Sex & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll & Statistics
|October 13, 2011||Posted by Sophy Bot under Customization, Internet culture|
It started off with an innocent text message: “So you coming out tonight?” This from a friend of mine inviting me for a night out on the town. When I told him that I’d be staying home to research my book instead, he told me I was boring, and I jokingly wrote, “Nah, I’m more of a sex, drugs and rock’n’roll type myself. And statistics. Sex & drugs & rock’n’roll & statistics.” My friend was amused and told me that phrase should be on a t-shirt. Within ten minutes, it was. My silly joke manifested itself into a tangible product that arrived in my mail a few days later. And we wonder why trends spread so quickly these days. The creation and propagation of a new trend or internet meme is a four-step process that’s practically built into the online experience.
Step 1: Think it up.
Much of our time online is spent viewing content. Whether rifling through links posted on Facebook, checking through our favorite blogs, or surfing the top hits on popular aggregation sites like Reddit, we’re constantly being exposed to new thoughts, new ideas, new stuff and new ways of thinking. Inspiration is more likely to strike when you’re constantly mired in innovation, as tends to happen online. All trends start with the seed of an idea.
Step 2: Make it.
The modern tools of production have enabled each and every one of us to create content on the fly. Got an idea for a funny picture? Photoshop it. Good idea for a story? Blog it. Cool slogan for a t-shirt? Spreadshirt it. If you can think it up, chances are, you can create it (and if you yourself can’t, the odds are good that you can post your idea to a forum and somebody else can). This is one of the key reasons trends spread so quickly now. Whereas before, having a clever t-shirt idea didn’t necessarily mean you had the means to make one, now, sites like Café Press and Spreadshirt give you the tools to design one instantly. The creation process gets even easier if it can be done online or through a widely available program.
Step 3: Spread it.
If whatever you’ve created is digital, this part’s easy: put it on your Facebook, or your Twitter, or whatever social network you use. Post it to your favorite sites. Email it to your friends. If you’ve created a physical object, show it off, and be ready to field questions about where you got it. Whenever people ask me about my self-created t-shirt, I point them to my Spreadshirt (honestly, I don’t even do it to make money; I posted the designs on my previously abandoned shop so people could find the shirt). The further it spreads, the bigger the trend.
Step 4: Spread it more.
This is the big one when it comes to making or breaking a trend. If you’ve spread something among your friends, it’s not really a trend. But if your friends spread it, and then their friends spread it, and so on, you’ve got the makings of a real bonafide trend on your hands. This also explains why memes are so quick to grow. If you give people the ability to add to the trend themselves, they’re more likely to spread it to their own networks, and some of their friends are bound to do the same. That’s why they call it viral – either everybody starts spreading it to everybody else and suddenly it’s all over the place, or else nobody spreads it and the trend dies, with no shortage of new trends available to take its place.
Not every trend makes it to the crucial fourth step, but at that point it’s just a numbers game anyhow. Our familiarity with the first three steps goes a long way towards explaining why internet trends spread so quickly – we’re all part of the creation and transmission process. Be they memes, jokes or t-shirts, that little thought in the back of your head today could be tomorrow’s next big thing. But don’t think about it too hard. After all, tomorrow’s big thing is still next week’s old news.
Photo credit: violarenate