Trending: Wearing Pants!

When my friends and I were 15, we all yearned to write fiction. We started writing. Our stories had all of this minutiae in every story– what breakfasts were like, what happened on walks to the main plot events, etc.. Done right, that can be part of some great literature. Done wrong, those details are humble cues that you have nothing to talk about or that you mistake the common for the exceptional. Fast forward 30 years: people are Instragramming toast and getting $55k for a potato salad (link: Minute can be massive yet the rules have not changed so entirely.

What happens when a social media post like this comes through;

“I’m wearing pants! I put them on and now I’m going to keep them on throughout the day.”

On the face of it, that seems like the right sort of a post for the world wherein eggs gets 1000 likes. But people have a split of perception. They can appreciate the hyper-trivia for the amusement factor but their core still evaluates what matters. On one level, people would think the pants wearing post is a little quirky. On another level, it says that pants are considered an exceptional triumph of the poster. It says they don’t often wear pants in a culture where people wear pants. It says that wearing pants is a triumph and a novelty for them.

There are fine lines between passing off the mundane as exceptional versus passing off the given as noteworthy. Imagine if your favorite brand of soft drink posted, “Our product has killed no one all week.” It should be a given. When you point out the obvious, it suddenly calls that into question. It asks, “is it so special that happens?”

If you are going to walk out there with the mundane, you have to work it. Take the mundane and dress it up. Trick it out. Push it to the extent of being a farce. That’s what happened with the potato salad Kickstarter campaign. It was too mundane to be considered eligible for a crowdfunding campaign. It was lucky to catch on, then it took off propelled by how ridiculous it was. That was a risky move. If it failed, the creator’s friends would have had fodder for jabs and jibes, but the Internet at large would have missed that he tried this. That’s part of this too: if your support network to get behind your ridiculous display of the mundane, it can have legs. It manufactures social proof from the first cluster of fans and builds from there. But just because you think your idea has legs, you shouldn’t point out the pants.

What it cooks down to: when you make an exceptional job of the mediocre, it can be cute to show off. When you show off the common as special without any dress-up it will likely miss the mark.

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