The Originality Trap

The internet has ruined it for all of us. Every thought that could be thought has already been thought. No one is original and everyone in the comments section of that forum post you made is smarter than you. Even just five years ago, things seemed so different. We were still creative and original, and saying you were founding a startup meant something. But today is a different story.

Case in point: last spring, I was at a party with a longtime friend. Good guy. Handsome, kind, well-traveled, and hygienic. I knew most people attending, and he knew almost no one. The party was held in the early evening at a spacious bar and it was just the right kind of packed. Enough space to make it to the bathroom, but not enough space to make you question whether the party was a success. Anyway, there were two women somewhat separated at the bar and one of them caught my friend’s eye. Cute, blonde, seemed friendly, but my friend would have to try something to learn more.

He asked me if he should go for it. I said, “why not? You don’t know anyone here and you’ll probably regret it if you don’t.” And just like that he’s convinced. Next step – the approach.

He says, “OK, I’ve got this.”

I go up to the bar to order a drink and position myself so I can listen in without seeming like I’m snooping.

I hear my friend: “Hey, do you know how much a polar bear weighs?”

Silence ensues. Slight confusion.

“Enough to break the ice. Hi, I’m [insert name of Sandeep’s bold, charismatic friend].”

Woah. I hear this at the bar and I’m thinking how could this NOT work out? I hope I’m best man. The delivery: A+. I expect some delayed laughter, since this sort of approach might take some time to process if you’re not prepared for it.

But oh no… the silence – it’s too long.

I turn to see a nervous smirk on my friend’s face. …And the girl?

She has an expression on her face that reads “not impressed,” is in the process of doing a perfect quarter-turn maneuver with her left shoulder to deflect engaging in further conversation, and is now whispering in another language to her friend. Wow. She actually went with double-encryption: (1) whispering + (2) in an alternate language.

I immediately thought; how could a great line like this fail? It’s the internet’s fault. Being original is just too hard these days. Everything’s been done already and people just aren’t as impressed by creative, yet corny, pickup lines anymore.

But don’t worry, because I’m here to help you avoid a few common pitfalls associated with what is called the originality trap. Merriam-Webster defines originality trap as, “thinking what you are doing is super cool and unique, where either (a) it is not or (b) the public is unable to appreciate and recognize your originality.” Below are a few things you should AVOID doing and can hopefully give you a better sense of the sorts of originality traps out there.

Don’t create a website. What is it, 2003? What exactly do you think you’re going to accomplish? Literally everyone has created a website. Wake up. We’ve moved on to a time where grandmothers are creating emojis. Also, people no longer have the attention spans to read even medium-form articles (but if you’ve made it this far – hey, I like you – feel free direct message me on Instagram).

“I love travel.” I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve used a few dating applications in my time. I get it though, creating bios can be tough as there are a lot of competing factors to consider. For instance:

  • I don’t want to take this too seriously
  • I want to be funny and clever
  • I want to share some genuine information
  • I’m lazy

But come on. Now I’m not suggesting that you’re deliberately attempting to be original by saying that you love travel – but it comes across in your Tinder bio as if you’re trying to share some unique or defining quality. Don’t worry, I’ve fallen into this trap before as well (see the below evidence from circa a week ago).

deep-tinder

Generally acting mysterious and complicated. Are you unable to communicate with others effectively and feel that there are complexities about yourself that are incomprehensible to normal folks? Does that lead to certain anti-social behaviors that you think come across as just another part of your “mysterious” personality? Yeah, same. Odds are, however, we’re not that complicated. Try using words (or at least begin to open up through emojis if that’s more comfortable for you) to communicate your thoughts and ideas and you’ll be surprised to see that your friends and family are often willing to listen and will make a genuine effort to understand your infinite complexity.

Disclaimer: the originality trap isn’t a real thing and only exists in your mind. You should probably do the things that make you happy and in the manner you enjoy doing, as long as no one is harmed in the process, including yourself.

-Sandeep Dhaliwal, Analyst

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