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Unique at All Costs

Non-conformism is a way of life. It encapsulates much more than just the idea of refusing to conform. In fact, refusing to conform is a deceptively challenging task. How is it possible to avoid society’s influence to the degree that one may emerge unaffected by any mainstream trends? Tough task, but non-conformism is a mold that you can fit into with a bit of effort. Since the term itself is bland and vague, analyzing the actual tactics of non-conformists may help to define the philosophy more clearly.

Non-conformism means staying ahead of the trend. It is that moment after someone casually remarks that they enjoyed watching a popular new movie the past weekend, and you are able to look them dead in the eye and say, “I have been waiting to see that movie since I first heard about it two years ago…before anyone else knew about it.” Written on the page, this final remark seems unnecessary. The Times New Roman drips with passive aggression. Yet some version of that detail is usually never left unsaid. Those final six words automatically grant one the cultural edge. Before the hype, before the masses of people flocked to the theater to watch that movie, cultural eons before any of this began, you heard about this film and concluded that it would be an interesting movie to see. You were never swept away by any mainstream trend. In fact, one could argue that you created the trend. This knowledge automatically bestows satisfaction and superiority. Never mind that no pedestals actually exist for hipsters to stand on – as a non-conformist, you have earned the right to tell everyone in your life that you were the first one to know.

Non-conformists must remain unique at all costs. Starting trends is one way to do so, but avoiding popular trends is another essential activity. That band may have been your favorite when only ten other people in the United States knew its first album, but what happens when that band writes a hit single and everyone within a mile of your house is able to sing along with the chorus? What if awareness of that band is no longer a marker of one’s impeccable taste in obscure music? There is only one logical answer to this question. Your professional relationship with those musicians has officially come to an end. In order to be an individual, it does not make sense to continue listening to something so mainstream. Toss those beloved demo recordings and B-sides out the window. There has to be an underground act that is just as good, or at least halfway there. Quality is irrelevant when indie credibility is at stake. There is, of course, a gray area when it is just as much a trend to dislike something as it is to like it. What to do when it seems impossible to avoid conforming? Think for a moment. “…I’ve never heard of Justin Bieber.” Perfect response.

Non-conformism relies on the importance of the individual. Avoiding trends so diligently may make it difficult to find any common interests you share with people whom you encounter on a day-to-day basis. For this reason, the non-conformist tends to lead a solitary life. They are the ones sporting “Je suis Morrissey” t-shirts and carrying well-worn copies of The Catcher in the Rye. However, this does not bother them, since they quite enjoy this independence. In fact, it provides them with a sense of accomplishment. As a non-conformist, you should take pride in your strength of self, as you rely purely on your own instincts to construct your own identity. Ordering edgy, mass-produced clothes should make a statement that you stand alone in your fashion sense. Scouring Pitchfork’s website to read the reviewers’ opinions of the latest trends in alternative music should contribute to your vibrant, impressive CD collection. Neglecting any outside influence is intrinsic to the non-conformist. You should scoff at others’ attempts to categorize you, to label you. You are, after all, An Individual.

Non-conformism ultimately entails indifference towards others’ opinions of your identity. The way others perceive you is meaningless. Your interests and viewpoints should convey the crux of your distinctive personality, the defining factor that sets you apart from the rest. All of your efforts in crafting your persona should serve to further distinguish yourself. At the same time, it is important that everyone around you is very much aware of how special you are. So, plaster those clever philosophical aphorisms all over the info section of your Facebook. Showcase your creativity. Yes, of course you can recycle an old John Lennon quote…just change a few words, rearrange the sentence structure, and it is automatically your own.



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