Growing up I just wanted to be liked. In middle school that desire pivoted to ‘I just wanna be popular.’ At the time I didn’t see a difference. But I felt like I needed it. If someone had a problem with me it bothered me to no end. I would claim to like things I didn’t really like or claim to not like things I did like in order to potentially curry favor with someone. I didn’t want anything to get in my way of trying to be popular.
The lowest point came when in middle school there was a group of assholes making fun of my best friend, Zac. This rarely happened. Zac was way more liked than I, probably due in part to the fact that he was a genuinely good person even at 13. What did I do in this situation? I turned on my best friend and aided the bullies in hurling insults. I doubt he remembers this (he’s still one of my closest friends to this day), but I’ll never forget it. He never actually mentioned it, again probably because he’s a great person.
As I got older the power of peer pressure seemed to lose its strength. But if I’m honest with myself it was still responsible for influencing many of my decisions even through my 20s. But now I’m in my 30s. Surely, I don’t care anymore, right?
One huge lesson I’ve learned is to like what I like with no shame. I am a 33 year old adult who likes comic books. That’s a huge step for me, right? Not really. Because it’s now cool to like comic books. Many of my friends like them. Movies based on them usually dominate summer box offices.
Cut to 2006. I was hanging out with a friend with my itunes playing on shuffle in the background. And that’s when ‘Photograph’ started playing. I barely noticed, because it was all my music and it was just background. But my friend got a weird look on her face and said something like, ‘Is this a joke?’ I had no idea what she was talking about.
She pointed out that Nickleback was playing on my itunes. I said, “yeah, I like this song.” And she proceeded to make fun of me in a sorry, not sorry kinda way. She wasn’t being mean to me, but she made it pretty clear that Nickleback sucks and no one should listen to them. Now, I wasn’t a fan of the band. I didn’t know any songs of theirs that wasn’t on the radio, but I liked all the songs I’d heard on the radio. And two of their songs, ‘Hero’ and ‘Photograph’ were on my All Star playlist on itunes.
A week or so later when I was hanging out in a big group with a bunch of friends she brought up how I was a Nickleback fan. Everyone had a ball making fun of this. Again, no one was being mean, but I sure did feel like I was on the wrong side of things. So, I started to jump on the bandwagon that Nickleback sucked. Again, I think I knew as many of their songs back then as I know now (maybe 5?), but all my friends whose opinions I respected universally seemed to agree that they were awful so I made that my new opinion.
Whenever I hosted a party I made sure to remove their two songs from my party mix so as to avoid potential embarrassment. And if it was ever brought up, I would agree with the sentiment that they were the worst band ever. A few years ago I made 100 science meme jokes and one of those jokes made fun of the band.
Today I saw a video recommended to me by YouTube (not because YT thinks I’m a Nickleback fan, but because I like the channel this video is on) and I watched it. It’s called ‘Top 10 Reasons You Should Respect Nickleback.” I instantly recalled my weird and brief history with the band I easily make fun of, but barely know and clicked on it. After the video ended I knew that 33 year old me still has some of the same lessons to learn that 13 year old me needed to learn.
I’m not saying I’m a fan of the band. I don’t know their body of work. But from now on I’m not going to make fun of them anymore than I would make fun of Iggy Azalea (another musician I know nothing about save for one or two songs). And now I’m fascinated to actually listen to more of Nickleback’s music. Maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll like it. Who knows? But I owe it to myself to not assume my opinion about them simply because it seems popular to not like them amongst many of my peers.
And I know of two songs that are going back on my all star rotation in the very least.
In short, like what you like. Don’t form opinions about anything based on others’ opinions. Take recommendations, of course, but form your own thoughts about what you experience. Peer pressure is silly for both adults and kids, but apparently it’s still pretty powerful.