Britney Spears has always been a profound thinker.
From the moment she sang Hit Me Baby One More Time we knew she was not only a symbol of empowerment for women everywhere, she also deeply considered the nuances of the world around her.
So it came as no surprise when in late 2008, she famously declared, “there’s only two types of people in the world, the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe”. (Just try and read this without singing it. JUST TRY).
While it is surprising that I would take issue with lyrics from a singer who had the top 30 hit I’m A Slave 4 U when I was 11 years old (#rolemodel), I’m just not sure that with seven billion people in the world, we can be meaningfully categorised into ‘the ones that entertain’, and ‘the ones that observe’.
In fact, whenever I hear an argument (or see a pseudo-inspirational Internet quote) that begins with the assumption ‘there are two types of people in this world’, I automatically cringe, and discount all the words that follow.
And it’s not just Britney – some incredibly formative figures have used this cliché. Mark Twain thought there were people who accomplished things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. Marlo Thomas said that there were givers, and there were takers.
More recently, Susan Cain started The Quiet Revolution, based on the concepts of introversion and extraversion. Specifically, she argued there is a significant bias against introverts in western culture.
Cain wants our schools and workplaces to better cater to introverts, she wants to help parent’s support their introverted kids, and she wants to start a ‘quiet community’ to achieve these goals.
Being a quiet person myself, it may seem odd for me to challenge Cain’s argument. But essentially, I want to argue that it might be unhelpful to place people into distinct personality categories.
As a twin, I’ve been victim to such categorisations for most of my life. In order for people to understand you (and more importantly, WHY on earth there are two of you) they need to define you in terms of opposing qualities.
There has to be a smart one, a sporty one, a funny one, a pretty one, a creative one, a serious one, a nice one, a weird one, and the one with the claw-like hands (oh, sorry, that’s just me).