The Idiocracy of Online Trends
I’m kind of a hater.
Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word but “I’m kind of a disliker” doesn’t sound right either. So let me explain what I mean. I’m not a hater of all things; I’m just a hater of some things. And those some things are fads. I detest, loath, abhor most things that become trendy for the sake of becoming trendy. In other words, I’m the true definition of a real hipster (and not the ones sporting a Dali mustache and combat boots for the sake of calling themselves hipsters). And even that label, I hate.
One time I was asked what kind of music I liked. This is always a difficult question for me to answer because music to me is very personal and I care what I like and care little about what anyone else likes. But before I could answer, my friend blurted out, “Jackie only likes what isn’t popular right now unless it predates 30 years then she doesn’t care.” Annoyingly, he was right.
So allow me to demonstrate.
When I was eight, I watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show. For over a decade it became my favorite movie. Until my early twenties when for some reason it became popular again. And everyone and their grandmother were watching.
So … it stopped being my favorite movie.
I used to be a political junkie. I kept up on all the nonsense happening in Congress and on the news. I studied all of the issues in great depth and formulated evidence-based arguments. Until Donald Trump decided to run for President. And for some reason having a “political stance” on everything became a thing.
So … I stopped listening to the news and Keeping up with the Trumpians.
As a teenager, Morrissey was my idol. No one in school knew about him. So I would lock myself for hours and in an existential stupor listen nonstop to his songs. But then when I was in college, Morrissey resurfaced as a demigod for troubled youth. And being troubled or “emo” was in.
So … I left my fascination with Morrissey to rest for a while.
This has been the story of my life. And it sucks. Feeling this way is hard because it’s often isolating. But that’s the price one pays for individuality. There is a quote by Nietzsche that I think beautifully sums this up (yes, I would quote Nietzsche):
The individual has always had to struggle from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
I have often wondered why I tend to flee from the crowd and try to maintain a sense of uniqueness.
Do I think I’m above everyone else?
Am I special?
Do I like being alone?
None of these explanations seem fitting though. I’m quite a humble and soft-spoken person who fears self-aggrandizement. And while I cherish my solitude as any introvert would, the loneliness that comes with individuality can at times be suffocating. Then what is it? Though I can’t exactly pinpoint why I’m a hater below are some reasons I don’t like fads.
Fads are superficial
When we are so focused on keeping up with the latest, we lose on truly absorbing and learning about what we are claiming to be interested in or in favor of. For example, it’s popular to be a feminist nowadays. It’s also a thing to hate on these so-called “feminazis.” But many of the people claiming to be feminists, or those hating on them, don’t know anything about feminism. Usually they think it means that women are superior to men.
To me this shows a severe lack of understanding in the principles of feminist theory, which states that all genders should be treated equally in the protection of human rights and in the access of opportunity for upward mobility. Thus, feminism is not pro women per se, it’s really pro everyone equally. But because feminism is fad many don’t take the time to read on this topic to fully understand what this movement is about … thus, enter the bra-burning, man-hating, feminazi.
And the meaning of this theory becomes at best diluted and worst misinterpreted.
Another thing that comes to mind is music and art. Think about your favorite artist. You have been following them for years. Every one of their songs brings a memory to you. And you maybe have even seen them in concert once or twice. But then they release a new album and just like that one song becomes a hit. And every radio station is playing it. All of a sudden people who never knew of the existence of this artist are now claiming to “love” them. But if you ask them about all of their other songs, they stare at you like deer staring into headlights – dumbfounded.
Fads are temporary
A fad in principle can only be temporary. It has a shelf life of a couple of hours to maybe a couple of weeks. Think about the trending news on Twitter and Facebook. As I am writing this, my social media is exploding with news on Notre Dame’s burning. But I bet that when I decide to release this piece a few weeks later, Notre Dame will be long forgotten.
To me this is a really sad for two reasons.
Our short attention spans, and
Some issues deserve more time than just a few hours or weeks
A statistic that has truly shocked me is that on social media we only have seven secondson average to captivate someone’s attention, otherwise they’ll scroll right past our posts. So if your post hasn’t jumped on the “latest and greatest” bandwagon, consider it ignored.
Think about what this is doing to our minds though. Have you noticed we are having a harder time concentrating? Finishing a book? Finishing a movie in one sitting without having the urge to check your phone to partake on on the latest breaking “news”? Or even finishing this blog in one go, or at all?
Perhaps worse is how little time we devote to important issues. Take immigration, for example. Every time news of an immigrant caravan from Central America takes on social media, my feed explodes with posts on human injustice, pictures of families and children crying, debates on immigrant’s rights, and so on. But these only last a few days. Then my feed moves on to something else, unrelated.
Does this mean that families aren’t being separated anymore? Or that immigration into the United States stopped?
But we stop talking about it because we’ve moved on to arguing about Kim Kardashian’s dream to be a lawyer.
Fads are expensive
This one is easy to understand in our modern-day-consumer-capitalist-market. We buy what’s hot. Just ask Apple how they’ve built an empire? Do we need a new phone when ours still perfectly works? Do we need the new Jordan’s? No. Of course we don’t. But we need the appearance. And that’s the problem. We don’t invest in possessions or experiences because we need them or have a strong passion for them.
