February 14, 2013

Intercostal Culture

By Andrew at 10:22 PM

Pop-culture, fads, and trends – elements of society that mysteriously appear and disappear seemingly upon a whim. Personally, I like to think that I try to avoid fads generally, primarily due to the lack of substance usually included with whichever trend is currently rocking the populace. However I do occasionally find myself involved in random trends, which is not necessarily an issue as they are usually harmless enough, although in retrospect silly bands look kind of, well, silly… While I could limit this discussion to physical objects that people collect, I am including relatively new concepts such as memes and trendy internet videos since the digital age seems to be generating an entirely new type of fad: information.

When I moved to California, I wondered if perhaps I would notice up-and-coming fads here before I observed the same fads amongst my friends and family members in the Midwest. Given the uncanny slant toward such topics that social media has seemed to pick up, I am able to (unscientifically) track such patterns by technological proxy. There have been several fads that have popped up recently, but with each one, I cannot say that there has been an appreciable difference in timing between when I noticed the fad amongst people I am around out here versus the people I am connected with on social media who live elsewhere. In fact, I stumbled across an instance the other day where the opposite was true; a video that had circulated amongst college friends months ago re-surfaced and made the rounds at work. But it is difficult to know whether the difference in discovery of this trending video was due to geographical location or age difference.
The ability to understand or possibly even participate in fads across a distance could be considered rather encouraging. A common awareness of pop-culture references can lend a common ground to generate a discussion of something people enjoy, most recently demonstrated in a video that everyone is talking about or trying to recreate their own version of. I could even ship my duplicate copy of a virtual pet to complete a friend’s collection! More realistically, memorable conversations can be held about topics that are mutually interesting, creating memories and bringing up other topics which could then be discussed in more detail.
Communication today is much easier than it was even ten or twenty years ago. Trivial pieces of information make their rounds within hours of their discovery, especially if it is deemed hilarious by someone. Some fads, such as tie-dye, have lived on as a component of a specific style, especially when related to a time-period. Others, such as pet rocks, are only remembered when they are chuckled at. New fads are picked up more quickly than ever, thus reaching their critical mass and subsequent loss of novelty rapidly as well.
I think what I am trying to say is that fads are not necessarily a waste of time, but they can sometimes help build community. As with anything else, though, trends can be taken too far or into areas which detract from living a well-balanced life. It can be useful to realize that whatever the fad, we will all probably look back on them in a couple of years and laugh at the thought that those things were ever considered “cool.”

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