In short, we’re seeing a shift from mass culture to massively parallel
culture. Whether we think of it this way or not, each of us belongs to
many different tribes simultaneously, often overlapping (geek culture
and LEGO), often not (tennis and punk-funk). We share some interests
with our colleagues and some with our families, but not all of our
interests. Increasingly, we have other people to share them with, people
we have never met or even think of as individuals (e.g., blog authors
or playlist creators).
Every one of us—no matter how mainstream we might think we
are—actually goes super-niche in some part of our lives. For instance,
I’m pretty mainstream in my movies, less mainstream in my music, and
incredibly niche in my reading, which seems to consist mostly of network
economics these days (blame this book). Moreover, where we do
go niche, we often follow it much farther than we might otherwise go,
letting our enthusiasm take us deep into wine culture or vintage
jewelry—because, thanks to abundant choice, we now can.