A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a thread on a private subforum of my computer called, ironically, “Hipster Issues.”
In it, I could ask for advice from other savvy hipsters about everything from picking great band names (we all have some PBR-fueled doodling), to how to discard old or unused garments on a small budget, to why these celebrities are so damn annoying — to last night’s O.J. Simpson football replay.
It’s short, compact, and contains no appeals to logic. It has zero news value, and I don’t even think the subforum has a target demographic — it’s a place for early 20-somethings to bitch endlessly about nothing. But it was refreshing to me because of its tone of realness. “Hipster” was born, it seemed, in a time when people were doing cool stuff without the same need to be better than everybody else. (This was also the year of Keith Haring.) Hipsters don’t feel like they are bringing a “burden” to the mainstream, and nothing we do is as urgent as the Taylor Swift shade wars.
So imagine my surprise when I read several days ago that this form of group dynamic is quickly disappearing. “Scrounging,” or selling or trade of items “for the purpose of survival” is “virtually non-existent” on the San Francisco-based Mophie’s website, where techies are now buying and selling big-ticket items (including in-ear microphones), according to the San Francisco Business Times. People no longer fear a hipster auction invite because they know that many in a group don’t need to gather. People don’t muddle through trade groups because if they stick together, they can do incredible things like share and solve problems while getting a great deal.
How could this happen?
For one thing, tech moguls now want their companies to be cool, and class consciousness doesn’t “look great” for their best new product pitch. There’s also no denying that the hidden agenda of email groups, Craigslist posts, and social media “likes” isn’t to connect strangers with people like them; some of us already know each other for the meaningful and meaningful only for our niche communities.
But the biggest reason the clique is being stripped away is that it’s been subverted. This is not the same kind of class-consciousness that needs to be subverted in order to form another culture; a broader, more humanistic one.
The new culture is one where your aunt is the online version of some online hipster, but your aunt isn’t doing anything new. She just doesn’t care about [insert cool market-level activity] as much as the blogs do. So as a side benefit, they’re not offended that your aunt just read a bunch of [insert cool Internet site of interest] for ten hours. She’s not thinking that you are shopping for cheaper replacements for that pair of high-heeled rubber boots that her last clothes store destroyed. She just notices how odd your aunt is getting at her Instagram selfies and wonders, is this real or do I just work out?
That’s the point: Americans don’t mind being sub-cultural by association, but they don’t mind real sub-culture. We already have some cool people — the avant-garde among us, but even among us, everyone is a curmudgeon or an “influencer.” We just don’t need more cool people. Because everyone who’s cool already finds everything cool.
Not everyone is stuck in need of serious social reinforcement. We all know exactly what we are. There is no need to explain why we like Waving Blackpool Mussels or a pair of rain boots that has “Disco Central” written on the lining. It’s like Shire settings for Harry Potter. These things aren’t quite being eaten — but then again, aren’t they still ruined? I don’t blame you for it.