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Why We Keep Clicking on Fake Beauty Trend Stories

Like “halo eyebrows,” for instance.

Hannah, originator of the halo brow.

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A trend, by its very nature, can be fleeting (The Shirts) or agonizingly prolonged (the peplum on shirts). But what we should be able to agree on is that in order to label something a trend, a critical mass of people needs to be partaking in it. Or, as The Cut pointed out last year when talking about the many ridiculous eyebrow trends of 2017, Forever 21 has to be selling a kit for it.

Which brings us to another eyebrow “trend,” recently reported by multiple fashion, beauty, and lifestyle outlets. Meet the halo brow:

This 16-year-old UK-based beauty blogger posted this look five days ago, then two days later followed it up with another post. Yesterday, the internet trendspotting machine kicked into gear. PopSugar seems to have been the first to notice it, even interviewing Hannah, who said she was inspired by last month’s “fishtail brows,” a look that can only be described as Spock-meets-hip-hop brow cuts. Yet despite the fact that a single, lone teen sported this look, it was called a trend.

What is it about the word “trend” that makes us want to click the shit out of something? You can liken it to the same reason you wind up buying a product on Amazon that has tons of good reviews: You don’t want to miss out. You want the common human experience, whether it be a weird clay mask or nondescript gray sweats. There is a term for this in psychology, called the principle of social proof. According to Psychology Today, “Social proof is a shortcut to decide how to act.” It’s why in the mid-aughts I thought it was totally fine — nay, cool — to dip-dye the ends of my blond hair almost black, a decision that was an error that becomes obvious when I’m forced to see pictures of myself from that time.

Okay, fine, so everyone wants to know what the trends are. And when we click on that picture of a halo brow, we all know in our heart of hearts that there is no way we’re going to see half the people in our offices walking around with that look next week. But… if there’s a chance, you’ll look, if only just to mock it.

Here’s the thing about these non-trend trend posts: You’re rewarded when you click, even if you were brought in under the false pretense that everyone is soon going to be grooming their brows into a squiggle, a style attainable only by photo manipulation unless you’re willing to seriously disfigure your brow hairs for life. These looks are kooky and visual and... different. Then they spread because they evoke emotion, a key element of virality. In this case, the emotion is extreme disbelief. You share it on Facebook, because, dude, can you believe people are doing this shit to their faces?!

If you spend any amount of time on Instagram, especially beauty Instagram, things look depressingly the same. Beauty gurus are highlighted and Facetuned to be lineless and poreless AI versions of people. I’m convinced that we are all sick of looking at the same perfect flat-lay avocado toast on a millennial pink background. Our eyes are hungry for something we haven’t seen before. We want the strange and unusual, like Lydia Deetz, whose bangs I would dub “Icicle Bangs” if I had to make up a trend name for them.

I think people who do these looks are bored too. A cynical person would say it’s for views and engagement, sure. But it’s almost a backlash to the sameness. It’s taking the concept of individuality to the point of absurdity. Which is pretty much the internet of 2018 in a nutshell.