How to Widen Your Scope and Surprise Yourself: Stop Tailor-Making Everything
You can personalize everything these days: music, TV programs, films, ringtones, news stories… You need never read a word, see an image or hear a sound that you are not interested in or entertained by. You need never waste a drop of your precious time on anything outside your own bespoke bubble of chosen distractions.
But is that necessarily a good thing? To only be exposed to what you like?
“Only giving people what they like is short sighted.”
I’m of the generation brought up in the UK with only three tv channels and limited radio programmes ( like Pick of the Pops and Two Way Family Favourites!). No internet. No 24-hour rolling news. No playlists. What that meant was that in order to get to the ‘good’ bits, you had to be exposed to the stuff that you did not necessarily like.
That did two things. It made you even happier to hear your favourite song when you had waited a long time for it — something like appreciating the sunshine more because of the rain if you know what I mean — and it exposed you to a variety of material that you would not have come across by choice.
And it turned out that occasionally I liked the rain because it provided necessary contrast to the sun.
Some of that material I had to endure would never be of interest (nothing could persuade me to like brass bands or Highland dancing), but other things lingered and developed into a curiosity and then a genuine love. Baroque music when I was waiting to hear The Bee Gees, for example.
Only giving people what they like is short sighted. It doesn’t allow for changes of taste or the possibility of persuasion, the chance spark of curiosity that could ignite a passion of interest. It is narrow and inward looking. It stifles imagination and weakens willpower.
So I am telling you to ditch the personalized playlists and preferred channels. Expose yourself to stuff you don’t think you like. Stretch your boundaries. Watch a David Attenborough documentary when you really want to binge on Harry Potter. Listen to Philip Glass instead of Adele. Go to the exhibition of tiny automatons with your nerdy friend instead of shopping at the mall.
You might hate everything. Or you might not.
At best you will uncover a new passion or make some exciting connections. At worst you’ve added to your experience and can discuss a subject with some authority. Tell me you loathe Shakespeare when you’ve actually been to a play and I’ll take you seriously in debate. Diss him having never read him because it “kind of looks boring” and I will not.
I guess things have gone too far now and it’s a genie that can’t be put back in the bottle. Personalised everything is here to stay. I just hope that sometimes you’ll choose randomness and surprises instead of your tried and tested favourites. Because it’s only then that you find out what you really like.