The Harlem Shake and Social Relevancy

Harlem ShakeThe Harlem Shake – oh-so-current or so over?

An intriguing debate takes place every time the Internet shakes loose a new meme. With so many social platforms available to share every newfound video, graphic or in-joke, we can quickly grow tired of ubiquity.

Right now, a Facebook group I’m a member of is debating whether to participate in a flash mob-style Harlem Shake event. The commenters are in three distinct camps:

  1. It’s so relevant
  2. It’s so over
  3. It’s so catchy, it’s re-trending

Considering this meme began Feb. 2, 2013, when, according to Wikipedia, five Australian teenagers uploaded a video of themselves dancing to the song by Baauer, it’s hard to imagine how it could be over so soon.

As I write this, a puppy version of the Harlem Shake has reached 1.8 million views on YouTube. There are penguin Shakes, baby Shakes, academia Shakes galore – all waiting to amuse you.

Hippy, Hippy Shake

The problem, it seems, among social media mavens is that they’ve spent almost a month watching their Twitter streams and Facebook newsfeeds overflowing with every Harlem Shake video uploaded to YouTube. The social maven has left Harlem Shaking far behind in search of The Next Hot Meme.

However, not every person on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ is a social butterfly. The average user’s reputation doesn’t rise and fall on meme discovery. (And what is a meme? It’s a fancy word for “fad,” but since fad hasn’t trended since the hippie era – and connotes something a bit old hat besides – the social world had to come up with a new word. Wired offers this fascinating origin story for memes via the social network 4chan.)

And, frankly, what the Vasco da Gamas of social trends are overlooking is the wholehearted engagement that something like the Harlem Shake has IRL. That’s “In Real Life,” where social mavens sometimes forget to tread (and trend).

One of the reasons for the plethora of Harlem Shake vids is the sheer fun of being part of something – trend or not. It’s no accident that schools are uploading classroom videos or that companies and nonprofits are doing the same.

It’s goofy, it’s good exercise, it exudes good will – all extremely important factors for improved morale and sustained collaboration among groups during tough times. And that’s what real engagement is all about.

So, don’t worry if something is so hot it’ll singe your eyebrows. Yes, there’s a point when every meme gets overdone, but as long as folks are still sharing videos and feeling positive about themselves in the process, don’t let a few naysayers, who only want to stand on the cutting edge, dull your enthusiasm.

Go on, Shake!

Where do you stand on the Harlem Shake? Have you tried it? Or do you find it as passé as the Macarena?