Sunday, October 16, 2016

Will It Last?

Did you know that millions of people believed that the internet would just be a fad? That it would disappear as fast as it began, and everyone who had invested in the online behemoths we see today, like Facebook and Google, would be broke and bashful?

Over and over again, our society is confronted with new things that we have to evaluate carefully. Will it be a fad, or a trend? 

For example, I believe that Pokemon Go is a new development that could go either way. While some signs may make us able to guess which it will be right now, only time will truly tell. 

What’s the Difference between a Fad and a Trend?

A fad is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object's qualities; a craze.” 

Contrast that with a trend, which is “a general direction in which something is developing or changing.”

Why does being able to distinguish between a fad and a trend matter? Well, for one thing, it can make or break business careers. 

But what about those of us who don’t make a living determining the value of a new company? It’s still good to understand, for the sake of investments, and personal purchases. 

It can even be nice to know whether something is worth getting for your child or not, or whether a new fashion is worth investing in, or whether you’ll regret that haircut in 10 years.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are three signs that I’ve noticed that indicate that something is a trend instead of a fad. 

It Adds Real Value to People’s Lives

One of the reasons that certain things become so big is that they truly answer a need that people have, and add value to their lives that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

For example, I would argue that Pokemon Go is more trend than fad because certain people are seeing true value come out of it. I know of people who have lost up to 10 pounds just because they take long nightly walks in order to “catch ‘em all.” 

I know others who are finding that the game gives them a much-needed opportunity to connect and spend time with their kids. When people see true value being added to their lives because of a novelty, it becomes more than a fad. They stick with it even when the hype has worn off because they see positive results in their life. 

It Ends Up Going Mainstream

Another great way to gauge whether something will be a trend or a fad is seeing whether it goes mainstream. 

This is an especially good indicator for fashion, because while early adopters may be adventurous enough to try something new just for the sake of novelty, the mainstream crowd is much more leery of new developments. 

If they can become sold on the idea or the product, then it has mass appeal.

One example of this is the Marvel movement in movies and entertainment. Prior to the late 90’s, Marvel was only honored among a select subculture of comic book reader aficionados. 

In fact, although it created such quintessential characters as Iron Man and the X-Men, Marvel was on the edge of bankruptcy in 1997. 

When a merger rescued the company, the plan was to diversify the industry, and as movies like Blade, X-Men and Spiderman started rolling out to higher and higher appeal, Marvel became the mega-million dollar industry that it is today. 

It Inspires the Next Generation

One of the surest signs that something is a trend rather than a fad is that it’s not an isolated phenomenon. Rather, it has clear predecessors and successors. It’s not a dead branch like the Neanderthal. 

This occurrence is best seen in artistic movements. Some artists rise from obscurity all by themselves, but most revolutionary developments come in packs and collaborations, like the Renaissance school of artists in Italy, who all learned from each other, or the Lost Generation of expat authors and artists who congregated around Gertrude Stein.

A noticeable trend that we can see illustrated in recent history is the John Hughes movies of the 80’s. 

Movies like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club could have been a here-and-gone development in the film industry, but instead, they became the first generation of a completely new genre of teen-oriented films. 

In fact, they even spurred a new movie rating, PG-13, that validated and elevated this new genre. 

It’s Obviously Not an Exact Science

There are some ways that we can never predict whether or not something will endure. Most noticeably, I think, is the way that certain things can be supplanted by new technology that renders the old development instantly useless. 

For example, the Davy safety lamp developed in order to protect miners from underground explosions was an extraordinary development. However, it was quickly replaced when electric lights came into being. 

It was instantly more reliable and practical to use electric lights instead of dangerous flames, even those enclosed in safety lamps.

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