It always starts the same: a masked person is audaciously thrusting in an otherwise normal situation as an adrenaline-rushing beat begins to rise. Then the bass drops; the video cuts to chaos, as people redefine what it means to be ridiculous.
The Harlem Shake is not a new idea, though. First introduced in 1981, the dance reached its peak in 2001, being referenced in many songs by New-York area hip-hop artists. Yet in August 2012, Baauer uploaded a song titled “Harlem Shake” and on Jan. 30, 2013, the song became popular when the first dance montage was uploaded by user, Filthy_Frank.
Throughout the second week of February, that single video sparked over 4,000 unique videos being uploaded every day, totaling over 44 million views according to a Feb. 12 official YouTube Trend Report.
This trend has not just reached young adults, but everyone, from the military to firefighters, to office workers, to colleges and sports teams, to news teams and radio stations; everyone is doing it, but why?
Is it because Baauer’s song subliminally controls us? I think not. It is, however because of the changing landscape of the Internet.
According to the Pew Research Center, 83 percent of 18-29 year olds and 77 percent of people between 30-49 use social media websites, meaning that we are connected more than ever before, but that comes at a price. Social media websites — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Pintrest, Reddit, etc. — have become the new high school. And just like high school, you have to fit in to be popular.
The Internet has now become a place where the view count on your latest YouTube video, the number of followers you have and the amount of "likes" you acquire on Facebook have become paramount to creating original content.
It has now become easier to just copy what someone else came up with than to come up with your own original idea. As for the Harlem Shake, it’s just the latest in the long line of Internet trends used to gain popularity online. According to another study done by the Pew Research Center, less than half of all Internet users post original photos or videos.
We as a society have started to collect what I like to call “Internet points” and use them as another way to prove who is better. Trends like the Harlem Shake are used over and over again until all the Internet points dry up.
You see this happen. Your newsfeed, timeline, and YouTube feed get cluttered with the same trend until it has run its course and the next one is found.
This will keep continuing until we change our attitudes on the Internet. We need to stop putting a value on these Internet points. Learn that it doesn’t really matter how many people have watched you hump the air in a chicken suit, and instead use the Internet as a place to cultivate new ideas and discuss things with intelligence and common sense.
It’s not fair to reduce the Internet to pictures of cats, videos of bacon being slow cooked in an oven, and fevered political arguments on Facebook; let’s graduate from the high school mentality and progress towardo something with more substance.