Pop culture today is dominated by the bandwagon effect as more and more people hitch a ride on the latest trend. However, with current hot topics switching at a faster and faster pace, is the bandwagon really the way to go?
The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon in which more people adopt trends the more the trends become popular. This can be explained by the human tendency to conform to the majority due to social pressure to fit in. An alternative theory involves the culture of groupthink, which proposes that individuals within a group tend to agree on the same opinion in order to avoid alienation or conflict within the group.
Social media has amplified this phenomenon. Popular apps such as Vine or Twitter make a constant stream of new and original content. One user’s quirky video becomes the world’s catchphrase for a few days, or a week if he or she is lucky. Examples of this cultural phenomenon vary from the “Damn, Daniel” trend and viral dance moves to popular apps such as Pokemon Go.
“There’s never a dull moment in pop culture. A conversation topic never becomes dry for me, and on the off chance that it does, there’s always a new hilarious meme or exciting news to discuss with my friends,” shared Jana Obusan, a senior at Valencia High School in Valencia, California, in an interview.
The bandwagon phenomenon that defines our culture today has led to new connections and discoveries. Making friends is now an easier and more natural process; rather than fumbling through awkward small talk, people have a common thread of conversation to branch from, which can lead to friendships and other relationships. Furthermore, new trends can persuade people to step out of their comfort zone and expose themselves to new experiences.
However, joining the bandwagon may also dissuade taking initiative and finding independence. Following one trend after another can prevent people from discovering their interests on their own. Essentially, the focus has shifted from the individual to society as a collective whole. The steady rise of new topics and memes inevitably means the plummet of “old news”, which leaves behind those invested in the forgotten dust.
“I still remember when Flappy Bird was in. Everyone was obsessed with it. Now it’s like everyone’s forgotten about it, but I still think it’s really fun. I have no one to play it with, though, which really sucks,” said Timothy Ahn, another senior at Valencia High School.
The hot topics today will probably be something completely different by next week. Although it’s fun to keep up with the latest trends, enjoying something at your own pace definitely has its perks.