‘In/Out’ Trends Are Very … ‘In’ Right Now

in and out list
Heben Nigatu/Twitter (Fair Use)

Hefty, data-driven reports from companies projecting (or deciding) what will become trendy in the forthcoming year have been a tradition almost as longstanding as New Year’s itself. But what happens when the line between the trendsetting gatekeepers and the rest of us becomes increasingly blurred?

This is the situation we find ourselves in as we navigate a climate that’s becoming increasingly creator-driven — and that’s probably why everyone projecting trends of their own in the form of ‘in’ and ‘out’ lists has become the latest social media trend.

The ‘in/out’ trend started out relatively straightforward. The Washington Post seemingly originated ‘in/out’ lists back in 1978, publishing its own yearly list of cultural trends in its “Style” section every year since. In recent years, the format has made its way to Instagram and Twitter, with people posting notes-app style lists of what’s currently in and out, according to them. But the format has picked up newfound steam with New Year’s, as social media users predicted in earnest what they believed would be trending in 2024.

As is the case with the internet, this soon gave way to more ironic ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ … and then, worst of all, brands got involved.

As everyone, including companies attempting to mimic the behavior of normal people, scrambles to make their own ‘in’ and ‘out’ lists, what does that tell us about the state of play now?

For one, it shows the democratization of trendsetting. Trend forecasting used to be reserved for certain think tanks, businesses, and legacy media publications. But now, with the rise of the creator economy, everyone has a stake in deciding what’s trending.

And secondly, it shows that the pressure to post isn’t going anywhere in 2024. As pointed out by the Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz this week, the rise in 2023 ‘recap’ videos comes with enormous social pressure — if you don’t make a video recapping 2023, did it even happen?

This year, there’s that fear of feeling ‘out of the loop’ and not looking as if you have your fingers on the pulse if you don’t publish your own ‘in’ and ‘out’ list. And there’s nothing worse for a chronically online creator than feeling like you’re out of the loop.

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