It’s difficult to come across news articles these days that don’t mention Taylor Swift in some record-breaking way. Whether it’s multiple tracks of her album dominating the Billboard 100s, concerts selling out shows – breaking Ticketmaster to the point of policy change and entirely shifting/boosting the American economy – concert movies breaking theater records in an era where the movie theater industry has been struggling to fill seats, or her dating life with football star Travis Kelce revitalizing interest in the NFL for a new demographic, Taylor Swift has become somewhat mythic in the pantheon of American idols. The simple authenticity that permeates her songs about crushes, love, and imagination have remained resonate across ages, and it’s come to the point where Taylor Swift’s presence has developed into an homage to girlhood, to Americana-core, and to the sort of long-standing powerful nostalgia that is difficult to find in an era where trends come and go faster than water.
It's difficult to know what an ordinary individual can learn from this level of superstardom. We as consumers can only marvel as spectators, enjoy her music or her shows, or simply nod passively in acknowledgement at the name if we’ve never really resonated with her material.
But what I think is interesting about the Taylor Swift Effect is that it brings to attention the power that loving a thing can not only have on an individual, but on an entire community.
America is in a period of deconstruction. Deconstruction of once long held American values, of religion, of identity, of politics, of media, of society, and the list goes on. The tentpoles of what used to easily hold our American ideologies together under a neat bow come into question daily as the world undergoes intense changes and diverse challenges. Changes and challenges that are now more visible and accessible than ever with social media and the internet. And while change is not only necessary but inevitable, one disheartening side effect of it becoming such a spectacle is the loss of belief.
The loss of belief is the loss of easily loving a thing for not only what it means to you but what it means to a collective. It’s the loss of being in awe of a symbol, and for being in awe in general. It’s a moving experience that can reorient a person in the direction of purpose and motivation and joy. But it’s also a simple experience, unencumbered with the complexity and nuance we often ask of our leaders, our teachers, and ourselves especially as media bombards us with a million new views. So, to choose into the experience of simple joys especially in an age where everything is visible, we must find ourselves indulging all the way, incautiously, wholly, and deeply into things that bring us together.
Something important to remember when it comes to the work we do, no matter the industry we’re in, the role we have, the person we are, is to enjoy and pay attention to things that cause this kind of unity and excitement. Even if you don’t listen to her music, it’s hard to ignore her impact. And maybe you don’t even like Taylor Swift, her personality, or her music. Because again, so many others do.
So, to find the Taylor Swift effect in our ordinary lives is to be excited about the shows everyone is watching at the office, to talk about the commercial at the Superbowl everyone remembered, the meme circulating social media, the trend we decided to participate in, the client everyone loved, or even the day at work where everyone was on the same wavelength. To find the Taylor Swift effect is to find anything that collectively revitalized our beliefs in what it means to find lively meaning, together. Even if on a much smaller scale.
When we all do this, we not only revitalize our personal economies, communities, and experiences, but we also allow significance to re-enter the daily grind. Maybe not at Ticketmaster-breaking-box-office-smashing levels. But levels, nonetheless. Deeply personal levels that make you remember what you like about your job, the people in your life, or the little rituals of your day.
When we do this, we allow ourselves to be excited by the value of it all, to celebrate that we don’t only exist in vacuums of lonely existential consciousness but exist among other people whose experiences are just as actual as ours. We allow ourselves to be a fan in the back row of a Taylor Swift concert, screaming about the agony of an unrequited crush at the top of our lungs among a sold-out show of tens of thousands, in total admiration that everyone out there is fully present.
Just like us.