There came a time in my winter break when I began to fancy myself a cultural critic. It was a metamorphosis of sorts—a caterpillar rebranding as a butterfly. The first step was to become so chronically online that I felt a bit ill. I spent much of the semester flushing Instagram and Twitter out of my system, trying to replace those orphaned hours with swims in the pool and full albums and slower meals with friends. By the time the second week of winter break rolled around, however, I’d reversed all that progress. I’d watched full seasons of television and scrolled hundreds of miles on Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, Letterboxd, Youtube, and Venmo, among others. I was looking for a way to feel Cultured while lying on the floor of my childhood bedroom with potato chip crumbs touching my bare skin.
If all my screen time early on in the winter break didn’t make me smarter or healthier, it did at least prepare me for the beginning of the New Year, when denizens of the Internet across the country rush to generate Hot Takes about what is In and Out. On the evening of December 31st, 2022, my friend Josie sagely texted me: “r u like making resolutions or anything…or we just arbitrating trends now?” New beginnings are difficult and sometimes painful; many of us prefer forecasting fads from a comfortable ironic remove to engaging in any form of self-reflection about our last 365 days. Maybe in 2024 amateur cultural criticism will be Out for good. In the meantime, though, here is my trend analysis:
This guy is just doing a great job. I’ve personally been cherishing the “On BS” lyric “I blow a half a million on these hoes/I’m a feminist,” as well as the more esoteric “Y’all be going in and out recessions/the same way that I be going in and out of Texas.” What did he mean by that?
Hiking had its heyday during the peak of the pandemic, which means land animals already got their fifteen minutes of fame. Fish now deserve a turn.
3. Greek myths
Much like the aforementioned Canadian rapper, these have been going strong for a long time, and we don’t give them enough attention or credit. I like the one where Zeus turns himself into a swan in order to have sex with a woman. I think Drake might like it too.
Growing up, I was never a sci-fi person, but I have been pushed to the brink. TV shows have gotten so realistic they are making me (the VIEWER) feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to watch another gay teenager on their mental health journey. I want to see some aliens!
5. The monastic life
In 2022, it was fashionable to proclaim your desire to drop out of school and go work on a farm forever. Often, the people saying this (and I am not innocent here) are the kinds of people who obsessively follow reality TV drama and can rarely summon the physical energy to do their own laundry. In 2023, I propose we switch to fantasizing about moving to a monastery. There’s not as much manual labor involved, and what’s also great is that you can attempt to lead a monastic lifestyle from the comfort of your Yale dorm room. Just stop having sex and put on your Headspace app once every few weeks.
1. Ethical non-monogamy
This was subversive at my high school, when the throuple in cat ears had orgies every day at recess, but it has since lost its luster.
2. Therapy discourse
In the same way that we don’t see stand-up comedy about the choice to take or not take one’s vitamins, we should no longer see stand-up comedy about therapy. Generally speaking, therapy should go the way of vitamins—do it in silence and let the results speak for themselves.
3. Oat milk
I will be continuing to drink it, but much like therapy, vitamins, and the original beverage called water, it is now too ubiquitous to be a personality trait. In 2023 you have to do something politically radical, like drink rice or macadamia milk.
4. Puffed sleeves
It’s time to admit that Bridgerton resonated with our society at a very vulnerable moment. The puffed sleeve is but one of many relics of pandemic-era fashion from which we can liberate ourselves in 2023 (goodbye also to y2K and twee/cottagecore). Relatedly, I am predicting the End of Miniseries.
5. The phrase “hot girl”
Someone said—and, as with all the wisdom I’ve accumulated, it was either a prominent academic philosopher or a fourteen-year-old on Instagram Reels—that our culture is so saturated with sex that nothing feels sexual anymore. On the Internet, we use the word ‘hot’ as an amorphous stamp of approval. You’re a hot girl for reheating a cup of tea or petting your dog or volunteering with the elderly or something. What if some things are worthwhile without being hot, or, conversely, hot even if they’re not worthwhile? This was not the year the monstrous phrase “hot girl walk” was invented, but it must (must!) be the year in which it is finally put to rest.