Culture is a large presence in any society. It influences our ethics and morals, the way that we interact with others and even the way that we think. The power that culture has on our behaviour is undeniable.
Many cultures have historical origins and are based on old traditions. They also usually have a geographical boundary. However, culture is changing. There is a new culture developing and spreading across the world. The technology of the modern world means that the world’s population is connected in ways that it has never been before. More can be shared and had in common.
Popular culture is a modern phenomenon. It can be used to describe popular music, films, book and even popular ways of thinking. Since its beginning, it has been different from other cultures in its lack of historical and geographical foundation. Now, popular culture has a new way of spreading, the internet. Popular culture has more influence today than it has ever had before. While its influence remains most strongly felt in the West, it can also be more easily felt around the world too now.
The internet clearly has a large impact on culture as people share their thoughts and experiences. Songs, videos, articles and images can become viral, thus entering mainstream culture. In this way, a single culture can be shared by a wide range of participants.
People have often been symbols of popular culture; actors, singers and writers have reached extreme heights of fame and have come to represent an era, a feeling and even a way of life. They have huge fan bases and, as a result, a huge amount of power and influence. Nowadays, singers and actors have been replaced by anyone who can use the internet. Without the internet, a celebrity cannot exist. With the internet, anyone can be a celebrity. The current symbols of popular culture depend on their ability to create a social media presence. Rather than any other talent, their personality takes them to fame. Due to this, You Tubers seem to be the new symbols of popular culture.
The influence of You Tubers has not gone unnoticed by the political world. In March 2014, President Obama had a conference with several famous You Tubers. He invited them to the White House to discuss their message for young people. Clearly he is aware of their status as symbols of popular culture and the resulting impact that they can have on the young – the main target of popular culture.
People who become symbols of popular culture are very influential but they alone do not make popular culture. They can spread and endorse ideas and become representatives of it but what comes into mainstream culture is largely in the hands of the public, perhaps more so than ever before. They choose which videos, images and ideas to share.
The culture created by the internet is an extension of fashionable, popular culture in the real world that spreads trendy new words and concepts. The word ‘selfie’, the concept of being a ‘basic’ person, the phrase ‘YOLO’, all have entered mainstream usage and are examples of the way that a shared culture has been created by the internet.
People around the world are sharing the same culture in a way that would not have been possible without social media. A culture has been created through the virtual space that we share and has become an extension of popular culture. The internet has demolished geographical boundaries.
However, this does not mean that a shared global culture has been created. Geographical boundaries have been removed as communication opportunities connect more people than ever before but that does not mean that the popular culture of the internet is embraced by everyone. There are other limits to the spread of culture, such as language barriers and loyalty to another culture. Moreover, there are locations where internet access is limited and so the spread of popular culture is impeded.
In a way, the new internet culture could be considered as an extension of American popular culture. Television, film and music industries have been dominated by the US for decades and perhaps the internet is experiencing the same Americanization process. Popular culture is largely American culture. It could be argued that any appearance of a shared international culture is just the spread of American culture and America’s influence, particularly in the West and the English-speaking world.