What are today's communal cultural experiences?

Inspired by this thread mourning the loss of water cooler TV shows.

Cultures have always had shared communal experiences that bind a group and in recent decades in multicultural America shared television viewing has created that communal experience across groups for many with a particular shared set of myths resultant. The referenced thread discusses how that has become no longer the case.

So what are becoming today’s shared communal cultural experiences that work to bind us as out of many one?

Or are there none and if so is that part of a fragmentation of America into different tribes?

The last truly communal event I can think of was Election night 2016. Of course, we were split roughly 50-50 on how we wanted it to come out, but we were all there for it.

The Super Bowl. People who don’t even like or routinely watch football attend Super Bowl parties. The ads are an attraction all by themselves that provides another area of conversation and bonding. Viewership has been down for a couple years but 98.2 million people watched it on TV this year. Total viewership across all platforms was 100.7 million. That’s without including all the people that did things like watch highlights or commercials after the fact and joined in the discussions.

You mentioned fragmentation, and so I think perhaps you’ll be interested in this Paul Graham essay:

The Refragmentation

This is my hobby horse. I think that the decline of mainline Protestantism has done a number to our social discourse. They were big tent organizations that essentially encompassed 75% of all citizens and ostensibly served to guide our moral convictions. Not that things were rosy, but they provided a shared space for disagreement on mutually agreed terms. They did not particularly bend one way or the other politically and there was a certain respect between them especially after the Ecumenical movements of the early 20th century. Now though, I don’t think we have those shared spaces. There is no mutually agreed upon framework for debate. It’s about destruction of ‘the other’ and it’s a dangerous place to be.

I think viral hashtags and video challenges are a decent example. There’s a hashtag going around Reddit right now, #TrashTag, where people around the world are collecting trash in public areas and showing before/after pics.

The “Ice bucket challenge” for ALS some years ago was quite big. Dancing to Drake’s “In My Feelings” was big a couple years ago.

Even if you don’t participate in the challenges, you can still feel a part of the event by seeking out and watching/viewing the results of it.

An interesting essay and thanks for the link.

I do not think that he supports his thesis too well though. In particular he fails at all to support his contention that before WWII America or societies in general were fragmented. The common space and/or time experience goes back to before Greece, way before. Yes often that tribal experience was wrapped together with a religious structure but not always.

I think we were pretty unified during WW2 and in the decades after - having a common mortal enemy will do that - but I also think you’re somewhat right in that prior to WW2 we were more unified than we are today. I think it has a lot to do with how difficult life used to be: our survival used to depend on maintaining close relationship with others in our communities. These days, people tend to come together because they want to, not because they have to.

I think advances in communication in recent decades have also resulted in people being aware that they have options. 100 years ago if you lived in a small town and were gay or atheist, you just kept your head down, because you had no idea that there were others like you out there. Mass media and the internet now lets everyone out there who has access know that there are places and groups where their unusual nature is accepted and even celebrated. Every time that happens, presto - a small town and a church lose one more member (and that person was counted as a member, even if they were only part of that group under duress). “Tribe” these days is defined as the people you want to be around, rather than simply the people you grew up around.

Not just the Superbowl, but sports in general continue to be a communal experience for a sizable portion of the population.

There are numerous aspects of “pop culture” that continue to generate the same sentiment:

musical artists
even tv shows that get dropped an entire season at a time
major news events (including natural disasters, crime, etc.)

What’s funny is that movies, concerts and sporting events are all seeing long-term declines in attendance. Traditional TV has seen decreases in viewership and while Netflix is loathe to publish its ratings, the top 13 most watched shows are syndicated reruns. Orange is the New Black is the highest rated show that drops a season at a time for Netflix and it accounts for .74% of all views.

That really leaves us with a ‘community’ that revolves around in your words ‘natural disasters, crime and politics’ That might go a long way to explaining why we are the way we are.

If we look world wide, the World Cup has to be the main communal event. The 2018 Final had a viewership of 1.12 billion people.

Many holidays involve community events such as parades for the Fourth or Thanksgiving, Easter egg hunts, and the dinners held after the parades or special services. I’m looking forward to the Good Friday Fish Fry even though I’m not religious.

Except I’d say that it was really ANYONE who was out of the mainstream, not just gay or atheist people. In college, I met a surprising number of people from small towns who were unusually happy to be in college, because they were basically local non-redneck intellectual weirdos, and in college, they were absolutely not remarkable in that.

Agreed, and I should have included the phrase “for example” in my post as I didn’t intend to be so restrictive. There is an infinite array of reasons a person may feel like they don’t fit in with the people around them; sexuality and religion were just the first two that came to mind.