We buy because everyone else is buying – regardless if we can afford them or not.
An expensive thing that’s become a thing is travel.
Yes, I know we’ve always traveled but not like this. Social media has transformed how and most importantly why we embark on the road or across the ocean. Traveling has become a fad. We are now traveling to show everyone else we are traveling. Skim through anyone’s Instagram stories or board and you’ll see dozens if not hundreds of photos of their travel “adventures.”
Don’t get me wrong – I love travel photos. I enjoy seeing far away architecture, landscapes, and busy markets from my phone. It’s inspiring. What I don’t like are the photos of these destinations being photo-bombed with the people traveling.
So let me be clear … I appreciate a good picture of the Brooklyn Bridge. What I don’t appreciate is my social-media-friend's face covering the Brooklyn Bridge. I know they were there and I know what their face looks like. Photobombing travel photos with one's face is to me just showing off. “Hey, look at me – I’m here in front of this well, famous building ... be jelly!”
Allow me to rant on this a bit further – indulge me.
Ask any art historian or anthropologist how it feels to actually see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or Machu Picchu in person. It’s grueling. The crowds trying to take selfies overwhelm the experience. Once while I was visiting the Acropolis in Greece, I saw this woman posing in front of the buildings leaving little to the imagination (if you know what I mean). When we got a chance to talking, I learned she did not even know she was in Athens. She thought for some reason she was in Greece and that Greece is both a country and a city.
But heck who cares if she is in Athens, Greece, or China, at least she got a killer photo for her Facebook, right?
Fads are passive
Because fads are superficial and temporary, there is little investment in them. Allow me to refer to some social media movements that have surfaced during the past years: #metoo and the many Facebook challenges for a cause (e.g., the ice bucket challenge). I’m glad people are talking about sexual misconduct and that we are raising awareness on ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
But because movements like these are faddy something else happens … we stop.
We stop at talking. At sharing a hashtag. At doing an ice bucket challenge. This is called slacktivism. For those of you who may not know what that means, slacktivism is really the appearance of being active on a social cause but not actually engaging in any further activity to advance its cause.
How many of your Facebook friends who are constantly sharing articles about whatever social injustice is trending have actually written to their congressperson? How many have rallied or attended a protest? How many have conducted research to advance issues in a systemic manner? How many have worked for a nonprofit? Volunteered? Raised funds?
There are many ways to be an activist. Sharing articles or Tweets on social media is one way. But it’s the most elementary and basic way. It’s also the easiest and the least impactful. Much of why people do this is to give the appearance that they care about these issues. And they do care. I believe that. But they care very little if that’s all they do.
Remember this quote:
Those who fight the battles that no one sees are the real heroes.
So get off Twitter and get on your email and write to your congressperson, instead.
Fads are self-esteem killers
Now on my last point and to finally relate this to mental health (after all that’s what my blogs are supposed to be about), fads hurt the image we have of ourselves. If you can’t keep up with them, then somehow there is something wrong with you. You aren’t cool or hip. Period.
If you can’t travel because you don’t have the means, then you aren’t “cultured.”
If you don’t have the latest iPhone, then you are missing out on all the cool new features.
If you haven’t kept up with the latest on the Mueller case, then you are a selfish and irresponsible citizen.
If you don’t partake in yoga, then you are uncivilized.
If you don’t know that Cher just called Trump an ignorant thug, then you must be living under a rock.
And so on and so forth.
If we don’t x, we must be y.
By using that mental formula, we will always fail. We can’t possibly keep up with everything. There’s too much noise out there. So we constantly live in FOMO (fear of missing out). And this fear is part of the reason why we have so much anxiety and depression. This mentality makes us feel like we are not good enough, smart enough, interesting enough. We should be more, but because we aren’t enough x, we are failing.
But … this is bogus in all ways.
When we part from the crowd, we engage on a journey of self-discovery, or a journey of becoming more comfortable with the unknown. We focus on the quality of our experiences and on learning about issues in depth. FOMO is non-issue because we have no one to compare ourselves with, no one to compete with but ourselves. We set our pace and our own goals based on the unique and individual needs we have.
And by doing this, the if I don’t x, I must be y formula transforms into a formula in which you always win, no matter what you do or don’t do.
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The Ins and Outs of OWN IT: A Blog on How to Show Bipolar Who's the Boss
A blog for people with mental illness written by an unstable, unpredictable, and uninhibited woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder
Covers all topics including relationships, coping mechanisms, entertainment, and everyday resources
Updated and shared twice a month, news and updates available on Instagram @jackie_loweree, and if you don't have an Instagram, no problem, just check my site - all posts will be here
Disclaimer: OWN IT is a first-hand account of bipolar disorder designed to orient those diagnosed with mental illness. It by no means intends to offer medical advice. If you are diagnosed with an illness, or think you may suffer from one, please seek professional help. Otherwise, take my words lightly and have fun reading!