Monday, April 11, 2011

What's hot, what's not, and what day is it?

When I first started up my online presence, the Place to Be was Myspace. Authors, especially, swore by it. But suddenly, Myspace participation plummeted. Practically overnight, everyone seemed to migrate to Facebook and Twitter.

I really wonder what made Myspace so hot for a while, and then not. I don't think the service changed much during that time--if anything, it probably improved somewhat, as services tend to do over time. Instead, the mass migration onto it and then off again looked to me a lot like other fads--like Rubik's cube, or the Dutch tulip mania of the 1600s. It happens in clothing all the time: everyone's wearing pants with skinny legs. No, flared legs. No, cropped legs. No, skinny legs again ...

Sometimes I hear rumblings about Tumblr and wonder if that is going to be the Next Big Thing online, but mostly I wonder why we even need a Next Big Thing. I wonder if we are going to be jumping endlessly from social network to social network, each time uploading all that information all over again, and rearranging our profiles and reassembling our network of friends/followers and scrolling through yet another new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

I stick with blogging because I like it. It's versatile: I can post pictures, video, or polls; I can post text of any length. I'm on Twitter because I found it very easy to jump into, it doesn't take a lot of time, and it's a great way to keep track of breaking news. But The Next Big Thing doesn't interest me. The problem with that sort of sudden raging popularity is that it tends to be short-lived, and now the time from "hot" to "not" seems to be getting ever shorter.* I've even given up in the fashion department, where I now have clothes with and without shoulder pads, and pants with all kinds of legs, and I just wear whatever I want to wear. (So if you see me at an author appearance and wonder why I'm dressed that way--mystery solved!)

What does interest me is the signal that turns a given population toward an object or an activity, and then away from it. Who gives that signal, and how does it spread? Is it our love of novelty that keeps the trends coming ... and going? Who has the energy? Who is it that says, "Let's all buy hula hoops now," and who decides when it's time to roller-blade instead?

Somewhere, a grad student has a thesis on this, I'm sure.

*On March 24, The Onion had a satiric "article" on this: "Time Between Thing Being Amusing, Extremely Irritating Down to 4 Minutes." Excerpt: '"We predict that by 2018, the gap between liking something new and wishing yourself dead rather than hearing it again will be down to 60 seconds ...'"


  1. It is a mystery, isn't it? Just when I find something I really like, it often disappears. Hopefully that's not the case with my favorite authors.

  2. I enjoy blogging. I kept a blog on myspace and ignored my blogger blog for a year but came back once the myspace craze was over. I think it is too hard to predict fads. The most important thing is writing and then all the other things but blogging has helped connect me to other writers.

  3. Angelina: My husband and I constantly joke that we have the kiss of death for restaurants: i.e., anyplace we like closes shortly thereafter!
    At least with our favorite authors, there are always used copies of their books to be found online. :-)

    Carrie: It's true that the connection itself is more important than the "how." That's reassuring to think of, in the face of fads!