Lately on Sunday mornings when I’ve been on my usual run through Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean, I’ve passed by a group of about 40 elderly people dancing and singing with abandon in a concourse across the street from the De Young Museum. The music that has accompanied their activities on several occasions is the hit K-Pop song “Gangnam Style” which can be heard blaring from boom box speakers.
Seeing this going on has made me think about how relatively rarely it is these days that a single song, dance or other cultural phenomenon carries such mass appeal. It used to be that everyone knew the words to the same songs that were sung everywhere. That’s certainly not the case any more.
It’s a funny paradox really: A few decades ago when there were only a few television stations and no Internet, there’s a case to be made that many more people experienced and talked about the same stuff. The Beatles, Star Trek etc. These days, we are deluged with so many possibilities of things to watch, read and otherwise engage with, that it can be argued that there’s much less opportunity for common points of cultural connection between masses of people.
On the other hand, the so-called “long tail” of today’s fragmented and diversified cultural landscape may have the potential to create a stronger bond between people than was possible in the past. When you find someone who shares the same point of cultural connection that you do (“It’s so great that you watch Portlandia! I love that show!” etc) it’s possible that the sense of community you feel around whatever it is that you collectively appreciate will be deeper and more passionate.