Social media ruined my pop culture faves

But I'm taking Ted Lasso, Sally Rooney, The Office, and Harry Potter back.

I finished the new Sally Rooney book last night and liked it!!!!!!!! —Kate

Last week, I asked people on Instagram about the piece of pop culture they felt had been ruined for them by social media. Some said Love Actually. Others offered Hamilton. Additional answers included early 2000s fashion, Bo Burnham’s Inside, and, potentially, Succession, if public obsession continues along its current path. 

“Ruined” meant different things to different people. Maybe the thing was reassessed over time. “100% Elizabethtown,” one answer read. “Twelve-year-old me loved the soundtrack but obviously it’s the Manic Pixie Dream Girl poster child.” Or perhaps it was unfairly warped by the discourse, like Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (“powerful writing that TikTok thinks is just #crazygirlbossvibe”). 

For me, it’s the inevitable backlash to a very popular thing extending to the people who enjoy that thing. I feel like I have to distance myself from The Office lest Twitter categorizes me, too, as basic and corny.

We've just seen this cycle play out with Ted Lasso, cresting and then crashing into a fight about Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You? I want to find it charming that these pieces of storytelling turned Twitter into a freshman year lit class at a liberal arts college, except that the discussion often extends beyond the text itself and into cruel diagnoses of those who identify with it.

Usually, this is because the cringe-y behavior of one person or group of supporters gets applied to everyone else who likes the thing. In the case of Harry Potter, the characters and motifs from the story were uselessly reimagined as allegories for the Trump administration. 

Discourse has so far removed these artifacts from their original contexts that I am bizarrely concerned anyone who saw me rereading the Harry Potter books last month was thinking I also wear a shirt that says “this pussy grabs back,” and wasn't simply revisiting a book series I loved between the ages of four and 14. 

You may think I’m about to utter the tired phrase “let people enjoy things.” But no. Trying to control a narrative that takes hold on Twitter would be like attempting to herd a school of fish. Plus, I’m firmly on the side of John Green (another person I shouldn’t admit to liking), who believes that books and stories belong to their readers. Instead, I’m calling for something much simpler: let yourself enjoy things. 

For years I've been guilty of withholding my opinion on certain topics until social media shows me how I’m supposed to feel about them. This is partially because I’m so tired of the sinking feeling of finding out something I love could accidentally brand me as someone in conflict with my beliefs and actions. But no matter how unfair I feel these conversations about whatever beloved thing we decide tomorrow is actually bad, this is a prison I alone have put myself in. At least in there, I can watch The Office in peace.