How “Touch” Changed The Way I View Trends

Sophia Terian, copy editor

Maybe it was just teenage angst, but before reading “Touch” by Courtney Maum, I had a tendency to view pop culture somewhat snobbishly. The constant coming and going of seemingly meaningless trends, memes, jargon and hobbies didn’t make sense to me. It seemed like people’s quickly changing interests were fickle and dependent on societal approval.

But after reading “Touch,” I have been enlightened. I have shed my judgement and learned to embrace fads and passing fashions for what the book demonstrates that they are: a tangible reflection revealing deeper truths about our conglomerate mindsets.

“Touch” features protagonist Sloane Jacobsen, a famous trend forecaster whose job is to work with producers to predict consumer tastes. She is hired by Mammoth, a giant tech company currently targeting young adults. As the world is noticing a decrease in desire for families and in person communication among young adults, Mammoth plans their next big launch to appeal directly to this: a line of products for the antisocial and childless.

But Sloane starts to notice a new trend surfacing— one that contradicts her own antibreeding stance and desires, as well as Mammoth’s goals. Sloane realizes that the desire for human contact and touch is resurfacing. She is put in direct conflict with her employer, partner and her own emotions and must work to reconcile all these relationships.

However, what makes the book a treat is not the main subject— especially since our generation has heard enough about our technological dependency. It’s the book’s use of satire and humor that makes the reading enjoyable, and it’s the incorporation of specific examples of trends and their explanations that teach you to see things from a different perspective.

“Touch” explains that the swipe— swiping on touch screens— caught on because of the appeal of the physical motion.

“As elegant as a conductorial movement in front of an orchestra, the swipe contained the fluidiy cues of someone who was constantly moving from one point to the next without conveying that one was ‘stressed’ or ‘rushed,’” Maum writes, “In short, the swipe did not communicate the nervous pecking that tapping did. Swiping was sensual. Swiping was cool.”

The popularity of succulents is said to reflect American attitudes towards the future.

“Americans didn’t know why they’d become so obsessed with cacti— they just accepted the fact that drought-resistant plants were the new must-haves for office and home design in the mindless way they’d once accepted ferns, but really, what was going on was a socially sanctioned apathy toward the planet’s overheating,” Maum writes, “It was apocalyptic acclimation, by way or indoor plants.”

Before human touch resurfaces, Zentai suits, skin tight colored coverings with no holes anywhere, catch on because some feel it tangibly manifests speculations of sensuality in the digital age. Roman, Sloane’s long term romantic partner, spends most of the novel wearing one.

“‘The Zentai suit is fascinating,’ Roman had said, gliding his hands down his body. ‘It’s an invitation— and a refusal, no? It presents the body as an anonymous thing that can be contemplated, but never truly accessed.’ He moved his arms behind his weirdo head. ‘I’ve found my avatar.’”

The reasoning is both entertaining and logical, and can be applied outside the book. A desire for lighthearted entertainment keeps the sports entertainment industry alive. Memes are huge because they allow us to nearly instantaneously connect to an inside joke from someone across the country or planet. They are relatable, mood lifting and fast. 2016’s “Color of The Year”  was instead two colors, rose quartz and serene blue, reflecting the the rise in acception of gender fluidity and the world’s desire to destress.

When something catches on with a large number of people, it highlights an important similarity in those people’s emotions and perspective. Learning to embrace these trends— these sometimes quickly fading fancies– can connect us to the dynamic global community surrounding us.

So read “Touch.” It’s funny, it’s savvy, it’s smart and it’s message is very important.