Imported from MySpace blog
Alternately perusing the pages of the morning paper and surfing the Web whilst whittling away the precious free time I have, I’m always drawn to trend stories.
I don’t know why, I just love them. I almost always end up reading them to the end, poring over the nifty fact boxes that accompany them, and glancing at the colorful graphs and charts that illustrate whatever trend the story is about. You know those amusing feature pieces, the ones that give a newspaper’s front page “color:” kids in suburbs learning to dance on top of moving cars; the craze among barhoppers in college towns to use their iPods or whatever to get dates; the resurgence in the popularity of knitting; etc., etc. ad nauseum. I read ‘em all. I guess I just like to find out what ridiculous craze my fellow humans are slavishly following now.
Sometimes I find myself getting jealous. Jealous that I thought of whatever trend featured in today’s edition of NY Times’ Web site first. Or that I haven’t caught on already. Or sometimes I’m pissed that whatever trend is obviously a good one, but meant for a select few only, and now that some reporter did their job and reported on it, a whole mess of sheeple will join in with said trend and make it un-cool in a hurry.
But mostly I just get jealous. Jealous that I thought of selling my eggs for money FIRST, before the AP got wind of lots of others doing the same thing and wrote an alarmist story about the would-be lucrative trade in human flesh. (Questionable judgement, yes, but MY questionable judgement). Jealous that I didn’t think up the idea of trying not to buy anything new for a year myself — that I had to steal the idea from some yuppies in California, courtesy of another AP trend feature.
I want to be on the bleeding edge all by myself, dammit, and I don’t need any help from the bloody mass media run by crusty old white men. Or do I?
Recently I was reading about tea shops and thinking to myself, “What a neat-o trend. I’ve been trying to cut down on coffee anyway…” And just as I was about to mentally jump on the bandwagon, it struck me: Tea shops aren’t any cooler than coffee shops, or newer, or better, or really any different. Tea shop proprietors, just like coffee shop proprietors, want my money. They want your money. They want everyone’s money. Trend stories, essentially, are all about taking our money. They might even be considered free advertising.
Those college kids texting furiously on their Blackberries? They all had to fork over a huge chunk of change to buy them first. Knitters hanging out in tea shops? They all bought “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” books and cup after cup of trendoid tea.
I immediately snapped out of my teahouse reverie and came back to reality: I refuse to allow my emotions to be manipulated by advertisements, and there’s absolutely no reason to allow legitimate reporting to do the same.
Sure, there are jillions of perfectly innocuous trend stories that do what they’re supposed to: enlighten, entertain, warn, teach. The story that reports on students in the U.S. going to school for fewer hours and days than in other industrialized nations could spur a change in U.S. educational policy. The one that talks about increasingly suburban, scattered neighborhoods or adults with longer commutes and fewer close friends could be seen as a call to action for people to rally around their communities.
But then there are those stories that are basically unpaid publicity: All the cool kids are doing this; this is what young people in uber-hip burg that’s not YOUR hometown wear/do/listen to/eat. F*ck that noise. We need to start seeing this kind of reporting for what it is: lazy and unworthy of our time.