About 10 years ago, everyone I know was wearing Crocs.
You probably owned a pair, loved them and lauded how comfortable they were to your friends. Crocs were a trend that stormed America in the mid-2000s but luckily now have mostly died out. If you still wear yours in public I salute your enthusiasm for odd fashion and lament your lack of self-awareness.
My point is, trends come and go, and we often participate without thinking. Our carefree involvement in trends is explained by a sociological idea called “herd mentality.” When we see our peers in the “herd” do something, we are influenced to follow like sheep. It’s comfortable to follow trends because it removes our responsibility for our own actions. If everyone is doing something, then an individual won’t likely be questioned about why he is doing it too. Being a follower is safe and comfortable.
In retrospect, we understand Crocs were always ridiculous, but somehow their trendiness made them immune to criticism.
According to Pew Internet Project’s research, roughly 80 percent of college-aged individuals have smartphones. Now trends in social media and pop culture spread faster than ever. The hashtag has become the universal indicator of popularity. One tweet has the potential to change or create trends. Opinions and information can be accepted and spread online by thousands and questioned by none. “Herd mentality” is now illustrated in the “re-tweet” and “share” options on our social networks. Our media consumption and habits parallel our peers’ in innumerable ways.
This has been the death of originality. People accept a trend and stop looking for things they might genuinely like more – things that would make them an individual.
I’ve never considered myself a trendy person. I generally shy away from things that inexplicably gain a lot of popularity, but now for the sake of investigative journalism, I will participate.
I’ll be writing this column every other week to record my own involvement in new trends. I’ll discuss the pros and cons as I see them. I’ll question and criticize and hope that afterwards we can all have a clearer perspective.
Trends need to be judged on merit, not on popularity. We need to thin the herd.