How To Survive The Madness Of Fads
When we’re young and impressionable, we have an aptitude for stumbling into fads.
It’s fun exploring alternate identities, pushing the limits of what’s acceptable, and experiencing the world under a new lens. We establish an ever stronger separation of identity from our parents and forge a way of being that allows us to successfully navigate the social and cultural landscape.
Our naïve minds are enamored by the newest shiny object, the latest and hottest craze. Our desire to fit in, to be loved and accepted, inspires us to alter our behavior in order to hop on the latest bandwagon. We look cool in front of our peers, and while it may not be our initial inclination, the sacrifice of a few authentic expressions of self seems a small price to pay for social survival.
None of this is inherently wrong, except for one history-endorsed fact:
Most fads are fucking ridiculous.
I discovered the “emo” scene while I was in middle school. I did not possess the social adeptness that traditional popularity required so I went with the next best thing. I grew my bangs out way too long, wore nothing but dark clothing, brandished skate shoes even though I didn’t skate, and listened to music that adults considered devilish.
While I still love some good devil music (I swear I’m a nice guy), I’d be bullshitting you if I said those decisions were all because of me.
I was young and impressionable, wanted to be popular, and thought adopting elements of this weird trend would be my ticket. I possessed a unique combination of self-consciousness and narcissism and found something that would allow me to mask one while showcasing the other.
My dedication to this madness helped me survive the craziness of adolescence but didn’t make me any more comfortable in my own skin. I became a bit of a weirdo and am still recovering from the torturous constriction of skinny jeans.
Trends, fads, crazes, and all that jazz are fantastic at wiring themselves into our social nervous systems. It’s difficult to resist the temptation of participating in a phenomenon that so many others hail sacred. The negative feedback one gets from opposing the status quo can be devastating. It’s a lot easier to assimilate with the crowd and have them think for you than be isolated humming your own tune.
I know I said earlier that we’re particularly susceptible to the allure of fads when we’re young.
Really, it never ends.
We never abandon our desire to be accepted. We never lose the drive to connect with others in something bigger than ourselves. It never ceases to be fun participating in an exciting yet quickly fleeting cultural spectacle. It’s what’s helped us survive and reach the point where we can throw virtual Poké Balls at virtual Pokémon on real people’s heads (which is absolutely as much fun as it sounds).
It is important, however, to be aware of which fads we involve ourselves in and to what extent. Our species has a knack for stumbling into sensationalism, and if we ever hope to survive the madness of fads, we must be able to assess all the hype. It doesn’t take much for a virtue to become a vice, or for something that seemed like a great idea in the beginning to become a nightmare.
History is full of examples where this harrowing reality was confirmed.
The trend of excessive and perverse German nationalism led to one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of all time. Romans spent their leisure time watching live animals maul and devour helpless individuals. And let’s not forget the fashion tragedy that was the 80’s.
If we ignore the fine line between fun and frightening, we put ourselves in a position to deviate from intention. We risk morphing into something we never intended to be and lose ourselves in the process. We become distracted, ignorant, and overlook the subtle truths that make our experience meaningful.
Reflect on how much of yourself you give to fads. Notice your emotional reaction whenever somebody tests whatever it is you’re into. Challenge your current belief system and seek alternate sources of information to broaden your awareness.
Whether it’s your involvement with the current political scene, your obsession with capturing virtual creatures, or your perceived need to sacrifice leg hair for tight denim – cultivate a level of detachment and objectivity that allows you to enjoy the ebb and flow of fads without becoming consumed by them.
You can either be your own weirdo or someone else’s. The choice – and outcome – is yours to enjoy.