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The Cultural Nosedive Edition
On trends, hype, and thoughtfulness
Colin here. As we pass the two-year anniversary for early COVID milestones, there has been a semi-predictable spate of trend pieces going against every over-covered subject during the pandemic. Remember that thing that everyone was into in Spring 2020? People aren’t into it so much anymore! It is an annoying habit of the press: they are ostensible “man bites dog” stories, but in reality, they really just reflect how the laws of physics work. What goes up, must come down. Things that are overplayed, overused, and overhyped evidentially reach the end of their use. The cultural nosedive is such a part of the circle of life that the technology analyst Gartner has it memorialized in their hype cycle.
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But it doesn’t stop the tireless documentation of the vibe shifts! Recently, the Times wrote a story about the dark side of “Van Life,” the movement hashtagged and trend piece-ified to the hilt as an illustration of the great resignation and our collective ability to be untethered from the desk.
The subhead dramatically asserts: “The writer Caity Weaver’s pursuit of the manifest destiny of the millennial generation ended up looking better in the photos” with a story that goes on to document the pains of living in a van for extended periods of time. It’s not all 5-star glory, people!
During the first two years of the pandemic, Kristi Falzon, who lives in Chicago, used her Peloton every day. “It was a godsend,” she said. She could exercise in her spare bedroom between Zoom meetings without worrying about other people’s germs.
But lately the spark has gone out. Last month, Ms. Falzon, 39, listed the stationary bike on Facebook Marketplace. She paid $2,650 for her Peloton and accessories, but after a month of waiting for buyers, she begrudgingly sold it for $1,100.
Turns out some people tire of doing the same thing, in a confined space, over and over and over. Especially when a piece of machinery is imbued with all of the pandemic feels, it’s easy to see how a walk or jog in the sunshine is now riveting by comparison. And the exercise machine-turned laundry drying rack is certainly nothing new. But others still love it—another trend piece surely waits on the horizon about those superfans still hanging on.
There was also collective financial press hyperbole on Netflix’s recent results: the company reported it lost subscribers for the first time in 10 years, sending the stock down 25 percent. The streaming service was a babysitter, a life support vessel, and a companion for many in lockdowns. Why it is now surprising that some people are opting out? Seems natural to me.
In the end, it’s not the fault of any of these reporters for covering these stories. Some were the result of overhyped topics supercharged by social media, some were the fault of the market overindulging. But it is safe to say that the coverage on the way up was overly breathless, and often lacks a critical lens on the way down. (CJN)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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