The other day I received an email. One of my friends from back home is a student at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., and he wanted me to watch a lecture from his professor, Dr. Courtney W. Davis. I had no true indication as to why he wanted me to watch that video, specifically. I hit “play” and settled in for 20-plus minutes. 

Davis, who teaches communication management, claimed to be “skeptical of things that other people think are cool and amazing.” She states that she never had crushes on boy bands, dresses anti-trendy and rarely downloads the latest iOS update upon its release. Davis, in summary, is someone who is anti-hype.

As I listened to this way of thinking, I could not help but applaud the professor for her unwavering originality. Throughout life, there will always be a strong contingent of people that latch on to the latest trends, unconsciously submitting to the laws of groupthink. Moreover, these people sometimes base their happiness in the behaviors of others, surely an unhealthy action.

However, I reject Davis’s notion of rejecting “hype.” While it may be true that, yes, sometimes experiences do not live up to expectation, if it were not for such precursory anticipation and energy, how would anyone be motivated to do anything? We, as humans, love the build-up to a strong rush of adrenaline. Psychologically, this hormone rush is similar to the release of dopamine; physically, we feel as though we are superhuman because of the increased blood flow to our muscles. 

In the 1970s, psychologist Marvin Zuckerman, a professor at the University of Delaware, created a personality questionnaire that identified four types of sensation-seekers. An article from The Atlantic describes the first three of them as people who look for adventure, people who seek new experiences and people looking for ways to lose their inhibitions. There are some easy actions that fulfill the last one, but the other two can go hand-in-hand. Yet, what do these three behaviors have in common? Before they occur, they are preceded by “hype.” 

Davis, however, seems like the fourth type of individual: people who are susceptible to boredom. Did she never wait in line for concert tickets? Refuse to go to the movie on opening night because Rotten Tomatoes said it was bad? Decide to go to class on senior skip day? 

These are often labeled as essential human experiences by society, but not for the events themselves. They are sensational because of their respective buzz — the eager anticipation of personal enjoyment. 

For this reason, I must express my sympathy for Davis. Perhaps, as Zuckerman concludes, she craves individual novelty. To her credit, Zuckerman notes that the payoffs of these four sensations are the same. While her character is undoubtedly authentic and she appears to be a kind individual — the two traits that are perhaps most important in this world — I wish she would buy into the hype, if only a little bit. 

In fairness to Davis, I had similar tendencies early on. I would scoff at those who went to the beach every summer afternoon or dressed identically in Nike or Patagonia, the two apparel lines that basically sponsor my hometown. I didn’t even try Chick-Fil-A until a year after a location opened twenty-five minutes from my house — a mistake I gravely regret.

Yet, at a certain point, I grew tired of watching on the sidelines — I wanted to try new things. When I think about how my life would’ve been different if I had never embraced the anticipatory excitement of my experiences, I probably wouldn’t have experienced them in the first place. 

I wouldn’t have immersed myself in homecoming week, sports seasons or the limited senior festivities I partook in. If I wasn’t enthusiastic about spending fall Saturdays in Ann Arbor growing up, I probably would not have been as motivated to come here. I wouldn’t be writing this column. 

Maybe that is why my friend selected me to view the lecture. Maybe I sought immediate gratification too much in my last two years of high school and he wanted to warn me about the dangers of doing so while in college. Nevertheless, it’s not always a bad thing; I just won’t make a habit out of it, and neither should you.  

Alas, there is no uniform way to live. We, as students and soon-to-be professionals, have and will manage in this ever-changing world. No two people are alike — we each have different personalities and interests. 

However, if there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s to enjoy the moment a little more. I hope that Davis and those of us on campus who relate to her realize that, for most of us, doing so means embracing the hype, too.

Sam Woiteshek can be reached at swoitesh@umich.edu.

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