged, we should also let uniformity share the spotlight. There is nothing wrong with being different, or being similar. If you’re not like other people, then you must be different from them. Which is what they want, after all.
Clodgah is an English and French teacher, currently studying in Nantes, and a member of our Youth Council.