A local business started following me on Twitter today (maybe yesterday). This happens; I don’t take it personally, or seriously.
And I don’t take Twitter seriously, although there are reasons to, depending on what you’re trying to do. I rarely tweet and only go there when I’m bored and looking for something to distract me. I’m not integrated, in other words. I haven’t figured out my place.
My latest notification reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago, though, when Chick-fil-A started following my Twitter feed. I passed this along to Beth, amused by the algorithm wackiness that led to a Dallas-based store (this seems to be a particular franchise, not corporate) coming up with my meager feed.
So Beth informed me that Chick-fil-A was Evil. First I’d heard of it.
Here’s the point: I’m certainly aware of why Chick-fil-A is in the news lately. It’s hard to avoid. And I’ve read some crazy commentary and some reasonable stuff, and I certainly get the appeal of the bigger picture of consumer activism and corporate behavior and personal freedom, etc. In small doses, it holds my attention for a bit, but only for a bit.
Because I don’t know what a Chick-fil-A is.
I don’t, either. I mean, I know it’s a fast food chain and they obviously serve some sort of chicken-like product, but other than that I’m pretty clueless. The nearest Chick-fil-A is 400 miles away, in Boise. They certainly won’t be getting any business from me anytime soon. The bastards.
Also? I kept thinking it was Chick-A-Fil, although that makes no sense. I wonder about myself.
I worry about this all the time, our cultural reference points and how rarely they intersect these days. This is personal worry, vocational worry. I like to allude to things we have in common, and my list grows shorter. This week I wrote a little about my wedding anniversary and a lot about the Olympics, both general interest subjects that I assume many people have at least some relationship with, but I don’t think the Olympics are going to carry me every week. Just a feeling.
We are a niche culture now, leaving somebody like me flailing for relevance (and references). I like to watch “Breaking Bad,” an excellent show with a fascinating, eerie arc of a story line, classic in many ways and also contemporary, one ordinary man’s journey from an unremarkable and unexamined life into evil. Chicken sandwiches do not play a big part.
But as successful as it is, tons of Emmy awards and critical praise, “Breaking Bad” is watched regularly by…what? A couple of million people? A drop in the bucket, a grain of sand, a lousy metaphor away from statistically not existing at all. I end up talking to myself about episodes.
It wasn’t always this way, but then it wasn’t always this hot in the summer either. I’m not complaining, just baffled. My wife asked me who Ryan Seacrest was the other night. What does he do? What’s his job? What’s the point? Dunno. He’s somebody, I guess, somebody famous, but he’s never intersected with our lives and so we end up staring at his hair and glassy eyes and speculating. Maybe he’s evil, maybe not, you tell me.
The danger in all of this, of course, is that in a niche world we can lose sight of exactly how discrete our choices are. I suspect we begin to assume that we share traits and interests and opinions with those with whom we connect on the graph of life in other ways, skin color or neighborhoods or taste in cars. And this is pretty benign compared to the dark side: We begin to see The Other everywhere.
I think that’s where we are, too. Somebody else is not like us, and we don’t like it. We can’t share a love of “Bonanza” anymore, and I worry that what should be superficial has turned into something else. Something worse.
So maybe I should just celebrate the Olympics, and be grateful. Lots of people seem to be following the games. I managed to meet a deadline with their help. Maybe strangers will have conversations about floor exercises in the grocery store, black and white, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim, and we won’t feel so much like strangers, but I’m not exactly hopeful. So I worry.
And I’m not driving to Idaho for a chicken sandwich, just drawing the line right there. Bastards.