Student - November 8, 2019

On trendsetters, Swapfietsen and Facebook mums

Resource blogger Geert van Zandbrink unravels the “export success” of trends that start in Wageningen, with a recent highlight being the “swapping” of Swapfietsen. On a related note, he also has a solution: an almost fool proof guarantee that nobody will ever touch a parked Swapfiets again.

© Sven Menschel

I am delighted to see Swapfietsen standing upside down increasingly often in student cities other than Wageningen. And this trend started here, in our small town. The roots thereof are more likely to lie in the drunken pleasure that is flipping bikes than in a protest against capitalism. And prove us wrong: isn’t it hilarious to “swap” the bikes?

Export product
‘For the environment’ is an oft-provided motivation for the reversal. At first, we Wageningers were given strange looks, but now that enough students have discovered the fun of it, the trend is spreading throughout the country like an epidemic. Photos of upside-down Swapfietsen are appearing on social media in Utrecht, Nijmegen and Amsterdam. In short: an extremely successful export product from Wageningen soil.
What makes me even more happy is that this is not the first time that such a transfer of trends has taken place. Wageningen is in fact a major exporter of crazes. A friend of mine, who is a communication scientist, told me about the multi-step flow theory, which explains how ideas and trends first arise and then fade out.

Flocking to the craze
It all starts with a group of alternative people who take action. It can be something like the swapping trend, but it could just as well be a fashion phenomenon. These alternative people are not really respected for their new idea, but they do not take notice of that. They continue their alternativity with indifference to the rest of the world. After all, that’s what makes them alternative. Everything changes when the novelty is picked up by an influencer: a leading figure with a large social following. Through these influencers, the novelty is highlighted as a trend, after which the crowd flocks to the craze. And when the Facebook mums and grandmas eventually adopt the trend, it fades out again.

Done with Swapfietsen
I believe that there is a relatively large group of alternative people in Wageningen. Progressive as Wageningen is, new – and initially weird – things will always surface. And when the ideas reach more people, either via Wageningen influencers or other channels, they suddenly become socially accepted and even appreciated.
Whether this theory truly applies to the flipping of Swapfietsen is not something I can confirm, but it is clear how the trend can be stopped: mobilise all Facebook mums and grandmas in the Netherlands to reverse Swapfietsen, and nobody will ever lay a hand on a parked Swapfietsen again.