‘Competitive Interestingness’ Is A Social Disease, And You Might Have It

Julie Gerstein

competitive interestingness Competitive Interestingness Is A Social Disease, And You Might Have It

Let’s be honest: Nobody wants to be thought of as a total snooze. However, it seems some of us are so intent of being fascinating, that we might be trying a little too hard. This is what Telegraph journalist Polly Vernon calls “competitive interestingness,” which refers to the idea that we’re all subtly (or not-so-subtly) fighting to be perceived as the most interesting person in the room, a race that she thinks has gotten totally out of hand.

It might be what we’re wearing, the bands we profess to love, the movies we’re into, the names we give our kids—the cultural markers we use to identify ourselves that let others know that we’re Totally, Immensely Captivating. According to Vernon, our desire to define ourselves by our quirks and eccentricities has become, well, exhausting. We do it in person, and then hurry home to spend hours crafting our “interestingness” via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Admit it, you’ve probably thought a few seconds too long about how to compose the most fascinating Instagram shot of your apartment/outfit/social life/lunch, haven’t you?

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Of course, we all want to be recognized for the unique beings that we are, and—at face value—the drive to be interesting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may be a pyrrhic victory at best. What do you really win, after all, by being the one person in the room who claims to never have heard of Mariah Carey, or who’s never eaten an apple, or by being the only person who’d rather talk about all the David Foster Wallace books you’ve read around a group that’s more interested in talking about last night’s “Homeland”?  Bragging rights? A fleeting mention the next day as The Quirky Girl Who’s Never Eaten An Apple?

Our worry—and Vernon’s—is that interestingness has superseded compassion or depth, and has created a culture of aching superficiality.

“Isn’t it the very opposite of interesting, given that almost everyone else is at it, too?” she writes. “A life lived in the name of being interesting relies on the idea that you’ve got an audience, and that the audience cares; the fact is, you probably haven’t, and they probably don’t—not least because they’re busy trying to appear interesting too.” And really, she says, isn’t “all this interesting … actually just an especially tedious form of showing off?”

Well, yes.

Plus, it’s pretty exhausting to constantly try to be interesting, right? Instead, we could be spending some of that energy cultivating real interests—and most importantly, real relationships. Because there’s nothing more boring than having no good friends with which to, you know, listen to Mariah Carey, eat apples, and obsess over ‘Homeland.”

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