When you’re at a party and you hear other people talking, what topics draw you into their conversations? If you use Flipboard, Zite or News360, what subjects do you follow? If you use Google Alerts, what news do you want to keep up with? If you want to be a know-it-all, what areas of knowledge do you want to master? If you were a contestant on Jeopardy! what categories would you hope would show up? If you want to get a Ph.D. what would you want to write your thesis on?
I think we all have pet topics we like to think, talk and even write about, but how many can we realistically keep up with? Yesterday I was reading this fantastic article about clean coal at Wired and realized that its topic is one that will impact all of us for the rest of our lives. Carbon sequestration, or carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not the sexy topic that will impress your friends or cause people to gather around you at a party. [Idea: Should we all take on a few important topics to collective worry about?]
That makes me think not only do we have a number of topics that always attract our attention, but we have different kinds. Some are fun, some are serious, some are just obsessive. We’ve all have friends we avoid certain subjects because once they start talking they won’t shut up. Just mention Obama to a Fox News junky to know what I mean. Yet, isn’t that fanatical focusing the thing that defines us? Isn’t one way we define ourselves, or our friends, is by the topics they love? If we use the label jock, geek, hipster, Republican, liberal, artist, don’t we paint a topical picture of how those folks think?
Are the aspects of reality we dwell on the genes of our personality?
When we promote ourselves on dating sites, don’t we paint ourselves by our interests?
This got me to thinking about my own interests. How many do I have? How much time do I spend keeping up with each subject? How much do I enjoy it when I meet other people interested in the same subject? Is the closeness of friendship related to how many topics we share in common? How many of my favorite topics are serious subjects, and how many are just for fun? How consumed am I by each? Could I rate them 1 – 10 on how important they are to me? If I had a Billboard Top 100 of Jim Harris topics, could I rank them, plus code them with symbols that showed a growing interest, or waning?
Right now, I couldn’t be that specific with a list of my interests, but it might be rewarding to try make such a list. Programming an app that track interests, their intensity and their waxing and waning might be a fun project. I wonder if other people find this idea interesting? I might start with a spreadsheet and see what happens. The new “in” topic I often see on the web is decluttering. People want to get organized, simplify their lives and their possessions. I wonder if they’d like to organize their interests?
Recently I decided to get rid of LPs again. For a while I was caught up in the vinyl retro movement, but I discovered there’s a reason why I gave up vinyl when CDs came out. Now that I’m retired and have all the time in the world to do all the things I dreamed of doing I realized that a whole bunch of things just ain’t going to happen. In other words I think I have a whole list of topics I’ve lost interest in. And there’s some new topics that are popping up that I need to pursue. For instance, I need to sod my yard, but I thought, what would be the best carbon footprint yard to help fight global warming? So if I had an app that tracked my interests, I’d delete LPs/vinyl and add environmental friendly landscaping. I wonder how many friends I have that might want to talk to me about carbon friend weeds?
It would have been interesting to have this interest tracking app starting when I was a little kid, if it had some kind of historical record of my interests over my lifetime. I believe some topics would be life long, and others fleeting, and others would come and go. Books, music, television and movies would stay constant, but vary in their details. Science and history topics would wax and wane. I got interested in computers in the 1960s, and started tech school in 1971, and became obsessed in 1978 when I decided to buy my own microcomputer. My last three computers I built myself. Of course, it seems our whole society has a passion for technology now.
I have a growing interest in the 19th century, especially for literature, science and history, but also music, math and philosophy. I wonder how many of my friends think about the Victorian era? If I was at a party and heard people talk about Anthony Trollope or Charles Babbage I’d be overjoyed and overcome my shyness to talk to them. The last party I attended I found a friend for the night by striking up on conversation on popular science books about physics. And I’d really like to meet some people who are interested in 24 bit FLAC music files.
“One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” just came on the Rdio playlist. One entry to add:
- Bob Dylan (1965 – present)
JWH – 4/20/14