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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 8:36am

Bandwagoners power our society



Urban Dictionary defines a bandwagoner as someone who chooses to care for a sports team simply because it is popular or successful, which is to say that bandwagoners have no real loyalties. They’re like the sellsword mercenaries in “Game of Thrones,” but instead of being loyal to the highest bidder, they’re loyal to whomever is most popular.

Bandwagoning encompasses a wide range of activities. Often people bemoan the existence of bandwagoners when it comes to a band they like, for example, as the bandwagoners’ intentions are regarded as less pure than original fans. Bandwagoners are viewed as using something that true fans have heavily invested in as a mere means to a selfish end, associating with it only because it is popular.

Yet in some degree every one of us is guilty of embracing something after it has become popular. Consider that there are very few bands you have liked before many others had already liked them, and the same is true for movies, books and TV shows ­— at one point or another, you have probably jumped on a bandwagon, and sometimes you have jumped off and sometimes you have not.

Most sociobiologists agree that imitation is the driving mechanism behind cultural evolution, and the popularity of a thing is a great way to signal to people that they ought to imitate it. But it wouldn’t be fair to call all imitators bandwagoners. Instead, it could be said that bandwagoners are individuals looking to best satisfy their preferences by embracing popular trends — getting caught in the hype of a thing — while others who are often generalized as bandwagoners, are simply trying to find new things they might truly enjoy. The problem is that at first glance it is difficult to distinguish between these two types of behavior.

If it is unfair to call the latter type of people bandwagoners, then how might they be distinguished at the initial point? Rather than accusing someone of being a bandwagoner just because, out of nowhere, she updated her status to reflect that she is currently watching the World Cup and enjoying it, ask her if she is a fan of the sport, or just going along with the hype. And, if it is the case that she is just a bandwagoner, then judge her. Or perhaps not. It’s not so clear that bandwagoners are always a bad thing.

Any liberal society needs some distribution of bandwagoners to help diversify its trends, ideas and products, because bandwagoners help draw attention to them (especially through social media), signaling to others that they should try them, which encourages businesses to invest in those things. Bandwagoners must be distributed throughout a society so that, at any given time, there are enough of them to promote a variety of quality trends.

Enthusiasm over the World Cup has attracted many bandwagoners, and many of our local businesses have adapted to meet the increased demand. For example, the Rialto Theatre has been showing many of the games on projector screens for free, while other places such as Bob Dobb’s Bar and Grill and Blanco have extended happy hour times because of the games.

Before accusing someone of being a bandwagoner, take the time to learn if they truly are just being trendy or are just genuine fans who arrived late. And, while there is nothing wrong with complaining about real bandwagoners who care only about what’s popular, it is good to recognize that they can serve an important place in driving cultural evolution and in stimulating the economy.

— Vince is a junior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. Follow him @DailyWildcat


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