Pop culture is a social force that binds us with a collective unconscious. Advertising, movies, radio, Internet, and television constantly bombard our senses which condition our tastes, behaviors, memories, and, for some, our lives. While many people view this “socially conditioning” as purely restrictive, they fail to recognize the possibility such a collective social unconscious offers:
The possibility of superficial rapport.
A label like “superficial rapport” sounds like an oxymoron and, in a lot of ways, it is. It has to be. Because it has to answer a paradoxical, counter-intuitive question: How can strangers quickly connect and build rapport in a way where neither person ostensibly forfeits their social power?
Let’s examine that question.
Strangers overcome their “strangeness” and forge relationships by displaying their personality and establishing commonalities. However, merely fishing for commonalities with a stranger is a try-hard, abrasive approach. Interview-style questions like “What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?” are vapid and emotionless. Rightfully, most people (especially attractive women) refuse to waste time answering such questions from a stranger who has not differentiated himself from the hordes of other strangers who asked the exact same lifeless string of questions.
Rarely are we just given genuine answers to personal questions – we must earn them. And everything we earn in a social interaction is through “value.”
We gain social value in countless ways – though most lack rapport. For example, say a guy learns a simple magic trick like making a saltshaker disappear. While the trick may awe strangers and pump the guy’s value, the approach does not establish any connection between him and the strangers. He was merely entertaining. The same is true of the guy who learns to play a Dave Mathew’s song on the guitar. Or the guy who parrots someone else’s canned opener. While it may boast the performer’s momentary value, questions still remain: Who is this guy? How does this relate to me? Why should I continue talking to him once he stops being entertaining?
So, for strangers, pop culture is the bridge between value and rapport. Pop culture’s ubiquity spins a web that both traps and connects us. Since we all recognize and understand the same pop icons, moments, and clichés, we have a wealth of emotions to draw from, a gallery of faces to reference, a spectrum of body types to compare to, and a spattering of relatable personalities to analogize. While the characters we meet in TV shows, movies, and books are fictional, we still feel we know them better than most people we meet – perhaps even better than some of our own friends!
Once we acknowledge this, we have access to an unlimited number of ways to connect with strangers as simply as if discussing old friends and mutual acquaintances.
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