Write Club - Trendy
This is a piece I wrote about a year ago. It was for a writing/performing competition called write club. I had 10 days to write 7 minutes of material on the subject 'Trendy', then I performed it opposite another performer (Becky Bays) who wrote on the theme 'Classic'. The audience chose me as the winner.
Trendy, who even says that word anymore? That’s out of date, an old millenium word, it’s pre internet. It’s a word that was last used by my generation, and I’m not going to pretend my generation is current. Trendy is just not trendy anymore. Trending, now that’s the new trendy. Trendy was for nehru jackets, pet rocks and key parties. Trending is for snapchatting your uggs, managing your farmville and hooking up on grinder.
So, what the hell is a trend anyways?
A trend is defined as the direction in which something changes. Now that sounds like a fine definition to me, if you’re a fucking robot. But there’s no magic in that, nothing to express why we've embraced whatever thing happens to be trending right now. Trending is loved, it’s what is on our hearts and minds, it matters to us.
Still, none of that actually explains anything. So what the hell is it?
It all boils down to “memes”. You may have heard that word before but, but many of you think it just means pictures of cats that you share on the internet. Accurately, a meme is defined as "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." The term was coined by evolutionary biologist and Emma Watson look alike Richard Dawkins. He had the brilliant notion that ideas spread from person to person through human consciousness with the same pattern that a virus spreads through a biological population.
So memes are the individual units and trends are the collection of those individuals. If a meme is a car, the roads, highways and freeways are made up of trends. Trends are the medium that ideas use to flow through time and space. Trends are not static, they move and change. They are the evolution of thought. Without them we cannot have any progress, no growth, no innovation. Trends aren't either good or bad, they just are. They are neutral with the potential to be either.
Centuries ago disease was thought to be an imbalance of the four humors. Water, blood, Yellow bile and Black bile. This trend was the gold standard of medical knowledge, but it was complete bullshit, it was a bad trend. Over hundreds of years different people mulled over the idea that there was something else causing disease. Francesco Redi, Agostino Bassi, John Snow, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur all followed new trends in science like experimentation, Microscopes and epidemiology to find better answers. Because of that, the germ theory of disease became the new trend. That’s a trend that done very well for us and has lead us to even newer trends like understanding genetic disorders or cancers. Medicine has grown into a thick braid of trends that grow and adapt to sort out what works and what doesn't.
This happens because ideas move and they feed off of each other. They are alive and constantly looking for people to infect and inhabit. They change the world they exist in and that leads to the birth of new ideas or support for other change. While the first humane society for the prevention of animal cruelty was formed in 1824 it was an idea that had very limited appeal. In 1859 when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species it drew a connection between animals and humans that helped people empathize with animals and eventually helped spread the animal rights movement across the western world.
We are social intellectual people that communicate and think. We have a capacity for exploring ideas that is at least as robust as our desire to explore the physical world. and Living in a society we can’t help but hear the ideas of other people as we bump into one another. Those memes spread and that makes us think, often about similar ideas.
There’s evidence for this in the fact that people often come to the same discoveries independently of each other.
Alfred Russel Wallace was coming to the same conclusions about evolution that Charles Darwin wrote about in his book. The two men were developing the same trend because they had both been infected by the same memes of scientific discovery that were abundant at the time.
In the past these trends were slow to spread, decades or sometimes even centuries would pass before any significant growth or change would happen to an idea, but that is not the case any more. Today we have twitter. We have Facebook and Pintrest and Reddit. We have built an information superhighway dedicated to spreading these ideas, sharing thoughts like so many pictures of cats. We can haz cheesburger, we can haz Buzzfeed listicles and hilarious auto-correct moments where peoples parent talk about anal.
It’s a powerful time we live in, and there is a downside to it. As I mentioned before trends have no morality, they simply exist whether they are the appeal to raise money for a charity or the threat of rape and death to a reporter who’s only crime is sharing her ideas and being a woman at the same time.
Because our trends are so easy to share, it’s so much easier to share the bad ones along with the good. And when we do they often reach further, and build more momentum than they should.
Look at Miley Cyrus.
The “twerking” girl. A woman of letters, all of them open letters of anger and criticism laid upon her by people. Angry people, shocked people, sad people. People who are all somehow surprised that she turned into exactly the woman she was trained to be for most of her childhood. I understand that anger, that guilt. I have a daughter, I’ve paid a fair bit of money to the Miley Cyrus Endowment fund for the Arts. We had the CD’s, I saw the concert film.
That means I’m already a tied to that trend, and I feel it’s draw. It pulls me in, inviting me to leave my comments, my appeals for Miley to be that “nice young woman she used to be” before Uncle Terry and Aunty Annie took those terrible pictures of you. I feel that urge to assume that she must have no control of her life, the urge to assume that somehow I have all the answers.
But I don’t want to be a part of that trend. Simply because I have an opinion and a keyboard Does not mean I can comment on a situation that I really know nothing about. A situation that has been carefully crafted and honed for the trend machine. I don’t want my ideas to become a part of the crowd sourced advertising scheme.
We must choose our trends wisely, because once they begin to grow they take on a life of their own. We can waste a lot of time and resources telling each other how we should live our lives. Or we can look for a better campaign to kickstart, something we want to see grow rather than something we are simply reacting to.
And of course cats, We’ll always be able to choose cats.