“Oh, God, I hate that band…”
We’ve all been in that awkward situation when “that band” is someone we actually like.
The question we face in that moment is: do I join in with them, say nothing, or speak my mind honestly?
In my group of friends, I’ve been in that situation many times. EVERYONE hated Justin Bieber and thought he was only for 13-year-old girls who thought he was hot. I remember the shame game I played with some of my friends who bravely stuck out their necks and confessed their secret love for Bieber…”For real? Like no joke? You like BIEBER?!” And then his newest album dropped, the general hype swung in his favor, and it became cool and more acceptable to like him. I remember being on the front end of that wave, and (having most of my friends who are into the metal scene) I got some of the initial brunt of shame for defecting and catching the Bieber fever after singles like “What Do U Mean” and “Love Yourself”.
The same thing happened for Taylor Swift. In the dude world, a lot of times it’s unacceptable to like music that’s “weak”—in other words, soft, emotional, or girly. Taylor Swift neatly fits into all three categories, and so as she was progressing in the music industry and gaining wide-sweeping popularity, many of the metal dudes I know were angry about it. “She only plays like 4 chords, and she sucks…I don’t get why people like such sappy music nowadays!” And I instigated a lot of that music hate until she dropped “Bad Blood” and realized T-Swift can be dope too.
The one band I’ve always been untrue to myself about is Nickelback. I’ve enjoyed their music since they hit the radio over a decade ago. I jammed their videos when YouTube was first becoming a thing, fell out of regularly listening to them through college, but when Spotify came out, I reconnected with them and fell in love all over again. It brought me back to my middle school days and touched a piece of me as only music can.
But then in the middle of a long drive to a festival with some friends, the conversation came up…”Oh GOD…Nickelback is SO BAD.” This was around the time when the “Look at this…graph!” meme came about, and the anti-Nickelback flack was in full storm. The pressure to join in with them and hop on the hate-train was thick.
But I was feeling a lot of tension in that moment because it felt like sticking up for myself would make them not like me, make me feel less than them, and make me feel wrong. It felt like I was either going to be dishonest with myself to fit in or be honest with my friends and risk rejection. I felt a lot of shame for disagreeing with them. As I was torn between trying to avoid the conversation altogether, joining in, or standing up for myself, I realized I was believing a few things about disagreements that created the tension:
1) I disagree with you = I dislike you
In that moment, I felt like if I stuck up for myself and didn’t cave to the dominant opinion, I’d be telling my friends that I don’t like them, and conversely they’d be telling me, they don’t like me either. I realized I was believing that disagreeing in opinion must mean we dislike each other.
2) Different = less
I also felt like because I was the only one who believed something different, I had to be less than them. Like there was something they got that I wasn’t getting. I’m not smart enough, music-savvy enough, cool enough to really get why they think the way they do. And if I just wasn’t less than them, I’d get it too.
3) Unpopular = wrong
This is called “social proof”. It’s an assumption that if enough people are doing something or thinking some way, they must be right because that many people can’t be wrong. In other words, if all of my friends in this car hate Nickelback, they can’t be wrong. There’s clearly a reason they ALL hate this band, and if I’m the only one who doesn’t, I’ve got to be the one who’s wrong.
As I sat there in the tension and thought through these things, I was afraid that one disagreement with my friends would alienate me forevermore and cause me to be effectively disowned by them. It would trash my worth and reputation and leave me as the black sheep defecting towards eternal loneliness. I was inventing what this disagreement would mean about my worth and realized the only thing that was keeping me from speaking my mind and being true to myself was fear. So I decided I didn’t want to be controlled by that fear, and I spoke up:
“I actually like Nickelback.”
“You WHAT?!” They jeered. I felt the roar of all my old beliefs rise up and try to shackle me back into fear-driven agreement.
“Yeah, I do. They’ve got some really awesome songs—I’ve actually got them on my Spotify.”
“No!!! Dude!!! They’re so bad!!!” The blasting continued for another round, but when the conversation changed direction, the crazy part is that nothing changed. I wasn’t disowned, they didn’t dislike me, I wasn’t less than I was to them before I unveiled my musical preference, and while they disagreed with me, in the end, I realized I wasn’t wrong…I was just different.
Being different and disagreeing with other people can be a fearful experience, but I believe the scarier experience would be to lose yourself in small decisions to simply follow what other people think. When our only compass is the footprints of the masses of sheep herding in the popular direction, we become chameleons, only knowing about ourselves what our circumstance tells us to be. The truth is, you don’t need to borrow anyone else’s colors to be beautiful, to belong, and to be loved. You are all of those things right now—whether you like Nickelback or not.
The irony is that when you trade the truth about who you are for dishonest agreement, you get a fake sense of fitting in, but you actually become more afraid you won’t belong because you’ll always wonder whether or not they’d still accept you if they knew who you truly are. By lying instead of speaking the truth about what you like, you rob yourself of the real joy of finding acceptance for who you are instead of for who you tell people you are.
And there are people out there who will still believe that disagreeing with you means they need to dislike you in order to protect themselves—and that’s okay too. They haven’t realized what you know now, and that doesn’t make you wrong or less than. It just means they’re following the herd right now, and you still don’t have to.
At the end of the day, you’re better off risking rejection to be loved for who you are than to fake your way into belonging by sacrificing your honesty. You are enough, you are loved, and you belong regardless of which bands you do or don’t like. If you’re brave enough to stick up for yourself next time you’re put in the Nickelback situation, I think you’ll find a deeper sense of love from your friends and for yourself than you ever could experience the other way around.
And if you need statistics to back it up, just look at this…graph.