Obsessed With Being Obsessed

Willa Paskin wonders why it’s not enough simply to like something anymore:

[A]dults used to obsess about things in a more steadfast manner, by having long-term interests known as hobbies. (Whatever happened to those?) Or they obsessed with downright stately occasionalness, when something out there really gripped the nation. Now we are engaged in a near-constant cycle of being “totally obsessed” with a cultural object (“obsessed” is the term of art on social media) and perpetually on the lookout for that next binge-experience. Why are we getting hysterically excited about very good but not hugely original cultural products seemingly every other month? Why have we turned into compulsive obsession-seekers?

As with nearly every aspect of contemporary life, the Internet has a lot to do with it. The Internet’s default mode is obsession. Nothing worth thinking or talking or writing about—nothing not worth thinking or talking or writing about, for that matter – gets thought or talked or written about in moderation. At the start, products like Serial or True Detective feel as though they are made inescapable not by their obvious and overwhelming clickiness – like, say, pictures of Kim Kardashian’s derriere – but by the force of good taste. There are things on the Internet that happen to us, but these are things that, initially, feel as though we made “happen.” And yet, at a certain point, the frenzy surrounding these beloved objects achieves the same level of inescapability as those naked pictures. Someone out there surely feels as annoyed by all the Serial coverage as someone else feels about Kim Kardashian’s tush. They have both become the latest obsession of “the Internet,” and you can either get on board yourself or get put on board, eyes rolling.