Our views on trends can be summed up in that we think it is good to be moderately aware of trends, and especially of the influence of trends on our own thoughts, actions, and choices, but that it is healthiest to make decisions independently of trends. Reflecting on why you like something or why you want something can be a good way of protecting against negative influences of trends, while retaining the positive influences of good trends.
Downsides and dangers of trends
Trends can cause negative impacts on society in a variety of ways:
- Some trends are directly unhealthy. - An example would be trends of disrespectful dialogue or personal attacks in political speech or other public speech, or trends of depicting women's bodies in unhealthy proportions in such a way that promotes anorexia and other eating disorders.
- Trends can be enforced in negative ways, through social disapproval or negative stigmas. - Trends can be highly damaging when they are enforced through social pressure in a way that provides a negative social stigma to people who break them. These social stigmas go against our view of a healthy state of society, in which all actions are consensual, as social disapproval, when carried to a sufficient extreme or expressed in certain ways, can be coercive. Trends with negative social stigmas can be harmful even if the trends themselves are good, because the negativity introduced when people go against the trend can cause people to become resistant to what otherwise would be a good idea that they might want to embrace.
- Uniformity can reduce diversity. - When trends are so widespread that they result in a sort of cultural uniformity, this uniformity can reduce diversity. As an example, when radios play the same song very frequently, they take up airtime that could be used to play other songs, and the total diversity of songs played and heard on radio can be greatly reduced. This is not only annoying to some listeners, but also results in numerous musical artists who are not getting airtime for their songs. Another example would be when a certain varietal or cultivar of plant or tree becomes popular; this cultivar may become widely planted, at the expense of genetic diversity in that species, which can later make that species more susceptible to attack by pests or diseases.
- Keeping up with trends can be costly. - Keeping up with the latest technological advancements can be costly in terms of money and resources. Similarly, keeping up with fashion trends can require the purchasing of new clothes more often than they would otherwise be needed, which can be costly in terms of money and resources. Keeping up with trends that require purchases of material items also contribute to waste as old items are discarded, although this waste can be mitigated if people give away or donate old goods, or sell them at second-hand stores.
Benefits of trends
Trends can also be beneficial in some ways:
- Trends can help to raise awareness about what's going on in the world. Trends often start from an uprising against something unhealthy or a general awareness that something is healthy, such as feminism and organic food. While some people may not see these movements as ideal, they represent a greater awareness about the general health of society.
- Trends in art and music can inspire diversity. While it is true that trends can contribute to uniformity, trends can also push creativity forward as artists are inspired by them, by both following them and deviating from them in new ways. While there may be limited diversity within one current trend, art and music over the past century of trends has left us with a variety of styles.
Sometimes certain trends arise, or certain practices become trendy, which we would consider healthy in the context of our beliefs and practices. Examples include trends of being environmentally conscious, a trend of eating whole, natural foods, or a trend of the media depicting healthy body images (as opposed to extremely thin models which could promote an unhealthy body image, especially for people with more average body types). These trends often arise from genuine awareness in society of issues or problems, and a desire to solve the problems or create a healthier society.
However, there can be some dangers when people begin to follow these "good trends" for the reason that they are trendy, rather than for the deeper reasons that the trend is good.
Missing the spirit of trends
An example would be that hybrid cars have become trendy as a response to their fuel efficiency, but hybrid cars are not always more fuel efficient than conventional (non-hybrid) cars. A person following this trend blindly without researching might purchase a heavy SUV hybrid when a conventional compact car might be both much cheaper and much more fuel efficient.
Another example is when people follow fad diets. Fad diets are often rooted in some legitimate scientific observation, but they develop into fads when people fixate on one aspect of diet or one aspect of a recent scientific discovery, while neglecting the whole picture.
Thinking holistically, and asking yourself why you like something, can keep you from missing the spirit behind trends. This also helps people to live out our fundamental belief that the principles and spirit of rules and practices matter more than their literal wording.
Trends of disliking trends
In some social contexts, there can be a trend of disliking trends. Often, there is a good reason for scepticism about trends, such as when there is a history of destructive trends or a widespread occurrence of people missing the spirit behind good trends.
However, the trend of disliking trends can itself fall into the same negative patterns described above. We believe that a healthier approach to addressing the potential harm caused by trends is not to start a trend of disliking trends, but rather, to directly ask questions about what we like and why we like what we like. When we find trends that we like, we can also ask what the spirit of that trend is, so that we stay true to the spirit or original idea or goal behind the trend, rather than falling into a bad pattern of following details while missing the whole picture.