Why trends aren't random at all and how we can use them to our advantage
Welcome to Mental Space Monday!
Where we journey inside the rabbit hole of collective consciousness and submit to the whims of curiosity.
This week we're taking a look at trends; where they come from and why we should listen to them. In hearing the word trend, we tend to have one of two reactions. One, you are intrigued. You want to see it, get it, buy it, take part in it. You crave being "in the know" for the "next big thing". Then there are others who instinctually prickle against the term "trendy". You don't want to be a follower, you don't want "them" telling you what you like, what to eat, what to wear. In fact, much of the time, if it is popular, you avoid it for the sole reason that the general public, mass media, etc are touting it so adamantly. You don't want your actions and decisions to be driven by trends or pop culture (though, in avoiding them at all cost you are allowing them to do just that).
Last week we talked about Zeitgeist and the cyclical nature of our collective consciousness. It is easy to consider Zeitgeist in a more academic sense considering the fact that many of us don't have a personal connection to this foreign, almost science-sounding word. But trends and Zeitgeist are intimately related and serve a very important function in uniting us as a society and connecting our perspectives and ideas into a collective experience. Trends are the result of Zeitgeist; they are a vibration, a resonance stemming from the catalyst of our collective spirit. If Zeitgeist is a stone, trends are the ripples it makes when hitting the water of society. If Zeitgeist is a yell, trends are the echo.
The word "trend" is often thrown around in the context of something arbitrary and frivolous. It has a connotation that takes us all back to middle school when we watched the popular crowd parade through the halls wearing the coolest new jeans and hippest high-top sneakers. We tend to regard "trends" as a creation of corporations and the "haves" in order to manipulate the masses and the "have-nots" and sell more product. While there are undeniably elements of this, trends are so much more. Trends are the echoes of who we are as a society right now. They are the product of at once both our conscious and our subconscious - creating a resonance that vibrates to those around us. It joins us together, builds into a crescendo of collective mentality that results in us wanting/buying/watching/wearing what we do.
The etymology of the word trend actually goes back to Middle English meaning "to roll about, turn, revolve" and even further back, the word has a geological meaning "to run or bend in a certain direction"; think the path of a river. Trends in society are not random; they are not arbitrary. They are a product of us. They stem from what we want, what we are and how we live day-to-day. Our mental state and desires are the cause; trends are simply the tangential, physical evidence. They are "rolling about", "revolving" around the teeming mass that is our Zeitgeist. Trends cut through our history and our log of human experience the way that a river cuts through a landscape. Looking back over past trends is like looking at the carved path of the grand canyon - we can see where we used to be; what we wanted, craved, identified with at those times. There is value in seeing where we have been and just as much value in being a part of the current phase of this process that will help us look back and learn from where we are currently. The fascinating shift in mindset here is that these trends that are cutting the most recent layer of our societal riverbed don't define us; they reflect us; they are the offspring of our cultural idea sex. Trends are not the cause of the current ailment of our society. Instead, they are at once the most simple and complicated outward symptoms of whatever true virus is ailing us - for better or worse, or sometimes both. In example, the trend is swinging toward more raw, natural materials in both fashion and interiors. In our desire for more genuine, authentic experiences in our lives we are drawn to furniture and clothing that has also been stripped of the shiny, perfect veneers that we once hid behind. We are embracing flaws in ourselves, in those around us and as an indicator of this, there is a resulting trend toward rough, hand-hewn, reclaimed barn wood and natural fibers that aren't always perfect, but are real and more interesting because of it.
As Brillat-Savarin said, "You are what you eat." This extends further than just our food. We are 'feeding' ourselves daily with all of the knowledge and experiences that we take in. This includes visual food such as the spaces we spend time in, the clothes that we wear and even the facial expressions of those around us. It includes mental food such as our inner monologue, TV shows we watch, music we listen to and books we read. All of this combines to create the "diet" that we are ingesting. We also have shared experiences with those around us such as the hottest new blockbuster movie or the most recent VMA/EMA/Oscar/PCA/Nobel Peace/fill-in-the-blank awards, natural disasters and breaking news. Because our diets are so similar, it stands to reason that we would be collectively drawn to certain things. This is how new trends are born. We are all looking to fill many of the same needs, the same gaps in our daily experiences and so we respond to the same "food" to round out our current diet. This often means that similar trends start in many places at once, combine and grow to one large, sweeping movement. This doesn't just apply to clothing or car color - it extends to ideas as well. As an excellent example of this, Jason Silva released a new episode of Shots of Awe that covers exactly this ouroboros loop that we have been discussing. Take a look here: How Our Creations Change Us.
What does it all mean?
These things that we all see "trending" around us are not chosen from thin air. We are a cog in the machine and we have the ability to affect the output - likewise, we have a responsibility to be aware of what we are contributing to it. Yes, the products we are buying and the movies we are seeing are created by a small group of people for consumption by the rest of us - but here's the key: they don't work unless we let them. We are the ones feeding the snake. We guide the course of the Zeitgeist as we respond to the world around us. Those who create products are reacting to what we like; what we eat; what we buy; what we watch; what we tweet. Doesn't it make you feel powerful that you are a player in defining what the new trends are? But use your power wisely. We are all on the same train traveling on one set of tracks. We may have different views out of our respective windows but if someone decides to pull the emergency brake, we are all delayed. And that emergency cord now reaches further, faster than ever before. Trends are moving faster because information exchange is faster which means that we react to more input in less time and our mental cravings shift that much more quickly from one thing to another. Our trends run at the pace of Twitter rather than Pony Express. Trends can seem artificial and arbitrary but in reality, they are created for us by us. They are a result of the food that society has eaten they are echoes of us all. They are something to be respected, not in a blind, sheep-following sort of a way but in a collaborative respectful-and-aware-of-your-neighbor's-needs kind of a way.
It seems apt to end with the father of free verse, Mr. Walt Whitman - it is also fitting that this can be linked to an Apple commercial - (We can discuss the influence of Apple next week, but they are a powerful influencer of the current Zeitgeist - I can see why.)
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse -Whitman
We are all contributing our own verse to the continual rotation of "trends". Be conscious about your verse; make it worthwhile. If you don't like the beat; change it. This is a group effort and our song is richer for the diversity that each of us adds to it.
Delight in the verses submitted by other as well and also in the entirety of the poem that we are collectively creating. It is a beautiful thing -
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Have a wonderful week, lovelies. Believe in your unique entelechy and actualize your wonderful.