Human Nature

When I was an elementary school teacher I could always tell which kids had older siblings by the vocabulary they used. When you hear a first grader say "that's hella cool" or "fool I'm goin' punk you out", it's pretty clear they didn't pick up that lingo from watching Blue's Clues or Dora the Explorer. To me, it's obvious when someone is imitating another person's terms, ideas, or systems of value, because either the context is off, or—like with my former students—they're not experienced enough to actually comprehend what they're saying. Here's a great example of what I'm talking about (one of my all-time favorite movie moments):

I don't know how many of you have watched the new Anderson Cooper special on CNN about thirteen year olds and cell phone usage, but it pretty much confirms everything you already suspect: that giving social media tools to hormonal kids who are desperate to fit in and be accepted leads to exactly this type of behavior. They use their phones to watch what other kids are doing, they pick up on what's cool and what isn't, and then they imitate, imitate, imitate—hoping that their selfies, tweets, and Facebook comments will generate the same type of positive reaction, confirming that they too are cool. The kids who don't adopt or conform to this behavior are often bullied or teased. But what's funny is that the kids who are considered the coolest are just mimicking what they've seen older kids do, without any real understanding of why those actions are valued or admired (like flashing a two-fingered peace sign and puckering your lips while taking a selfie—there are literally millions of kids (and adults!!) doing this five million times a day on Instagram, but I doubt any of them can tell you why). While this type of behavior happened when I was in junior high as well, it ended at 3 PM. Today, with social media, it's 24/7.

But that's human nature, right? To obsess over what others think of us? We want to be liked, respected, accepted, and most of us just want to fit in, so we follow the crowd and hope no one says anything bad about us in return (61% of teenagers polled said they check their social media 100+ times a day to make sure nobody is talking smack about them). We adopt the latest fads and we use the latest slang. The world of wine and whiskey is no different—in fact, it's probably worse. For some reason, the connoisseurship of drinking is a subject so intimidating and simultaneously revered that people absolutely do not want, under any circumstance, to appear like a novice. It may sound ridiculous, but I've met thousands of people over the years who are so afraid of being told anything about wine that they will actually interrupt you with "I know, I know, I know...." when you try to tell them a fact or a detail. Often they don't really know a whole lot, yet they use technical terms and insider lingo to appear close to the trade. They're not experienced in any way, but they don't want you to know that (yet they're showing you everything). It's kind of funny in a way (like in the above clip), but when that behavior spreads outside of the store and begins to permeate the greater fabric of our social context, it's simultaneously worrying (that CNN special actually scared the shit out of me).

Take all of the psychological aspects of our very human desire to be accepted and respected, and now apply them to the way you hear some people talk about wine and whiskey. Wading through some of these conversations anymore is like walking through a high school cafeteria. You can sense all the same dynamics in the way things are worded, or the angles that people take. Their acute desire to be taken seriously. Their need to get inner frustrations off their chest. Their fear of not being respected. Their jealousy for those who are. Their frustration when the world doesn't listen to them. Their haughty and antagonistic attitudes about the industry, really just a mask for their own insecurity. Yesterday I watched two guys come in and take selfies with whiskey bottles, then walk right out of the store without buying anything. Maybe they wanted their followers online to see what they were "drinking" this week? It's hard to know if anything out there is real after watching something like that transpire.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll