Pokémon Go! : A Cultural Phenomenon: Cultural Phenomenon

What is a Cultural Phenomenon?

A cultural phenomenon, also known as the bandwagon effect, occurs when certain individuals behave a certain way merely because other individuals do as well.  A cultural phenomenon also occurs when something or someone gains widespread popularity. This includes everything from films to musical artists to clothing styles. The thing that gains popularity is not a cultural phenomenon; rather, the cultural phenomenon is the process of something becoming popular. For example, Beyonce accumulating a large fan base is a cultural phenomenon. The theory is people are more prone to like something because other people like it.

Other Cultural Phenomenons in Recent History

Famous People

  • Taylor Swift

Pop culture

  • Flashmobs
  • Uber
  • Internet Memes
  • "Gangnam Style"
  • The Dab
  • Flossing
  • Planking
  • The Whip/Nae Nae
  • Electric Slide
  • Piercings/Body Art
  • Collectibles: Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch Kids

Video Games

  • Minecraft
  • ​War of the Worlds
  • Fortnite

Social Media

  • SnapChat
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Hashtags, memes, and gifs
  • Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Police lip sync challenge

Lifestyle choices

  • Gluten Free
  • Diets


  • Downton Abbey
  • American Idol


  • Apple
  • Harley Davidson


  • "Keep Calm and Carry On"
  • "Bye, Felicia"

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This cultural phenomenon went viral July/August 2014.  The Ice Bucket Challenge was a successful campaign due to its combination of competitiveness, social media pressure, online narcissism, and low barriers to entry that led to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating on Facebook.  Within weeks of the challenge going viral, The New York Times reported that the ALS Association had received $41.8 million in donations from more than 739,000 new donors from July 29 until August 21, more than double the $19.4 million the association received during the year that ended January 31, 2013.  On August 29, the ALS Association announced that their total donations since July 29 had exceeded $100 million.

In this instance, this cultural phenomenon resulted in a scientific breakthrough in ALS research, courtesy of the monies raised through the Ice Bucket Challenge. 


woman laying across the railings of an escalator

Planking gained popularity and eventually notoriety on social media from late 2010 - early 2011.  The fad consisted of lying face down—sometimes in an unusual or incongruous location with both hands touching the sides of the body. Players competed to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. Planking can include lying flat on a flat surface, or holding the body flat while it is supported in only some regions, with other parts of the body suspended. Many participants in planking have photographed the activity in unusual locations and have shared such pictures through social media.

Cultural Phenomenon Articles

Find more articles about other cultural phenomenon using these CSCC Library databases:

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