We Are All Weird

I generally enjoy the observations, insights, and inspiration that Seth Godin offers daily on his blog, but We Are All Weird doesn’t feel like his strongest work. If you’ve been anywhere near Internet culture in the last few years, you can easily think of 10 trends that support his primary thesis: mass anything is becoming a thing of the past. The barriers of entry to a huge number of industries have dropped so low that anyone can form the beginnings of a successful business with a minimum of investment. Those businesses can be successful by creating products that cater to a narrow niche of customers rather than the broad masses. The definition of success might differ a bit in this world of weird, but in general this is a positive trend that offers enormous opportunity for those who seek it.

That said, Godin fails to explore the potential downsides of this new paradigm. Weird can be great but it also has dark sides and the lack of that discussion in Godin’s book weakens his argument. If it is ever-easier to find the positive things that interest us, surely it is also ever-easier to find the negative things that interest us. Mass had the great benefit of building consensus by decree. Weird has the potential to fragment consensus irreparably. As we become more invested in niche communities, we may find that we are exposed to fewer and fewer uncomfortable ideas. The result is an insular population caught up in their own weirdness and whose weirdness is only ever reinforced. Weird may be a boon for marketers, but for a society that requires consensus to progress, it has the potential to be a significant obstacle.