Cultural trends are a very complex and dynamic element of society. It’s easy for most who are exposed to mainstream culture to become a part of or to adapt superficially to what is prevailing culturally. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; trends, whether it be in fashion, entertainment, speech, relationships, all make us who we are as a generation. To embrace them (without losing our own individuality) would mean to be able to look back 50 years from now and say that you were a part of something.
That being said, it is beneficial for us to examine the things in life that can so easily influence us, so as not to lose a sense of self awareness and to remind ourselves where we stand in the stream of our constantly changing environment. That way we don’t get caught up and we understand where these changes are coming from and can examine our own motivations behind being a part of them. Here are 5 of the top ways trends start.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA
So this one is kind of a given right? In today’s society, social media platforms serve as a breeding ground and large-scale distribution center of trends. By way of social media, new ideas, lifestyles, different perspectives, what’s hot and what flops, are all introduced to the world into the palm of each individual’s hand. While social media may not necessarily “start” various trends by coming up with fresh concepts, it does make them seen to the world, therefore promoting them. So if someone with a significant amount of influence on the world like Kim Kardashian does something that could make a cultural impact that others would want to copy, but doesn’t promote it in any way, it remains private, and a trend doesn’t start. That’s where social media comes in and builds a bridge. That’s why it’s the basis for the other triggers as we will discuss in this article.
So getting to the meat of cultural trends, tapping slightly into the psychological stimulants, would take a very long time and an entire 5000 word essay. So because my attention span is short and yours is too, let’s just deviate from superficial triggers for a moment, such as social media outlets. Because to understand the origin of trends, we need to remember that things trending isn’t something that happens just in our time. There have always been fads in first world countries. So how did they start 60 years ago when no one had the means to blow up what they thought should go viral? The answer: Motivation to be better; better than one’s self, better at than whatever their hand finds to do to make a living, better than others. So if the Jenkins’ down the street bought a new vacuum that was advertised as the best and word got around about it (because people actually talked back in the day instead of scrolling through feed and “liking”), anyone who was anybody needed to get that vacuum or something better in order to be better than the Jenkins. Thus a trend was started. They same mindset holds true today.
3. THE NEED TO BE DIFFERENT
So everyone wants to do their own thing, everyone wants to be able to say that what others think don’t matter to them, everyone wants to say “Hey look at me, but if you don’t, that’s cool I’m going to do my own thing either way.” I don’t think there’s ever been a time in history in which the current generation wanted so bad to be different. It can definitely be a good thing, we live in the age of expression, but it can be easy to lose a sense of self in trying to be something beyond what a person is. But either way, this expressive attitude and the desire to stand out spurs so many trends, especially in fashion and art. And once again, social media accelerates and punctuates the process of others catching on to new ideas and not only spreading them, but implements them into their own lifestyle. Which leads to the fourth way trends start on this list.
4. THE NEED TO BE THE SAME
This may seem contrary to the former point, and it is. But they work together in initiating fads. Yes, people want to be different, but to try to be different is only a way of trying to fit in. Fitting in has a lot more to do than trying to be like others, which is a HUGE factor, but even for those who don’t want to fit in (or for some, claim they don’t feel the need to fit in), the desire to stand out, even the standard for what could be considered as different, is ultimately inspired by others. Therefore, most individuals of the current generation have the insatiable need to be accepted, even if that means drawing attention by doing something different. So when someone does start a unique way of doing something, those who want to fit in, be accepted, be different, or all of the above, will adapt the fad and put their own spin on it, or accept it as their way of doing things and pass it on to others, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Perhaps the biggest motivator behind trend starting is admiration. Yea we can be competitive based in our nature and we want to be different but fit in and blah blah blah. But guys, what it comes down to a lot, is there are honestly just some good ideas out there. Photography is trending right now, people are getting super creative with it. Memes are great! That winged eye makeup thing girls do that they always say is “fleek”, LOVE IT! Even the things that aren’t so good ideas, they’re made out to be good because it’s relative, so if the majority adapt it, it’s good, it’s a trend, people are going to do it. It incites variety and creativity. It encourages unity. Admiration can be an awesome and powerful thing in our society.
What’re your thoughts? What else do you guys think trigger cultural movements? Do celebrities still hold heavy influence? What trends do you love/hate? Share your thoughts below?