In recent history, the word basic has undergone a major shift in definition. What once meant simple, unadorned, and essentially fundamental has now come to be defined by Urban Dictionary as “someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or simply worth devoting time or attention to.”
Why have we adopted such a negative connotation for this innocent word, and why do we use it as a minor insult, flung about at anyone wearing leggings and a big shirt? Furthermore, why do we, at the core of our being, want to avoid being classified as such?
We grow up being told to swim against the current, to be our own person. We also grow up trying to seamlessly blend into those around us. Our response to this has evolved over the years (think gaucho pants, silly bands, and side bangs), but the subconscious drift toward a lack of differentiability has been constant.
Criticism directed at a group stings less than that concentrated at just one person and being the same as everyone else leads to invisibility. The downfall of this comes when what makes each of us unique and perfect in our own way also converges when we lose our individual spark. One may live this way as a result of a fear to stick out or be noticed, but also lose themselves in the process.
In contrast, it also seems that the stranger or more different one is, the more applause they receive (see Miley Cyrus). This need to live past the point of reason, to be extravagant or so hip that it hurts, also stems from fear, of insecurity with our true selves. Showy or ostentatious behavior often covers up deeper feelings, and can be used as an extreme counter to the fear of criticism or fading away.
A more neutral version of this is seen when we feel the need to defend our choices as novel or feel attacked when questioned about certain lifestyle choices. Thus, the word basic has been adopted as a means of distancing oneself from the masses, of setting someone apart from the typical behavior they wish to avoid. Neither identity (bland or outrageous) is ideal and both are extremes of what we simultaneously strive for. This double desire to both stand out and fit in have created a sort of cultural war of the common and the not, and on any given day we choose which to act as.
FOMO made waves when it was introduced as a sort of mental epidemic among our age group, as the fear of missing out: on social events, life experiences, learning, etc. FOBB, or the fear of being basic, has not replaced FOMO but, rather, joined its ranks. I, and probably many others, have caught myself avoiding things I actually like because they are now popular. While the desire to be distinct is good, structuring life choices or even more than a moment’s worth of attention to that is just as bad as obsessing over seemingly missed opportunities.
The most authentically interesting people are usually the ones who give the least thought into what others think, the ones with the most laissez-faire attitude. In the broad sense of the world, does it really matter how you think other people perceive you as? Not particularly. Sip that mocha, refresh your Twitter feed, (or listen to your obscure band and eat some artisan bread, no one really cares) and have a great rest of 2k15.