“I liked that band before they were cool”—it’s a line used so ironically by our culture it has really lost any meaning it may have had.
I found myself looking through the comments on a music video after hearing the song in the latest Game of Thrones trailer. Several comments noted those individuals liked the song before Game of Thrones used it. These statements really got me thinking—and not just about why it is a waste of time to go into the comments on YouTube—but about the nature of what “before it was cool” really means.
Now, I have been a huge Tragically Hip fan since I was a fetus—and when I went to my first Hip concert last summer, I found myself annoyed by the fact many in the crowd weren’t there because of the Hip’s lyrics or onstage antics. It was easy to fall into the belief that my understanding of what was being shown was somehow greater than theirs—and therein lies the core of the “before it was cool” idea.
The “before it was cool” mantra is the assumption that liking something before it gains mainstream acceptance gives a greater understanding than what others would have. This goes right down to the simple act of posting “first” on a comment board.
The problem of these assumptions is not entirely that there are multiple ways of appreciating music, or other forms of art. Artists are people who hide meaning in plain sight and sometimes that understanding can be lost in the mainstream drone. The problem is these assumptions have us defensive about our taste in music and other forms of art, which limits our ability to see other opinions and thus limits us from attaining a deeper understanding.
In an era of Facebook, Twitter and the Internet hive mind, we have become people who seek validation of our own understanding. The claim of liking something before it was popularized is thus a statement that reveals a greater problem in our society—the desire to validate our own way of thinking and an unhealthy desire to be the first and be somehow set apart from the rest.
The horror of living in a postmodern society with a blogosphere of millions writing into a vacuum is that this validation is a lie. Try as we may, there is no escaping the reality that our own subjectivity leaves us in a place where our version of reality has no claim over the other ones that exist.
The reason for such aggressiveness on online forums and the desire to get as many ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ on a status update can be characterized as a feature of a society that has not been able to, on an individual level, accept the enormous collection of thoughts, ideas, and approaches that exist in the world.
Thus, we can explain the hipster memes about something being ironic or liked “before it was cool” as attempts to legitimize our subjective experience in terms of a world full of different and unique experiences. As a society, we need to move beyond this limited way of thinking about the world into one where our opinions can be improved by the many ways of approaching the world, rather than one that claims superiority for being first.