Humans are social creatures for the most part, some more than others. We often bond over food and drinks, athletic activities or arts and entertainment, among other things.
Imagine for a moment that you are walking freely down a long, large hallway. You are among a group of people.
Above each door in the hallway is a sign that lists a thing that people like — music, sports, film or novel, activity, etc. As you go down this hallway, people from the group are stopping at various doors, opening them and going into the rooms beyond. That is their “primary interest”.
As you keep walking, you rubber-neck, most people seem to be going through the same doors. There’s already a lot of people in those rooms and they’re talking, laughing, even cheering. You see some high fives, fist bumps, even hugs, through the crack and through the crowd of bodies.
And you keep walking. You haven’t felt strongly pulled towards any of these doors so far. The people that choose the doors that you pass, they seem like perfectly good people, you could get along with any of them under the right circumstances, but they feel more of a connection to the theme of those rooms than you do.
As you pass more and more doors, the group has thinned. Many people have already split off and chosen their rooms. You start to look around at the people left in your remaining unfiltered group. They’re eclectic, just as you see yourself.
People still split off and choose their doors, at a slower rate, but slowly your group dwindles down. Finally, you find some doors you feel a connection to. You find the thing that resonates strongest with you, and you end up in the room with the others who resonate with it too.
You look around at your company. The room isn’t packed, but there is enough people for it to be comfortable. People might be a little hesitant, or awkward at first. They aren’t sure what to say, but once the ice gets broken, the cheers, fist bumps, and hugs sweep through your group too.
These are the people who know they love a thing, and at the end of the day, that’s all that truly matters to them. They don’t necessarily care that anyone else likes it, and they don’t need to like it with other people.
In this room you will find a mix, of personalities and appearances. You will find people who look like a suburban neighbour, and you will find people with purple hair and piercings, and quite possibly everything in between. You can fall anywhere on that spectrum yourself.
Normally, the suburban neighbour might normally pretend they belong in one of the other rooms, meanwhile they secretly wonder what is going on back in this room where their passion lies more strongly.
Purple hair and piercings on the other hand, might identify more with the look, but also wants to check out other less obscure things. They might be hesitant because of the reaction they will get based on their presentation.
But in this room we’re all equal.
We all like a thing that not a lot of people like or will admit to liking. We might feel a bit self-conscious because we know that it’s a bit out there, but it makes us happy, even if most other people don’t get it like we do.
This room is a niche market, one of many, and may even contain multiple niches in one. As its occupants, we generally aren’t marketed to, well understood, or given the benefit of the doubt. We could be Heavy Metal fans, Kinksters, Introverts, Gifted Geeks, any number of things…
We entertain and amuse ourselves — by ourselves — largely because we have to. We are true to ourselves (for the most part), despite the fact that it often leaves us feeling just a little bit lonely. We try not to judge the people in the other rooms, or be jealous of their fun and popularity.
Every once in a while we might decide we’re curious and want to see what all the fuss is about in one of the more bustling rooms, because no one is so single-faceted that they only ever want to do just one thing. But when we explore, we do so with caution.
And sometimes when we do, we get welcomed and embraced. Some of the less-niche rooms have a real zest for life, for camaraderie, and for good times, centered on a shared joy, not the person who enjoys it. And that’s a good thing. You may not come to the more niche rooms, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you don’t come down the hall and throw toilet paper at the door.
Pick your room, come and go, make new friends.
We all love what we love — we all love stuff that makes us happy. Happiness is a niche we can, and should, all occupy.
Non-conformists, we’ll see you in the hall.
This article was originally published elsewhere on Jun 8, 2014, and has been updated.