Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where did that come from?

In the past few weeks I've heard the phrase "in a minute" meaning "not in a long long time" used like 5 times from people and I had never heard it before. Where did that come from? When did it start? How did it spread? I haven't seen that in a minute. I haven't done that in a minute. All of a sudden it's everywhere.

I have to guess there is a TV show or a movie that I missed that a character used it and it spread from there. That's normally how these things start, right? Or some musician. Or other pop culture figure. They use it, everyone says, hmmm...that's kind of cool I will use it too and all of a sudden BOOM everyone is saying it like we've all been using it all along.

So weird.

Which leads us to the real thought...

Have you ever wanted to make up a phrase or a trend? Just start using a random phrase and see how long it takes to spread? Like something totally random? Years ago Big Brother did it as a side game. They had one contestant that was taking direction from viewers (bad idea, screwed his game, but fun to watch) and one of the things they did was had him start saying, "I'd do that for a dollar" at random times. It didn't really catch on, he wasn't a big enough influence in the house at the time, but on different season one player used the phrase "cool beans" just as something they said and after a week or so I was hearing it from a lot of other people. Now cool beans is somewhat common in different parts of the country, but not really big in Colorado where we were so to me it seemed pretty clear it was from the show. Interesting. I'd use that phrase for a dollar...

And I have to admit I have always found this sort of thing to be interesting. My junior year in high school I started a trend just to mess around. My friend Ginger and I were talking shit about people, as you do in high school, and how easily manipulated the masses were. Because, of course, we felt we were above such things. And we talked about how everyone looked the same, dressed the same, followed the same style and had no clue why they were doing it. She was more optimistic than I was about the nature of people while I felt that we could very easily manipulate the masses. So we made a little bet as to how long it would take to spread a trend. The trick was neither one of us was part of the big group of influencers in our school, the preps and the jocks pretty much set trend. We were not those people. But we were both floaters to a certain degree and interacted with them enough that I thought we could pull it off.

It had to be ridiculous. It had to be simple. It had to be subtle. You couldn't tell anyone that it was an experiment. You just had to wear it and see if it would take off.

So we started wearing our earrings backwards in one ear. The right one because I already had a cross and a stud sharing one hole on the left side and at the time it was VERY IMPORTANT to me that I do that, every damn day, for years I did that...anyway... So we decided to do it for a month and see if it would take off.

It took a week before we saw the first person doing it. After two weeks we declared it a success and a failure and stopped doing it. Success because it was spreading and I was right. A failure because we should have used our powers for money making somehow. There was no profit in this piece of manipulation and no credit so we were pleased with ourselves and disappointed at the same time. Ginger and I were complicated people.

And now to the big finish and moral to the story...

By doing that experiment I learned how very easy it is for even an outsider to shape opinion. To change things. Pay attention to the world around you and you will start to spot the people that are doing it on purpose. Repetition is key in forming beliefs. You will hear politicians and certain news channels, and all spin doctors repeat phrases. They will use them over and over and over again until you just stop questioning the veracity of the statement. Just because you say a thing over and over doesn't make it true. But it does make it accepted as common knowledge.

We do it with history. Paul Revere's ride, George Washington's wooden teeth, the Civil War wasn't about slavery, things that people have repeated enough that you start to believe are true. Recent things like Palin and her Death Panels, I still hear people talk about that like it was true, when it was debunked almost instantly. That's the problem with common knowledge, it's often more common than knowledge. Repetition doesn't equal fact. Someone else doing it, saying it, believing it, doesn't make it true.

Keep it in mind as you work your way through the world or you might just find one day you are wearing your earrings backwards and have no clue why.

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