Unless you've been hiding from technology for the last few weeks, you're probably aware of the Harlem Shake phenomenon. As of today, over 125,000 videos came back when I searched Harlem Shake on YouTube. It seems everywhere I turn, there's another version popping up. All branches of the military have their version of the pop sensation. University sports teams, high schools and even a group of nursing home patients can be seen bumping to the latest craze.
I was with a group of parents the other day, and one of the father's smiled at me to ask, "What do you think this Harlem Shake thing is all about?"
I took a pause to try and gather my thoughts. Trying to live in a world of understanding youth trends and at the same time, consulting people on the outside of that world (parents) is extremely difficult. The question "What's with the harlem shake?" today is almost like someone asking, "So what's with this Inter-web craze?" back in the late '90s.
Of course, the Harlem Shake is going to be a fading fad without anywhere near the same impact as the infrastructure of the Internet, but the metaphor is the same. Sometimes, when you live outside a certain demographic for enough time, the questions people ask are amusing.
As I gathered my thoughts on the trendy idea of a YouTube dance, I couldn't help but think about three different core human needs that appeal to us when we call our friends together and say, "Hey, Let's Youtube our own Harlem Shake."
Parents love to have fun. Kids love to have fun. College students love to have fun. Dissecting this movement much further really begins to enter into an analysis void of people just smiling together. Everywhere we turn, the news is doom and gloom. We don't have anywhere we can lock arms together and just ENJOY LIFE!! Humans are fashioned to have fun and create stories together. Who doesn't enjoy getting together with people they trust and just have a good time? The Harlem Shake is a vehicle providing a space for people just to have a good time.
Most recently, I've theorized the biggest issue in our culture today is the loneliness we've all adopted as normal. Today, we live our lives on social media, our biggest relationships sometimes appearing to be with our favorite tech advice. Sure, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and whatever means of communication you enjoy have provided an INCREDIBLE information shift. We are living in an exciting time to connect, but we must be careful not to alienate our most core need "to know and to be known" by each other. As we regulate our relationships over a text message, a twitter date or a Facebook profile, we actually loose the ability to look each other in the eye, be in one another's presence and deal with the nuances of being human. It's almost like the movie Wall-E was a prediction of our lives rather than simple animation. The Harlem Shake is a vehicle for us to be together. We do something FUN TOGETHER!!
3. A Culture of Celebrity
It's probably not as strong of proposal, but I've seen the NEED to be somebody elevated to a narcissistic level over the last 10 years of working with teens. YouTube has provided a place where everyone can be a celebrity if they have a trendy viral-type video. We are living in a time with a generation who longs to being someone special, and our culture says someone special equals something of celebrity status. You don't even really need to make a truck load of money anymorer if you can make a hit video, you can be someone in this world.
Closely tied to the economic problems forecasted for the future, we've got to get back to a reality of self. Just because we live in a world with much doesn't mean we're entitled to a world with much. I had a conversation with a potential employee who was frustrated because I couldn't promise a six-figure salary when they graduated from college. That's the world we live in. That's what makes us feel special. That's the demographic graduating from our high schools and universities. If you're not someone of notoriety, you fail.
If we can encourage people to get back to a place where they can function with the skill sets they are born to carry out, we'll see more people who are satisfied in the world where they can be who they were made to be.
All in all, PARENTS: Don't worry about the Harlem Shake. It's a fun thing for people to do together in a world where they are longing to develop REAL relationships with each other. Just watch and laugh. It's OK!!