Now We Are Six

Overthinking It celebrates another anniversary, and I am led to wonder, “Who remembers their twenty-second birthday?”

Who remembers their twenty-second birthday?

Last year, there was great hullabaloo, a very long, heartfelt celebratory post, an actual in-person party where it was a pleasure to meet so many overthinkers in the flesh, and karaoke until the break of dawn. We had a blast, and shared a certain sense of triumph which I think the whole community can collectively own. “We made it,” we thought as one mind, and shook our one-minded heads in happy disbelief.

Now we are six. It’s an “in-between” anniversary, divisible by neither the radix of our numerical system nor by half the radix, and not even an odd number. Doesn’t it seem to you that the odd anniversaries are cooler than the even ones? It does to me. 7 is cooler than 4. 11 is cooler than 2 or 8 or even 26. I could go on.

I can remember turning all the milestone birthdays. The day I turned ten, my dad sent me an email (I was 71311,1721 on Compuserve, which I accessed on a 300 baud modem) saying “Welcome to the double-digit club.” I remember sixteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-one. Heck, I remember twenty-five, because I rented a car to celebrate. But I have no idea where I was for twenty-six or -seven or… I could go on.

I don’t mean to sound glum. There are undeniable consolations to the minor milestone, to the insignificant birthday. People’s expectations are generally lower, so you can just go out for dinner at your favorite place without worrying about inviting everyone you’ve ever known and what kind of food they like. The passage of time is a lot less scary, because it’s easier to rationalize “just another birthday” down to “just another day,” which isn’t all that frightening. And, as Fenzel pointed out to me on G-chat last night, “Being one year older than something else makes you feel superior, but being five years older than it makes you feel obsolete.”

So here we are, marginally superior to how we were a year ago.

Are we, though? We actually wanted to know, and so we asked. Several hundred overthinkers filled out our 2014 reader survey. For laughs, I put in questions about “brand identity”—are we smart? funny? friendly?—and to get to know you better, a section about your favorite movies, TV, music, and so forth. But the real meat of the project had to do with what you like about OTI and what you think we can do better (or can do without).

It’s pretty clear from the results that we are addressing two distinct audiences. One likes text articles, the longer and more obsessionally detailed the better. The other likes podcasts—especially the main OTI podcast—and videos, which convey the intellectual camaraderie and spontaneity they value. Funny enough, neither group really cares for the other stuff; each comment critical of the text was matched by one critical of the podcasts. It takes all kinds. Or in this case, two kinds, with some overlap. The venn diagram looks like this.

But what everyone could agree on is that our consistency is for shit. Our publishing schedule is erratic; our responses to those of you gracious enough to submit guest articles are insultingly tardy; we still haven’t finished the damn Cowboy Bebop series.

Yup.

The site is staffed by a group of friends about the same age who met in college some fifteen years ago and who share a special diverting and relatively uncommon way of relating to one another, works of art, and the world. That fact is our biggest strength—we’re at our best when we’re finding kindred spirits from all over and broadening the circle of friendship and overthinking—and greatest weakness, because every year our generational cohort is incrementally robbed of spare time for enterprises that feed the soul but not our children. (There is an alarmingly high rate of matrimony and procreation among the OTI writers, and there’s more of both in the works.)

The insidious thing about incremental birthdays is that several of them can pass without your noticing, and suddenly you look in the mirror and realize that you are not so much superior as completely transformed. It’s true of all of us. I think of the OTI staff six years ago, before all the marrying and procreating, before the terminal degrees in wildly disparate fields, before the gainful employment, before the moderately successful Internet website… I could go on. And I wonder what odds a statistician would have laid on things turning out the way they have. (Even money, because that’s how they in fact turned out? I was never really good at statistics.)

So (and I am speaking with complete candor here), being unable to manufacture either youth or more hours in the day, I’m not sure what to do about our consistency problem.

I really meant what I said last year: “I am as proud of working on Overthinking It as I am of anything I’ve ever done in my life.” (Though the double-digit club comes close.) I’m not sounding the alarm. We’re not going anywhere. And I know this sounds self-indulgent. But reading these surveys, I know a lot of you think of Overthinking It the way I do, as more than just another website, another time-killing source of pop culture articles on the internet. And I have the feeling that the coming year will see a transformation in this site to make it a sustainable enterprise for the people we’ve become, not the people we were when we started the site six years ago.

