The 21st century is the first in which we can send messages, images, and music across the world in a fraction of a second. This convenient form of communication has led to the development of social media platforms and, from this, the rapid spread of pop culture. The spread of trends, news, and opinions globally has impacted personal creativity, developed personal and societal identities, as well as opened individuals to a new world, allowing them to be more knowledgeable on a variety of topics, and experience new things. But all of these can be generalized into one statement: Pop culture influences global unity.
Before diving into the true impact of pop culture on the world, it’s essential to understand what pop culture is. The term pop culture is derived from the phrase “popular culture,” which was first used in the 19th century. The expression is meant to describe a set of interests, ideas, aesthetics, trends, and experiences exhibited throughout the world. Different areas, cultures, or groups may have different perspectives within the scope of pop culture, like the American Pop industry versus the Korean Pop industry. But the central idea of pop culture is the mass media promoting or sharing these perspectives and products of the culture. It is shared through social media, news sites, etc. – essentially, anything found on the internet. TV shows, movies, and music are also examples of modern pop culture.
Once a basic definition of pop culture is established, it’s easy to realize how much of it is present in our lives. This digital age has us looking at advertisements, trends, and worldwide ideas throughout our day. Observing an individual's trendy clothing or discussing a dramatic celebrity event are both examples of pop culture present in our daily lives. However, these trends and discussions have a wider reach. All over the world, people are observing different trends and individuals from places that aren’t their home countries. Think of how many influencers or accounts you follow that are based in other places. Or perhaps the music you listen to, which may be from all corners of the world. The true reach of pop culture is endless because of the modern ways we have to share information. Our society is not limited to pen and paper to share news anymore. Even objects, like trendy clothes, can be shipped around the world in a matter of days – another way pop culture impacts everyone throughout the globe.
The global nature of pop culture's spread impacts how people from different cultures and nations interact with each other. Having a common interest or similar taste results in the development of a relationship or a community with people across the world. An example is the Korean Pop fan base, which is estimated to be 89 million individuals spread throughout 113 countries. The members of this fandom have a community not based in their own country, invoking a sense of unity between the members. Having a community or commonality within one’s own place of residence is important, but the idea of fostering relationships with people who live in a completely different place with a completely different culture is a powerful one.
Some individuals believe that the rapid spread of pop culture has a negative impact on society as a whole. Not everything on the internet is beneficial. The negativity, expansion of certain ideas, and widespread usage have turned some content within the pop culture field to be poor. It could be the portrayal of a certain group, area, or culture. Or the development of a toxic online community. This plays into global unity in the sense that it potentially causes cultural erasure or appropriation. This could alienate certain groups from others, causing a crack in the fragile glass of globalization. While this issue is certainly within the impact of pop culture, the culture still has many positive influences on global unity.
With the development of global unity through pop culture, a lot of change can occur; if these emerging communities have a positive goal, such as spreading awareness on an issue or showcasing their accomplishments. Pop culture can influence positive global change because of its widespread impact. A community that was united through common interests could work together to address an issue that collectively affects them. Through this, social change can be put into motion globally. However, this can only happen if pop culture continues to develop and spread in a positive manner. Building negative, oppressive communities through international media won’t help social change or develop global unity causes. But, overall, the impact of pop culture is positive: it allows us to spread our interests, ideas, and art with the world, building community and unifying individuals based on personal identity and curiosity.
Through Teen Lenses: How does pop culture affect your sense of global unity?
“Pop culture introduces diversity, implementing different meanings, ideas, and issues into pop, whether that's through a book or music or tv shows. It's educating us, young adults, in a digestible manner, through the things we enjoy. That brings acknowledgment and empathy. If we are able to learn about other teens and what matters they are experiencing, we form the ability to understand and relate with one another, and that creates a sort of unity and togetherness, no matter where you're from.”
Karina Morales- Castillo, 16, Bacchus Marsh Grammar
“I think that pop culture keeps people updated with trends which circulate around the world. It helps you connect with people who might live across the globe from you and exposes you to new stories, cultures, and experiences. Through similar interests, I have been able to talk with many teens, regardless of where they live. Many elements of pop culture also showcase geographical culture, whether it be recipes, clothes, or traditions. Through this, I have been able to acquire knowledge about a multitude of cultures that are present in our world.”
Sarah Kumar, 14, Mount View Middle School
“I think pop culture has allowed people to connect through similar interests and trends. Being able to interact through popular music or fashion taste can help teens all over the world connect and become closer. All friendships start somewhere, and pop culture is part of that somewhere. Teens all over the world may not have the same local similarities, but pop culture is universal and allows people to come together no matter where you’re from.”
Riya Gangabathina, 14, Folly Quarter Middle School