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The Trend Report™: Top Trends of the Year
A look back at the year to help us look forward to a new year.
A lot happened this year! To close the year out, to reflect on all that happened, let’s take a look back at the top trends of the year, both from what has been reported and what we can see continuing (and evolving) into the future.
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This was the year of the worker. Not the year of billionaires or bosses, politicians or celebrities: it was the year of the worker, as the world realized the power of people over profit. The pandemic has thrust this thinking to the forefront, as so many saw what life was like with a little bit of extra money and less work, being allowed to live in a way that this world (i.e., America) has never allowed. It’s beautiful and exciting and scary, as change typically is. This has been chronicled repeatedly in the Report™ – in January, March, July, September, December – as it evolved from a meme to an international movement. This is an extremely intersectional issue too, as it’s converging with Covid to expose how workers are at risk just by being forced to go into the office. People aren’t fucking around – and employers and companies need to start seeing the workforce as people instead of numbers. Even this week’s CDC revelation, where they literally bent to an airline CEO, is a sign of this. This trend relates in the rise of seeing no job as an “unskilled” or worth of low wages, a rise in young persons taking interest in Marxism, workers being fed up with ridiculous rules, and the understanding that a job doesn’t require someone to participate in anything.
A tweet sharing “lowkey nervous heading into junior year of covid” from October caught the malaise of the current state of Covid, the perfect summary of time and place within this slow moving tragedy. There have been so many developments in Covid this year – vaccines, variants, disability, children, record numbers – and so many reports on them – March, April, June, August (twice), November, December – but the thing that is most prevalent is how time has been warped and lost in the pandemic. Whether it’s languishing or boredom, there’s the feeling that we are registering every single grain of sand through the hourglass, as we are stuck in place, marking time without any excitement. We’re left reflecting on the early pandemic and on the things we (think we) stopped doing and discovering just how much older and how aged this moment has made us, all to realize that – Fuck. – we need to be living our lives, however we decide to define that. Yes, people on the right and corporations have moved on, pretending the “post” in “post-Covid” is actually real, indulging a fantastical, magical way of thinking. As we end year two, halfway to graduation, we remain in the doldrums, in a desert of time, meandering as we look for the exit.
I write this as a wildfire threatens Boulder, Colorado. There isn’t much to say about this trend other than our environment is so fucked up that we are stuck in an unpredictable pattern of life that we will likely live with…forever. As we’ve covered this year, that means more inhospitable places to live and work and coming up with more innovative solutions for our even more surprising disasters. Yes, “allyship” and “vaccine” and “NFT” were words of the year, a summation of what’s important (“important”) now, but I was quite shocked to find that these reflections on the year tended to look away from this subject. As history shows, we want to learn the hard way and, sheesh, the future will be hard.
Have you heard of Gen Z? They’re here and everyone is obsessed with them, to the point of cultural and intellectual myopia. This subject was arguably the most covered of the year, specifically as it relates to how a generation is expressing themselves online, from mashup memes to neo-vlogs to stan culture to chaos edits to micro-aesthetics. An obvious item that I think is more important than the modes and styles of making are the ways Gen Z are pushing language, whether by reviving emoticons or creating homophonic expressions (“naur” for example). It’s entertaining and interesting getting to witness memes become language, like how the word “sexy” has become an expression of intelligence and potential (example, example, example) thanks to the reclaiming of bimbo that has runoff into tributaries like gorgeous girls eating soup and yassification. The ways and means of generational expressions has been documented on the Report™ several times – on Zoomer candor, on Zoomer meme-speak, on Zoomer post-cringe – and it continues to fascinate as language is so amorphous and unknowable, by a generation or media outlet, as the moment being “claimed” is so far behind it’s actual introduction into vernacular. Now, if only older people and brands would stop trying so hard, analyzing and criticizing and supplicating. Just listen instead. Stop overthinking it, everyone.
I love and hate and love and hate this and wrote about it as assuming instead of understanding and the trend of creators of difference exploiting themselves. This trend has evolved in some curious ways and I keep seeing it over and over again, which is going to expand in the new year: correctness, specifically as a way to critique anyone for simply existing. This typically manifests in a person sharing something – Literally anything! Even the most personal things! To people who consented to listen! – which someone chimes in about, to call out how offensive the statement is. This feels like intersectionality and awareness run awry – tattle-tailing on TikTok, calling ADHD alcoholism, consenting to be weighed, offering trigger warnings for someone’s race, calling “twink” gendered, declaring a boycott ableist – that show the limits of forward-thinking and self-expression under liberalism, a reveal of how progressive voices are a bit more conservative than they see themselves as. The problem isn’t sensitivity but something potentially more disgusting: since people and brands have equal footing online, both are now trying to please everyone in a personal way – and if you, in anyone’s audience, are displeased? You feel as though you must speak to the manager, to tell them just how mad you are, to get them to understand that you are a paying customer of life, that you want your money back for existing in the same space (And, by the same token, brands now have to take a stand on everything, even when their stance goes against their history and actions. That’s another trend that we’ll continue to see, which is just how corporations adapt to steal money: mirroring our personal behaviors.)
The last trend of the year – both the funniest and worst, at the same time – has to be brands getting way too fucking sexy. From 7-Eleven teasing feet pics to Nutter Butter talking about “nutting,” the bid of relatability for one’s cash has extended beyond “Brands think like me!!” to “Brands have sexual attractions like me!!” and the results are all awful. What brands are still not realizing is that no one cares, particularly in an era of the informed audience, where we all know any brand’s social existence is an ad, no matter how “cool” they act online. The awakening of the workforce isn’t divorced from holding brands accountable, from calling them out for “funny” antics when they are creating their own injustices (either through their product or how they waste or foster their own casual evil). This is definitely going to evolve to brands being pushed back in a corner, to shut the fuck up, to realize that they are advertising and not “our friends.” And how will they reply? With a dick pic, even if the “dick” in question is a roll of cookies covering something salacious. It’s bound to happen. The question is: which brand will be the first to do it, to open the Kum gate?