What will it transform into? Honestly, I have no clue. But whatever is, I promise you, we will subject it to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve.

Happy Anniversary, and thanks for reading.

15 Comments on “Now We Are Six”

  1. cat #

    Happy Anniversary. I will spare you a comment full of mushy feelings.

    Reply

  2. Lavanya #

    Who remembers their twenty-second birthday?

    Harvey Dent?

    Reply

  3. Charlie X Member #

    Happy bithday OTI. I only discovered you when you were three so I can’t count myself as an OG overthinker, but I’ve been loving every minute of your podcasts, videos and articles ever since.

    Reply

  4. David Provost #

    I just want to say congratulations. I’m a text-er, not a podcast-er (I’m also a texter and not a podcaster, but that’s different), and while I would deeply love more and longer and deeper articles and columns, I totally understand that that is asking a lot (a HUGE lot) of a website I access for free. Please do keep up the good work, to what ever degree you are able and inspired to, and I will be glad to follow along for the ride. Thanks again for everything.

    Reply

  5. Nat #

    I might be in the rare category of people who enjoy all your endeavours, although admittedly I am probably more committed to the podcasts. And while your text posts might be inconsistent in frequency, they are consistently of an excellent quality and almost always make me read to the end, something very few websites can achieve (I am very guilty of the internet short attention span sydrome)

    Thanks for all the entertainment over the years. I think I found the site from an imdb link 5 and a half years ago (I just worked that out, it certainly doesn’t feel that long) and I think you must have an incredibly loyal fan base, if I’m any indication.

    Anyway, to finish, I hope the new batch of OTI kids will prompt some serious overthinking of Disney movies, My Little Pony and the like. There’s some dark stuff there

    Reply

  6. clayschuldt #

    Congratulations, I say I’ve bee listening for 3 years. As for my 22 birthday I insisted on a Star Trek movie marathon; Wrath of Kahn, Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home.

    There was a break in between Spock and Voyage where everyone went to see a midnight showing of the new James Bond film, which had a trailer attached for the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.

    Since that is what I did on my 22 birthday, I am clearly the kind of person this site appeals to.

    Reply

  7. TribesmanSen #

    Happy anniversary OTI. I too am one of the folks that falls into the slim minority of enjoying (mostly) all forms of your works (I haven’t listened to the TFT podcast yet, I’m working on getting around to that). I wanted to send a very strong thank you for all the work you’ve put into this website over the last six years, it certainly hasn’t gone unappreciated.

    I for one am glad that posts are as spread out as they are. To me, it allows me to really consume your thoughts in your articles and try to come up with arguments for and against the topic of the week over the course of a day or two. The community here is great too, and comes up with some really interesting responses to the content that can often lead down a philosophical rabbit hole (see: The Ship of Theseus and The Toronto Maple Leafs), and that’s a culture that I’m glad has prospered. Honestly, I’ll read an article and then come back a day or two later just to see what other people have said, as there’re usually some very good points and counterpoints in the comments.

    All in all, thanks for doing what you’re doing. It’s been a great six years, and here’s to six more.

    PS: If you had asked me a year ago if I cared about Eurovision at all, I would have said, “What’s Eurovision, and no.” Now I’m giddily excited for it, so I’ve got you folks to thank/blame for that.

    Reply

  8. phizzled #

    i’m clearly more about the podcasts, or i would have posted closer to this article going up.

    in the immortal words of aaliyah, age ain’t nothing but a number. we qualify our values by quantifying them, but the impact of a podcast, a website, or an article is not measured by its age. we measure that value by click throughs, comments, and affiliate links clicked.

    so don’t think of OTI as six. think of it as several hundred engaged audience members. or don’t.

    Reply

  9. Timothy J Swann #

    Happy anniversary. As usual, I reflect with thankfulness the little part I’ve played in this endeavour… I guess having done the Exacta I should lie somewhere in the middle but I think in general I’m more podcast (as regards every podcast out there), hence why I’m one of those annoying people clamouring for audio feeds of video content. But I still read every article, eventually, and I still find all of them fascinating.

    I know you’ve gazed this navel before, but I think as time goes by it becomes clear that there were many overthinkers who had no name for what they did, until the original Overthinkers made it clear – now there’s guest articles by a bunch of people and great overthinking in the comments, and an expanded roster. May that journey continue.

    Reply

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