I never watched Seinfeld. I’ve seen episodes while in the company of friends, but while channel flipping, I never settled on Seinfeld. I’ve also never seen a full episode of The Office, Lost, Arrested Development, Downtown Abbey, Parks and Recreation, blah blah blah.
I’m not opposed to any of those shows. I hear great things about them. The quotes my friends throw around from them seem pretty funny (or strange if we are talking about Lost). I’m not suggesting I will never watch these shows. With my affection for Netflix and Hulu, it is quite possible that I will find myself setting off to plow through these shows as I’ve done with Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother, The Wire, Firefly and others.
The funny thing is when I tell people I haven’t seen these shows, they often ask, “How can you possibly not have seen [that show]?” Full disclosure: I react similarly when people tell me they haven’t seen Star Wars. It’s as if our validity as functional members of society is based on the media we consume. The implication is there must be something wrong with me if I don’t know the name of the woman Jim marries (I don’t…I just sort of remember the advertisements). It’s as if there is something wrong with you if you don’t know who Princess Leia’s father is.
Is it weird that one of the things we judge people on is their engagement with media? I remember as a kid a fellow student telling the teacher that he could not complete an assignment involving watching the news because his family did not have a TV. I distinctly remember thinking, “What? It’s 1989! Everyone has a TV!” Now, I’m shocked when I see people whip out a flip phone or even a Blackberry Curve. How can they function with that thing? How do they even know what’s going on in the world? “What? It’s 2013! Everyone has a smart phone!”
It is definitely weird that we judge people on their engagement with media…but I’m not sure it is out of bounds or even completely inappropriate. It should not be at the top or even near the top of how you perceive people, but it should certainly play a role. This is especially true if you are an employer. If you are hiring someone who will be expected to work in a team and especially if they are customer-facing, it is helpful to know their cultural fluency. It’s not that they can’t do the job without cultural fluency, but it means the way you lead them has to be different.
As we interact with people, I think it is fair to take in everything about that person and let what you know about them shape the way you interact with them. Knowledge employed well will help your relationship grow because the base level will be more apparent to both parties. When we start to take in information about people and use it to place value on them, then it becomes a problem. The cultural fluency of a person should not be a reflection of their value as a person. Their value as a person is that they are a person, made in the image of God.
To conclude, I’ve unintentionally missed a lot of big things in the media world and I would ask that you not devalue me for my illiteracy in “That’s what she said” jokes. In exchange, I will do my best to not devalue you for not knowing that Greedo shot first. Please use the knowledge of what I know to engage me more effectively, and I will do the same in my relationship with you.