CURATED: Weary Word of the Week

I have to get something off my chest, and I need you to bear with me because what I’m about to say might shatter everything you believe to be true in this world. You ready?

Not everything can be curated. 

I know, I know, it’s shocking. Because we’ve been told for the last 5 years that every single aspect of our life can and should be curated. Our playlists? Curated. Our wine subscriptions? Curated. The guest lists at our parties? Super curated. Our recommended movies on Netflix? You betcha. 

I did a silly thing and I typed the word curated into KickStarter today and here’s a list of things founders are, at this moment, raising money to curate: coffee, underwear, books, your wardrobe, vinyl records, bellydancers (I'm as confused as you are), cocktails, more books, androgynous apparel, wooden watches, organic meats and soy candles…just to name a few. 

But a funny thing happens when everything claims to be curated, the word loses all meaning. 

We’ve all seen The Incredibles, right? Near the middle of the film, there’s a scene in which Syndrome (Mr. Incredible’s #1 fan turned arch enemy) reveals his evil plan. Ultimately, Syndrome intends to sell the technology he invented to make himself a super hero to everyone in the world. “Then everyone will be super,” he explained at the end of his harrowing monologue, “and when everyone’s super, no-one will be.” 

And he’s right. When everyone is super, well…. then there’s nothing super about being super. When everyone you meet is your best friend and every meal you eat is the best thing you’ve ever tasted, then the impact of the word “best” coming out of your mouth becomes all but nonexistent. 

Have you ever looked at a single word so many times, for so long that the word loses all meaning and you start to wonder if you spelled it wrong, or if it’s even a word at all? What about when you say the same word over and over again until the sensation of forming your lips to make the word feels uncomfortable and you’re not even 100% sure you’re speaking the same language you started in?

Lately, when a company, idea or experience is pitched to me with the word curated involved I have a two step reaction. First, my eyes roll to the back of my head. Then, I ask a simple question, “what do you mean when you say curated?”. The sad truth is that most people don’t even know what they are trying to communicate with the word anymore, they’re just trying to throw as many buzzwords in their pitch as they possibly can. 

The fact of the matter is, that if you are doing something valuable, your elevator pitch and mission statement will be more powerful without buzzwords than they ever could be laden with them. If you’re tempted to use the word curated, think about what you’re really trying to communicate? Is your service or experience actually personalized for each customer’s needs and desires? Tell them that. Are the items in your subscription box hand selected by someone whose opinion your subscribers value? Tell them that. 

Language is too vastly powerful a tool for us to use it as haphazardly as so many of us do. Let's be intentional and use words that actually mean something. 

Ready to switch out "curated" for something of greater substance? Here are a few alternative phrases that still mean something (for now): 

Hand picked
Personalized
Tailor-made
Thoughtfully-selected
Kayci Baldwin