The Harlem Shake and the Decline of Western Civilization

Comeau’s problems with the Harlem Shake are not with the dance itself, but with why people make their own 30-second videos.  In the past, “if you wanted to get attention…you had to go out in the real world and do it in person, which at least required something resembling courage.”  Today, you can simply post something to social media and the number of likes, re-tweets, and follows supposedly indicate that what you have to say is actually interesting.

Comeau compares the Harlem Shake videos to the “cliché Instagram feet-on-the-beach shot.”  Initially, it was interesting, but copycats have diluted its allure.  For Comeau, the lack of concern regarding this dilution is the basis for the article’s title.  A Harlem Shake video or a Kardashian tweet is simple and formulaic way to garner attention on social media.  There is little to no creativity involved in the process.

Modern technology serve as a “means to relentless copy the thing of the moment, and social media is the means of distribution.”  Media production is becoming increasingly user-friendlier, which has only increased the amount of copycat content consumed by the public.  The volume of this content is making it more difficult for actual original ideas to reach people.  Comeau ends his article on a rather depressing note, concluding that “attention rather then true creativity and accomplishment is the currency of tomorrow.” 


 My questions to the class are:

1)   Has attention always been the end goal (even before social media)?

2)   Has creativity actually suffered as a result of copycat content?



One thought on “The Harlem Shake and the Decline of Western Civilization

  1. I think people do have an underlying desire for attention and social media has just given people the opportunity to get that attention from a larger network. People want affirmation for their ideas and in the past looked to a close circle of friends for that affirmation. I think one could argue that creativity does suffer to an extent with social media because so many ideas are presented to us before we have time to think of them ourselves. On the other hand it could be that the creative process is just sped up as a result of the over sharing online.

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