Let's take a look at hype culture and why we might be quick to sign up for it as a way to belong.

What is hype culture?

Hype culture is the trend for the ‘next big thing’. If you’ve ever bought something out of your budget in the name of fashion, you’ve signed up for a little dose of hype culture.

It’s a term that intrigues me. I can’t tell you how many times my son asked me to splash out on an overpriced trending energy drink this summer. And I’ve even managed to convince my kids to see the Barbie movie with me, even though they both seem entirely uninterested.

With hype culture seeming to be a headliner this year, are we all getting a bit caught up in ‘herd mentality’ at the moment? This led me into wondering about the roots of hype and how, really, we just like to be part of something.

Hype culture and herd mentality

So, what does hype culture say about our need to conform or be like others? We’ve probably all heard of the psychological phenomenon of crowd mentality - when people take on the behaviours and beliefs of a wider group. Understanding the concept more can help us when it comes to making decisions and recognising the way we are influenced by others.

We are social creatures and, so, naturally seek approval from others. And hype culture might be a way to get a quick approval win. It’s only natural to want to be part of something, especially when it comes to feeling part of a group of people with a similar intention. A feeling of ‘togetherness’ helps us not only feel accepted and validated, it keeps us accountable and encourages us to commit to something bigger than ourselves.

In many situations, it’s a soul-satisfying feeling to be part of a community. Friendships, emotional support, and belonging make the world go round. But the merry-go-round of hype culture can feel a bit exhausting or all-consuming for some. You can dabble with hype culture and have meaningful connections; one thing doesn’t discount the other. But it’s worth self enquiring, especially when it feels like it’s less of a ‘dabble’ and reveals more about a need to belong.

Hype culture and status

At the risk of carrying on with two different things being true at the same time, I’m wondering if hype culture is a way for us to feel included or in fact, a way to stand out from the crowd. Maybe it’s both.

Hype feels a bit special or exclusive, somehow. And this treat of something new and shiny (however that looks) might give us a much-needed hit of dopamine in what can sometimes seem like a humdrum of daily life.

Having or doing that trending new thing can be a way to flag status somehow. And is that status a way for us to feel wanted or significant? Lots of us might acknowledge the need to be recognised for something. And maybe hype culture is filling that gap so neatly. The challenge of normality (aligning our beliefs with others) and the need to feel both significant and ‘part of’ is a tricky one to digest.

We want to be special but we want to be emotionally safe. We want to stand out but we want to be secure. And is there anywhere safer and more secure than being in the midst of a protective multitude? And is there anywhere more alarmingly anonymous than being lost in a crowd?

So, do we feel at times feel so cut off from the rest of the world that hype culture is our way to feel both secure in our connections with others and feel recognised? No wonder it’s popular!

But, I might also say, in that sense of wanting to connect are the vital ingredients for building harmonious and fulfilling relationships within a community. If you’re looking to build a sense of belonging, here are some tips.

5 tips to feel a sense of belonging

  1. Volunteer for a charity that’s special to you.
  2. Join a club (even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone).
  3. Get to know your neighbours or people that live close to you.
  4. Send a friend a little card in the post that you haven’t seen in a while.
  5. Search for some local community events or initiatives.
If you’re feeling a sense of loneliness, you may find it helpful to seek one-to-one support from a professional counsellor.

Hype will always be there, and taking part in it can be fun and even exhilarating - so long as we remember our true voice and connect with others in meaningful ways.