Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Online life naturally lends itself to the propensity to record and categories everything, whether it be one’s identity, physical type, or aesthetic preferences. People have a propensity for giving names to enigmatic digital phenomena, but TikTok has only increased this trend. Anything that is even somewhat popular on the internet needs to be explained or decoded, and in the end, reduced to a collection of salable feelings with a corny title.

TikTok unearths obscure digital aesthetics for a niche audience that may not have heard about or cared about them before. Although aesthetic elements formerly played a crucial role in the development of traditional subcultures, they have no longer any significance in this algorithmically driven visual environment. Instead, subcultural images and attitudes are categorised under the pervasive, ill-defined term “viral trend”—something that can be explained, imitated, advertised, and purchased.

Trend brain urges us to reduce everything on the internet to something that can be purchased, understood, or moral (and therefore worthy of consumption). Even if we become tired with trend speak, the rate at which it cycles through is quite definite. Today, consumers have more options than ever, but there seems to be less consensus on what determines a trend’s long-term viability. Consumers are left to cling to these vanishing indicators of cool: passing fads that might help us comprehend capital-C culture and, ultimately, what lies ahead. Where did we come from? Perhaps even more crucially, will the trend churn ever come to an end?

Guy Debord, a French philosopher, first described the idea of recuperation in his 1967 book Society of the Spectacle. This is the process through which subcultural ideas and images are commercialised and reincorporated into society. Through the mainstream media, recovery was made possible during the 20th century. It was done with the purpose of making radical social movements and subcultures understandable to the general public, which would make them less dangerous.

Online rehabilitation is presently happening with the aid of memes, micro-aesthetics, and the online communities they stem from. Contrary to the radical subcultures of the past, which had their own visual language, aesthetics, and grammatical structure, these digital scenes don’t quite qualify as subcultures, at least not in the traditional sense. However, it could be more correct to refer to them as “aesthetic submarkets,” a phrase established by author and creative strategist Ayesha Siddiqi. Some of them pay homage to or take inspiration from certain countercultures of the past. (Subcultures like hippies, punks, and mods frequently had a defined political worldview and a particular style of dress and thrived in blatant contrast to the mainstream.)

There is some political influence in these niche sectors. Instead, they frequently advocate for a form of political anaesthesia. Genuine political opposition takes a backseat to the digital manifestation of a given style or attitude (i.e., “reactionary chic”). At least on TikTok, recovery doesn’t necessarily include depoliticization. It’s an effort to repackage concepts, viewpoints, and aesthetics into recognisable trends that may be used to attract attention or profit, understood by a large audience, and extensively ingested.

Almost all traces of a digital monoculture have been eliminated by social media in its broadest definition. Ana Andjelic, a brand executive and author of articles on the sociology of business, stated that there are various taste communities but they don’t conflict with one another. “Culture has becoming more diffuse. The mainstream and the middle have vanished.

Although virality isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it undermines the idea of authenticity, or being the first to discover a music or fashion scene, which was formerly highly prized. This sentiment is not nearly as important now. Among youthful social media users, trend frenzy is outdated. Teenagers, for example, are accustomed to changing out items that no longer match their aspirational personality, style, or vibe by putting on digital aesthetics like clothing (and also purchasing quick fashion to express their likes). Andjelic remarked that taste communities don’t compete for social importance. Cottagecore and night luxury may coexist together and their target audiences may even be similar.

TikTok’s never-ending whirlwind of trends is a reflection of the unstable consumer landscape in which consumers appeal to their peers for advice rather than established tastemakers. Because of this, a large number of TikTok producers are attempting to build their brands by summarizing, forecasting, and researching the zeitgeist.


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