Sometimes I get a phrase or word stuck in my head or say it enough so that I need to figure out why. ‘Jump on the bandwagon’ is one of them. Up until recently I always associated this phrase with sports teams. As in a local sports team finally makes the playoffs and all of a sudden people care who can’t even name a player on the team.
Full disclosure: that was me this year with baseball.
The phrase began innocently enough. P.T. Barnum had a circus band and needed to get it from one town to the next, so he used a wagon. Then politicians noticed how much attention these wagons attracted during the entrance parade through each town and did what politicians do. They began using them to draw attention to themselves during their campaigns.
Let’s think about that for a minute, because all of this started in the late 1800s, but not much has changed. Sure no one uses an actual bandwagon anymore, but the bright, shiny things are still there, politicians are still using them, and the herd (people) are still following them without much thought.
There is a new twist, though. Now we have entertainers who have become an irrelevant footnote from the ’90s jumping on the bandwagon in a shameless attempt to gain new fans. And the herd follows. But have you ever stopped to wonder if any of these entertainers even care? Some probably do, but I doubt if all of them care. They care about the publicity – the free publicity.
So I would be remiss if I didn’t mention hipsters here, who by definition should defy bandwagon thinking and behavior. Right?
According Urban Dictionary, hipsters are ‘a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter’.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment…
Because it doesn’t matter how you voted a couple of weeks ago, this election was still about the established parties. The truly progressive candidates weren’t given the same consideration – how could they be? To have the best and brightest bandwagon, politicians need money and effective marketing.
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and everyone does at some point in their lives even if they don’t want to. There’s a reason why the concept is still around – it works. People may not use an actual bandwagon, but the idea is still there – in posts, tweets, blogs, videos, and articles.
But there is good news! Even if you find yourself on the bandwagon this morning, you can jump off at any time. A bandwagon, by necessity, is going slow enough to make jumping off relatively easy. So if you find yourself in a merciless loop of hatred and anger spewing media there’s a simple solution…
Turn it off. Jump off the bandwagon. Learn to think for yourself before the next bandwagon passes by.