Trends versus Life Stages

I sometimes ponder the difference between things that happen as part of an overall trend or global event that everyone is going through versus the things that happen because of the particular stage of life that I or someone else is in.

Most of us have a "my first car" story that's independent of the world at large and falls under the realm of the teenage (or college) years of a particular individual. The details and type of vehicle may of course vary, but the experience is unique to many new drivers.

However, remembering when gas prices were under $2.00 (for me it's under $1.00) is more of a global (or national, in this case) phenomenon - something that was experienced by everyone at a certain point in time.

For example, I remember when internet relay chat rooms (irc) were popular at my college ten years ago. AOL's instant messenger and chat rooms were popular as well and I spent a good deal of time connecting with friends and socializing in these "new" and interesting ways online.

In time though, I moved on and found other ways to connect with friends and family both in the "real world" and online. Most recently it's been blogs and social networking sites.

The question then is, was my experience with being enthralled with online chatting a phase that everyone went through at the time? Was it a trend that came and went and was eventually replaced with the latest and greatest hot new thing?

Or was it indicative of a process that many first-time internet users experience? Perhaps a good deal of new online users go through a series of steps such as (may not be typical of all users and can be experienced in a different order):
  • Finding useful information
  • Finding trivial and time wasting information
  • At some point spending too much time online
  • Getting an email account
  • Using chat rooms or message boards
  • Sending spam and chain letters*
  • Creating content (personal sites, blogs, social networking sites, etc)
*Is it just me, or do the "send this to 5 people to prove you're a decent human being" chain letter spam come from the "newer" online users we know? I may have sent a few in my early days of email, but it became more work than it was worth.

Perhaps when the technology or event in question is new or world changing (whatever that means) it falls under the "trend" category. Many of us experienced the computing revolution regardless of what generation we're apart of. But eventually the first computer we each own, would fall under the "life stage" category.

Going crazy over Cabbage Patch Kids in the 80's was definitely a trend, but wanting that "got-to-have-hot-toy-of-this-season" in general may be a recurring theme specific to certain age groups or life stages (not necessarily the young ones, either).

My first child was born a few months ago. Mommy and I were noticing the number of celebrity babies born around this time. Was it really a trend, or perhaps we're at that life stage where we of course notice all things baby-related?!