"Did you see Turtle Boss yet?" Tim asked over brunch.
"I saw it," said Katie over a mouthful of hash browns. "It was so freaking good."
"Good?" said Sam. "You actually thought it was good?"
"Yeah, it was incredible. Everyone's saying so."
"So you thought it was incredible or everyone did?" asked Tim.
"Is anyone talking about how the main actor invented that new designer dog breed?" Sam interjected, waving a fork-full of scrambled eggs. "It's completely unethical."
"What does that have to do with Turtle Boss?" asked Tim.
"I'm not supporting a movie that supports someone like that."
"So you don't support dog breeding, but you'll eat eggs," said Katie. "How do you know those are cage-free eggs? Don't you know how horrible chicken farms are?"
"If you're getting on me about eggs, let's talk about the water it takes to farm those potatoes." Sam jabbed the fork now toward Katie's plate. The utensil was his pointer, his wand, his weapon. "What are you, pro-climate change?"
A man sitting in the booth behind them turned around, having caught the conversation. He nodded toward Sam.
"If you're climate-conscious, you should really stop using those plastic forks."
We can't enjoy things the way we used to.
There's too much baggage, too much information, too much context. In a time when an entire person can be cancelled, it's riskier to get it wrong. What's more, we've made it our personal jobs to inform and monitor the decisions of others. It's impossible to like something now just because we like it.
Say you enjoy walking barefoot. Someone's going to tap you on the shoulder and say walking without shoes is bad for your health (citing multiple Instagram influencers who said so).
Or you indulge in the occasional pastry. A well-meaning friend will ask, don't you know the dangers of a high fat diet?
You can't even wear your favorite sweater before someone points out the brand is morally problematic.
Nothing you enjoy is safe: The director of that movie you love tweeted something questionable in 2008. That publication you read is funded by a corporate monster. That lotion you use every day causes cancer.
If their unsolicited advice isn't enough to taint the thing you like, the fear of public ridicule is. Renounce the thing quickly or lose favor among not only your friends, but online strangers too!
If you abide by their rules, you'll get confused quickly. What's acceptable or unacceptable may change by the hour. Scroll online for a few minutes and you'll discover a plethora of things that were formerly OKAY have now been stamped BAD. Let the public decide for you and you'll find yourself renouncing everything you enjoy on every level, from those special sweets, to your favorite author, to a city you like to visit, to an entire person or group of people you once appreciated.
How do we know what we sincerely like anymore?
We live at the mercy and whim of the hordes. Their influence is so strong, we don't even see it. They'll determine the movie we see, how we feel about it while watching and the opinions we express afterward. They'll influence our personal style. The food we eat, and where we get it from. The music we listen to. The books we read and don't read. The accounts we follow online. The type of plants we have in our home. The products we use in the shower.
We don't even know if we enjoy these things or we want to enjoy them because everyone else does. We can't have an experience now without their voices in the back of our heads.
Is it still possible to enjoy things for what they are?
Is it still possible to have a pure, singular experience, untainted by its surrounding context and baggage?
The movie may be good or bad, just like they say. The candy can indeed rot your teeth. That company has made questionable decisions about how they run their business.
Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong. I don't seek to argue with them, disprove them or exist in a delusional bubble I've created in my own head.