Top trends of the 2010s? Selfies, fake news and binge-watching
THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Here we are, approaching a new decade, one that will probably see higher global temperatures, more divided and tribal politics, and an endless slew of superhero sequels.

It made me wonder what got us here. So I started looking back at the trends that shaped the 2010s.

By my reckoning, the past decade was all about our viewing choices: we have become the things we watch. Whether it’s the shows we choose to stream or the friends we choose to admit to our Facebook or the people we choose to follow on Instagram, what defines us now is our desire to see things, and what we choose to see.

In the end, it’s all about how we curate our own images, and how we filter down our image of the outside world.

We truly are what we watch. And we are always watching.

1. Selfie. Is it the defining word of the 21st century? Was “ego” the word of the 20th century? If human history has pushed us more and more inward, then a key concept of the 2010s was aiming that camera phone at our own visages. Rarely since Louis Daguerre’s 19th century copperplate invention first appeared has it been trained on such a solipsistic subject, by so many, for so many others. For the selfie is not merely for our amusement; it’s for others to reflect on our good fortune. The black mirror is also a handy portal to our own self-worth.

2. Influencer. Hand in hand with the handy selfie is the desire to get others in on the action. The 2010s saw a rise of social media apps: Facebook may have launched back in ’04, and Twitter in ’06, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Instagram took hold of people’s swipes, and the avalanche of Snapchat, Vine, Tinder, TikTok and other quick-feed outlets followed as the decade moved firmly towards the visual.

Upon this online scaffolding emerged: the influencer. Trampling on the dust where bloggers used to dwell and hunt freely, the influencer’s worth was registered in likes, followers, clicks and hashtags. A synergy arose between the rectangular curation of our favorites’ feeds, and the many products and springboard industries they invoked. Words were superfluous. Image was all. Product was the endless fuel.

3. Trolling. Along with all the apps and sunny vacay pics, a meanspiritedness hung in the air. For some reason, everything in the 2010s — presidents, breeds of dogs, female remakes of Ghostbusters — became polarized, politicized, and it was fueled by online trolling. No longer could an opinion exist in space without its baiting opposite popping up, in spades. Trolls no longer lurk under bridges, but in dark corners of the web, lobbing missiles of hate. Other related terms: bullying, triggering, safe space, snowflakes. 

4. Fake news. The 2010s also became a battleground for the truth. Suddenly, in the true Orwellian sense, language became a thing to cleave us from a shared reality. We have yet to find a way to escape the specter of tribalism and division that’s risen up like Yeats’ rough beast. As authoritarians have long known, if you sow enough doubt and confusion among the masses, you can divide and conquer. Today’s leaders know the value of devaluing media’s worth — they know Facebook and Twitter feeds have risen like many-headed hydras to whisper sweet ugly nothings to the receptive.

In the service of disinformation, other terms have also arisen:

• Alternative facts (Orwellian doublespeak at its best)

• Deepfakes (increasingly sophisticated video morphs that blur even further our grip on reality)

• Gaslighting (that tendency to push an alternative narrative, even in the face of irrefutable data. It’s why we’re all on edge, for instance, when a presidential spokesman claims there’s no “traffic crisis,” just a traffic “situation”).

5. Woke. Along with our fixation on the self, another trend of the decade was awareness. (It’s sad to read that sentence back, like “awareness” is the latest phone app.) Enter the “woke” generation, certain they’ve got a firm grip on the elusive lines of good and bad, right and wrong, black and white. We applaud them for taking up the struggle where others now merely shrug their shoulders. (Ok, boomer.) Along with the wokeness came “cancel culture” — the tendency for a generation to turn its back on those who go against the wokeness. (Talking to you, Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, et al.)

6. MeToo. One spontaneous offspring of the mid-2010s was a sudden realization that women shouldn’t have to take things lying down. An uprising of solidarity among females who’ve been physically, verbally, financially or politically abused or ignored, #MeToo (yes, the hashtag helped) was a legitimate social movement, whether in reaction to a certain US presidential candidate’s ascendance or Harvey Weinstein’s well-publicized piggery, and it began to focus its unblinking ire at every industry: high-tech, entertainment, politics, media, not to mention the workplace. 

7. Mansplaining. In obvious backlash to the tides of #MeToo, toxic maleness reared its head yet again. Mansplaining was just that thing that guys always did because they believed their voices would forever be louder, more confident, and on-point than the women in the room. Call it social conditioning, or whatever you like: it got a big clapback in the 2010s. Yet the battle goes on.

8. Gig economy. Before, they used to call it “temping.” Now, it’s become the default role for millennials still nurturing their hyphenate status. Also known as “Uberization,” it’s that in-between job that millennials get that offers no benefits and has no existing contract. (See: indentured servitude.)

9. Binge-watching. And now we come to the thing that’s helped us get through the tumultuous 2010s almost intact: cocooning with our own home-based, curated alternate realities. Binge-watching became such a thing over the past decade that it’s threatened, at various times, to topple the Hollywood order, while giving Martin Scorsese regular conniptions. The possibly insidious character of “binge-ing” lends itself to drug analogies, but it’s also worth noting that binge-watching and streaming entertainment offers us a sort of social glue: beyond the watercooler talk, it’s a measure of who we are, what we subscribe to, what lives on in our memes and posts about GOT and Stranger Things. And finally…

10. Tentpole movies. The Hollywood empire struck back with its own recipe for success, and possible self-annihilation: yuuuuge movie sequel franchises that supported most of the industry through outsized profits. The rise of Marvel box office and the Avengers arc was the biggest Hollywood story of the decade — well, maybe next to #MeToo. Suddenly, sequels weren’t just a throwaway idea, a last-minute Hail Mary play: they were intricately designed and crafted to pull the juggernaut movie studios along, like Viking ships. Tentpole movies show us why we’re in a situation now where each big sequel takes over nine out of 10 cinemas in Manila: those receipts keep the industry afloat until a few Oscar bait scraps can be released by November to shore up the industry’s commitment to “quality.” It isn’t just a matter of Scorsese debating whether or not Marvel movies are “cinema.” It’s all a matter of scale: it’s always been true that big-budget movies rule over small indie efforts at the box office; it’s just never been carried out on such a massive, laser-guided level before. It’s all about eyeballs and ticket sales. And again, we are what we watch. And we are always watching.



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