Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Or Does It?

Most of us are fascinated with the new. New music, new movies, other new media. The newest social media platform or app. The newest tech gear.

Marketers try to pump sales of older products by labeling them “new and improved.” We go to mashable.com to see “The New Stuff,” “The Next Big Thing” and “What’s Hot.”

Meanwhile, there are elements of our lives that we embrace because they are longtime traditions or even “classics.” That list might include a ballpark hotdog, a memorable TV comedy bit, Converse All-Stars or a favorite song from the 80’s.

Other elements become so familiar from overexposure that we feel actual contempt. Or, if not contempt, boredom or burnout. The contempt/boredom list can include things that were once on the new and fresh list. My personal “once fresh, now tired” list would include Jay Leno, Twinkies, McDonald’s hamburgers, “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band and cheesy CGI movie effects.

For many, though, the familiar works best. The new is risky. Even if they don’t love something they’ve been exposed to for years, they’ve been disappointed by new things so often, they’re reluctant to try them. Even when peers suggest a new piece of tech gear or a new place to shop or dine, they hesitate.

I believe the strongest tact is to establish familiarity but constantly revise and tweak. Look at Facebook, which, despite its enormous success, is always changing. Look at restaurants that make necessary changes to survive and prosper for 10, 15, 20 or more years. Look at showbiz personalities who maintain appeal by changing looks and directions.

Familiarity can breed contempt. That’s why it’s good to occasionally do something different personally, even if it’s just minor wardrobe style changes or a different hairdo. Changing an attitude or two—be it something lightweight or serious—can also help keep the old familiar version of you fresh and updated.

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