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How social media influences the evolution of trends

Social media influences trends – this article looks at the way our digital culture has sped up the evolution of trends.

In the age when any narcissist can find validation with the simplicity of a double-tap and become a broadcaster-at-large of almost any brand, the difference between innovator and emulator soon becomes blurred.

Our digital culture has shifted our focus towards efficiency and immediacy rather than long-lasting movements. It is accelerating the pace of trends that may have once taken years to filter through society and instead given them the lifespan of a ten-second Snapchat.

Today, there is no doubt that trends have many manifestations. Digital media means that we now live a primarily visual life and consume images on a greater scale than we do words. We’ve got trendy memes, catchphrases, activities, clothing items and so forth circulating our devices.

As much as we think they do, trends don’t happen out of the blue. We, as a society, carefully construct them. They emerge and evolve depending on a variety of factors including pop culture, the streets and socio-political movements.

The history of communicating fashion trends

Surprisingly, little has been written in history in consideration to trend ‘following’. Maybe this is due to the scarcity of information documented before the early twentieth century as, for whatever reasons, we only learn from past matters that the participants of the time chose to reveal or find interesting enough to note. Traders and marketers of the past must have sat on the sidelines in comparison to their other, more extravagant peers.

But, before more contemporary methods of communication like magazines, fashion shows and our beloved I.G, our clever ancestors had other ways of distributing information. The authorities of fashion used Pandoras (fashion dolls) to fashion plates to detailed journals to charm society and generate demand.

Throughout history, dress has primarily been a form of visual art that uses the visible self as its medium. Despite many popular beliefs, the most significant aspect of clothing is the way it looks. People dress to observe each other and have done so for hundreds of years.

A sense of belonging

Trends have always been, and always will be, core to the way we interact with each other. To follow a trend suggests one thing: a sense of belonging. Whether that means fitting in or being an ‘outcast’ is besides the point as everyone tends to follow someone or something they believe in.

Perhaps that’s why social media is so popular and is why it influences our fashion trends with such great impact. Trends used to come about in two ways: they either trickled down from the runway or bubbled up from the street. This is not entirely the case anymore.

It doesn’t mean that we aren’t still looking to both of those things though. The fashion industry is still one of the most thriving industries in the world and we are still very expressive. We just have a new way to share it.

Social media influences trends

With the ability to instantly share something with the click of a button, anyone can connect worldwide. We can tailor our feeds to exactly how we want them. We can observe new movements that fit with our social circle or desired social circle.

With social media, brings social media influencers. As people have moved away from traditional media like magazines and newspapers, and are spending more time online, trendsetters have moulded into more relatable influencers. It is no longer just celebrities who influence society’s tastes; social media influencers play an increasingly larger role.

The nature of our online world has seen an acceleration in the adoption of trends. It circulates ideas and visuals speedily and augments to the psychology of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

With an abundance of visual stimulation, we are more receptive to what others are doing. Consequently, we become anxious if we feel like we are being left out, which only helps fix trends in the digital space more efficiently.

And as the internet allows trends to develop and spread with such haste, it also can see their longevity shortened, blurring the line between a trend and a short-lived fad.

Have we disrupted the trend setting cycle?

Have we disrupted the trend setting cycle? Being inundated with trending content, surely it isn’t as effective anymore? If you’re an active social media user than there is no doubt that you’ve spotted or followed a trend – and perhaps without knowing.

Trend forecasting is no longer how it used to be. Before the explosion of the Internet, the trend forecasting system was perfectly outlined. Fashion forecasters would decide which looks would cause the biggest impact on the market, based on what fashion houses were producing from season to season at the time.

However, the Internet has also been the ruin of many traditional fashion forecasters – any online influencer has the means to set a fashion or design trend through their personal feeds. With this being the case, we wonder: who is now responsible for creating trends?

But, the answer is simple: we have a democracy of people deciding what goes viral. Trends are spread by people, and always have been, and always will be.


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