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The collectors

April 25, 2010

Years ago when the Pokemon madness hit planet earth, there was a minor uproar about the values that were being taught through the plot in the children’s show. Some people were very concerned that the show, cards and other paraphernalia were advocating materialism in young children (as if children needed any more encouragement). I’m thinking that collecting as many Pokemon cards as you can, was much safer, and had a lot less psychological impact than the type of collecting that goes on today. I’m talking about the global culture of …..people collecting.

Within the last decade, people collecting has become one of the fastest growing phenomena on the planet. We are hard pressed to find people who do not have collections of their own. In fact, we have reached a stage where, if you do not have your own collection, you are seen as out of touch, out of the loop, old fashioned, and any other description that could communicate your absolute lack of relevance. “You don’t have one!!!!!”….people ask with a look of complete incredulity, as as if to suggest that just because you don’t engage in the popular practice, you are somehow not suited to exist in civilized society. Seriously, they act like you’re missing a leg or something.

Unlike other types of collecting, where one collects rare or even limited edition items, people collecting, however, is like the retail industry. It’s a volume business. If you have less than a hundred people in your collection, you would be well advised to not talk too much about it. The “real” aficionados will laugh you to scorn. One hundred is the point at which you can begin to position yourself on the peripherals of conversations, where you will have the “privilege” of hearing “real” collectors, where you can learn how to go about developing an honest to goodness people collection. You’re not in the five or seven hundred brackets, but with a little work you’ll get there. Collections boasting thousands are not unheard of, but if you struggled to hit your first “century” you should probably set more moderate goals. Not to say it’s impossible, but you should always leave room to excel……….under promise, over deliver, works wonders for your self esteem.

Coin collectors, for example would spend hours learning about their rare pieces. They can tell you the history of each coin they own, where it was first minted, how many were minted, how old it is, how many are in existence still. People collectors, on the other hand, don’t have time for that sentimental claptrap, many of them have no clue of who the majority of people in their collections are. After all, people collections are purely for display purposes, and only two criteria count; how many and who they are, with who they are coming in a distant second (unless you specialize in a collection of “who’s who”, but that’s “a whole nother story”). Some people have people in their collections because they think it somehow adds to their own status. They don’t know these people from Adam as the saying goes. But it sure makes their collections bigger……….size DOES matter after all.

A particularly unique trait about people collecting though, is the willingness on the part of the collected to be just that; part of a collection. Nowhere else, but in the realm of the people collectors do people derive such pleasure from being a number. While busily growing their own massive collections, they are just as enthusiastic about being collected themselves. Apparently it has to do with wanting to be validated, and the best measure (to their minds) of one’s worth is how badly people want you to be a part of their collection. It has become so that we no longer want to build actual relationships with people, rather, we derive satisfaction from simply being associated with them. In most cases, we are even satisfied with being thought to be associated with some people; no real interaction necessary, being on the same planet is more than enough. They make fantastic conversation pieces; “wow, you know HER!!!!!!!…..Yeah, we’re like this, I was at a concert one time and my neighbor told me that a friend told her that she was at a house on the other street. Ummm….ok.

You must admit though that, to many, people collecting is a win win situation. You get the benefits of association (whatever those are) without the hassle of having to put any actual work into maintaining a relationship. Relationships can be pretty draining sometimes, with those “issues ridden” people expecting you to be there for them all the time, wanting to call you, talk to you, find out how you’re doing…….yeah it could be a real hassle. Better to have these superficial type deals where you can simply not concern yourself with the goings on in the lives of the people in your collection. Its like this huge open relationship where each party only takes whatever benefits them and leaves what doesn’t on the table. Makes life kinda messy for those people interested in “real” relationships if only the stressful stuff is left.

For the uninitiated, people collecting can be a huge let down, if they’re looking for sincere connections with others. They get into it thinking that they have an opportunity to build, or in some cases rebuild, relationships with old friends. They get all excited when some long lost friend agrees to be a part of their collection, even better when that long lost friend invites them to be part of theirs. The excitement is pretty short lived though, when they find that friend to be pretty uncommunicative. Talking to them is like talking to a “wall”.

I used to watch Star Trek when I was younger and I was always fascinated by “the Borg”, this alien race whose goal was pure assimilation. They were not interested in your individuality, your personal goals and ambitions were not their concern, they just wanted you to be a part of “the collective”, they took whatever you brought with you and assimilated it until it could no longer be identified as yours. You still, for the most part, looked like you, but that was about it. Your every action and word, was geared toward expanding the collective. They just wanted to get bigger. (I know this is a simplification, just in case some random “Trekkie” reads this and tries to taser me or something).

But hey, who am I to judge? People collecting works for a whole heap of people. They get profound fulfillment from not knowing too much about their “friends”. Forget getting to know people and other such rubbish, those massive collections sure come in handy when you decide to start a farm in Farmville, or a restaurant in Cafe World, or if you decide to wreak havoc on the Big Apple in Mafia Wars.

As for me, I’m starting to extricate myself from the Borg. My collection has gotten way out of hand. I am getting way too old for cyber pillow fights and “fertilizing other people’s plants” (something just doesn’t sound quite right there). This new collecting culture CAN work for me but it needs some tweaking. It starts with reducing my expectations (along with my friends list). I’m not looking for 500 “BFFs”, but would it kill you to say “oy” every now and then? It takes a lot less time than posting “something” on my wall.


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