Internet ‘garbage trends’ could be lasting: NPR

The tomato-feta pasta recipe that TikTok took over for a while consists of oven-roasted feta, tomatoes and garlic, mixed with pasta and garnished with parsley.

Caroline Lessard/AP

hide caption

switch caption

Caroline Lessard/AP

The tomato-feta pasta recipe that TikTok took over for a while consists of oven-roasted feta, tomatoes and garlic, mixed with pasta and garnished with parsley.

Caroline Lessard/AP

Happy first birthday when sea shanties briefly took over the internet.

NPR was one of the media organizations hyping the charming online phenomenon in January 2021 of people propagating maritime anthems. After the inevitable wave of remixes and parodies, the trend quickly died down.

This 2018 music video gained brief internet fame during a short-lived sea shanty sensation in 2021.


“It was all the rage for a week, then nobody ever remembered it,” muses Rebecca Jennings. The senior correspondent for Vox includes internet culture; she coined the term “garbage trend” in a December article to describe these fast-moving, ephemeral online phenomena.

Other examples of waste trends she’s noticed in the past year range from: a viral baked feta pastaa burst of intense interest in “RushTok” (Hopeful Alabama sororities explaining their rush outfits), Elon Musk’s appropriate promotion of Dogecoin and the divisive term “cheugy.

“Garbage trends … are a bit like fast fashion,” Jennings points out. “They kind of come out of nowhere, they seem very out of the moment. Everyone is showering them with attention and in some ways, money and time and meaning and then the next week they’re in … the figurative dump of ideas.”

There is nothing new about fads and trends. Rightly or wrongly, many people associate the Dutch Golden Age in the mid 1600s because of his overhyped tulip mania Perhaps your great-great-grandparents participated in the Charleston dance craze of the 1920s. (Vintage clips of Josephine Baker performing it almost seem like a harbinger of TikTok videos.)

Josephine Baker sparked a dance craze in the 1920s, thanks in part to movies that popularized the Charleston.


But Jennings points out a big difference. “The speed of these trends coming and going is so much faster,” she says. “I think TikTok and these other algorithm-based platforms are a big part of it.”

These algorithms direct our attention, drive it up and monetize it. They are also the driving force behind the spin cycle of content appearing in personalized feeds on Netflix, Spotify or your news app of choice.

“Hardly anyone knows how these algorithms work,” says Jennings, referring to casual consumers powered by machine intelligence — and to some degree, even the marketers who manipulate them. “They test something and if it doesn’t explode, they just get rid of it. If it does… [blow up]they shove it in everyone’s face and then move on to the next.”

Jennings is concerned about how trash trends are fueling cultural conversations amid an expanding vacuum of local news — it’s often easier, she points out, to encounter outrage over a clip from a school board meeting a thousand miles away than it is to get unbiased coverage. find your own school board meetings. Like NFTs, cryptocurrencies or Web 3.0, waste trends take up a lot of internet oxygen, she adds. “But you don’t really know what’s really meaningful or valuable about it.”

Ultimately, Jennings says, waste trends also reflect the pace of the pandemic over the past two years. “It just felt so insane,” she notes. The vaccines arrive and everything seems to be gaining momentum. “Oh wait, no, delta is here. Everything is wrong. And oh, ommicron. What should we do?”

The weight loss trend — dumb as it may be — can help people feel grounded in the moment when the future feels terribly uncertain, Jennings says. In any case, the weight loss trend is not a trend. As long as algorithms are invested to hook us up, waste trends are here to stay.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.