Everywhere you turn, people are talking about trends. Online and offline there's a huge amount of trend-topics, every day it seems there’s something new to know about, so much that it can be hard to keep up.
The trend has become omnipresent both in our lives and contemporary culture. And if there is one thing that watching trends has taught us, it's that at the exact moment at which something becomes “popular”, that something is no longer a trend.
First, a definition: a trend is a prevailing tendency that is gradually gaining momentum and might have long-term implications. It's different from a fad, which is a short-term burst of interest or way of being.
The fact that there is a severe need for decarbonizing the planet is a trend. That many brands are talking about sustainability is a fad.
So many of the "trending now" items on the search engines' lists are really fads, not trends. Trends exist because they satisfy some basic needs in all of us: the need for communicating cultural identity and the collective need for decoding every aspect of this complex system called World.
Almost a year ago I began to create Underprospective, a simple project about the breakdown of narrative time. A space underlying contemporary culture and that discusses future changes. A platform that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers instead focusses on asking some questions like:
How would we describe the time we live in? What was life like 10-20-40 years ago? What does the future hold?
What is the future in the present?
These answers could range from deeply personal to millenarian to an extreme form of new pessimism.
The truth is that we have always had trends — in design and marketing, in food and travel, in nearly all human pursuits. But the fashion industry is often the first to recognize them. And it may have been among the first to forecast their end. Today fashion, art, politics and economics are going through cultural and social upheaval. The Internet and Covid times
related to economic collapse, popular uprising, a general sense of consumer fatigue, and the breakdown of a consensus reality
have so fractured us globally that we no longer are looking for mass-culture experiences.
So major trends have become splintered mini-trends — which are not really trends at all. Trends only work when there is a growing audience that buys into them and they can only reach a critical mass if the masses are not too critical. And with the decline in trends comes a decline in the notion of there being such a thing as pop culture. So maybe the last trend we will see is the dead of the trend itself.
The trend of trends is changing, which means that trends have become a much more studied and talked-about topic, and this itself may affect their life cycles. It's extremely basic to say but Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, and Twitter have had the effect of accelerating culture a lot, so trend cycles emerge and die faster.
So it’d be useful to ask: where do they come from? Are they going faster than ever before, or not fast enough? And what eventually kills them?