Posted in Photography, Psychology

Psychology of Pop Culture: Sense of Belonging

My third post analyzing the psychology behind pop culture will focus on the notion that pop culture provides a sense of belonging. This effect is known by a few names such as need for affiliation, sense of belonging or belongingness. The need for affliction is defined as a person’s need to feel a sense of involvement and belonging within a social group. This was coined by David McClelland. To have a sense of belonging means to have a human connection or emotional need to be accepted by someone or a group. As social beings, we have a need for human contact and belonging.

One famous study or theory on the topic belongingness is A.H. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After basic needs, there are the psychological needs. This features belongingness and love which comes from relationships and friendships. Psychological needs can be defined as mental or emotional needs that help us to achieve self-actualization. This can even stem to Harry Harlow’s idea of belonging and attachment. With the work of Harry Harlow and his adorable baby rhesus monkeys. he discovered that we need social contact to thrive, whether that connection comes from a wire mother, cloth mother, family or more accurately social contact that provides us with happiness, satisfaction, and security. This I believe can apply within pop culture as well.

Normally when we think about having a sense to belong, it’s about family, friends, or high school social cliques, but having a sense of belonging can also appear in pop culture. When you belong to a group, you get feeling of acceptance, where you feel all warm and fuzzy inside because you are no longer socially isolated. For example, here at the University of Lethbridge there is a club for just about everyone. You have a Religious club, Native American club, Amine club, Object Manipulation club, Fraternities, Sororities, and the ever-popular Gamers club. So, with so many exclusive clubs, it is more than probable to find a group that suits one’s interests to obtain a sense of belonging with a group of friends that share the same interest. Which is part of the reason why you get that warm and fuzzy feeling. Because of being around other people who understand you and share similar interests.

Within the realm of pop culture, although it is mainstream, some people who have more obscure interests like gaming, cosplay, or even drag don’t normally have a sense of belonging within their standard circle of family, and maybe not even with their circle of friends, causing a social isolation. This leads to the in individual seeking out other social relationships and social bonds where they can express their interests with like-minded people. This is where we have the comic cons and hobbyist conventions. After some intense research, I have discovered that there is a club, group, and convention for everyone. Here are some examples:

The Fetish Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, is an annual convention and trade show focusing on the adult entertainment industry. This includes bondage, latex and their mascot Bernie the Bondage Bunny.

Another unique convention is Bronycon in Baltimore, Maryland. “BronyCon is the world’s largest convention for and by fans of the animated TV series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” It’s a convention where people from all over the globe come to take part in all activities of My little pony. Including costumes, Bronypalooza which is market for all things of My Little Pony, and just connect with other “Bronies”.

Anthrocon is a convention for people who love to dress up in furry animal/ mascot costumes, known as Furry fans. These like-minded people participate in workshops, seminars and collectively celebrate Furry Fandom. They even have a Fursuit Parade.

Burning man is an annual gathering for people to explore various forms of artistic self-expression. This festival includes a temporary self-made community where one can freely express themselves without judgement. Their list of ten principals include: “radical inclusion, self-reliance and self-expression, community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leaving no trace”. (“Burning Man – Welcome Home”, 1989)

These crazy conventions although unique and ridiculous to some all have one thing in common: a sense of belonging for people who have abnormal but similar interest which in this case would be pop culture, giving the people a sense of belonging within pop culture.

One reason why we want to have a sense of belonging is that is can be a form of therapy. Having the opportunity to talk and relate to other like-minded individuals who understand some of the issues that one faces and how to deal with them can be very therapeutic. In the sense that you are not alone. This is like the concept of venting to a friend about family or relationship issues.

Per the relational-cultural theory, we develop a sense of belonging and a connection to others when we feel like we are in a healthy relationship and have a sense of growth as an individual that occur when with that group (Shaw, & Hammer, 2016). This type of belonging occurs in a community like setting, where you are surrounded by other people with similar hobbies or views that you can connect with and develop relationships through acceptance, promoting a sense of belonging. But what about the connection and sense of belonging to a fictitious group of characters that you see in in TV, movies, and pop culture? This occurs in a similar fashion to community based belonging. With the idea that you can relate and share similar experiences with that character. An example of this is with the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower” starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Whenever I watch this movie I become so sweep up in the story and events, because I experience similar situations and feelings as the character Charlie. The relatable character of Charlie just wants to live a normal life without his mental illness of schizophrenia getting in the way, so through fate he becomes friends with a group extroverted high school seniors who introduce him to a world that he has always observed from a distance or through other people, or by being a wallflower. As I watch the movie I relate to Charlie and start to feel that I am part of the misfit group. Going through the moments that occur and feel the same emotions that the group experiences. Giving me a sense of belonging, and a connection with Charlie, Sam, and Patrick while on the island of misfit toys.

 

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Now what happens when you are unable to obtain a sense e of belong to a social group or pop culture icon?  This is when the notion of social isolation and alienation comes into play. by not having a sense of belonging you can lack satisfaction in life. This can go back to Harlow’s rhesus monkeys. when his rhesus monkeys were socially isolated they became very depression, social damage, and behavioral ailment, and leading to physical ailment, where they even refused to eat. Now this is obviously an extreme case of social isolation, and goes way beyond pop culture and feeling accepted, but the principals are similar. When you are socially isolated from your friends or your pop culture fandom or anything that gives you a sense of belonging, it can be very lonely. An example for this would be it someone where to take your phone away leaving you without any form of social media. It would be very alienating, depressing, etc. But this is where the idea of pop culture comes into play. Thanks to the internet and technology and being more globalized and less localized. Pop culture and social groups are more accessible. through social media, I can feel like I am always connected and have a sense of belonging through virtual means. With Netflix, movies, TV shows, video games, and virtual communities, it provides people with more access and opportunities to relate to other and to always have a sense of belonging through virtual means.

With the crossover of virtual and communal sense of belonging. Is having a fictitious connection in the attempt to gain a sense of belonging as satisfactory as having real-life interactions with physical touch? For example, when we FaceTime or virtually connect with someone, we would probably prefer to be interacting with them in real life, so why do we choose virtual or fictitious over physical?  And is pop culture encouraging a false sense of belonging?

For this week’s Photo, I decided to do a collage of three photos that I took while at Globalfest in Calgary, Alberta. It features three Muslim women that have a sense of belonging through their religion and relationships. That although some people isolate themselves from people who have a connection to the Middle East, they still are happy and have a sense of belonging, despite all the hate. These three gorgeous women are what we should strive for, which is to be happy, secure and feel connected through a sense of belonging whether it be from religion, family, friends, fetish conventions, or pop culture.

Here is the link for The Harlow Monkey study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O60TYAIgC4&t=44s

 

References:

Anthrocon 2017: Take Me Out To The Ballgame | “Fur, Fun, And So Much More!”. (1996). Anthrocon.org. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from http://www.anthrocon.org

BronyCon 2017. (2017). Bronycon.org. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from https://bronycon.org

Burning Man – Welcome Home. (1989). Burningman.org. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from http://burningman.org

Choenarom, C., Williams, R., & Hagerty, B. (2005). The Role of Sense of Belonging and Social Support on Stress and Depression in Individuals With Depression. Archives Of Psychiatric Nursing19(1), 18-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2004.11.003

Cohen, E., & Lancaster, A. (2014). Individual Differences in In-Person and Social Media Television Coviewing: The Role of Emotional Contagion, Need to Belong, and Coviewing Orientation. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking17(8), 512-518. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2013.0484

Con, F. (2017). Our Official MascotFetish Con™ – August 10 – 13, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from http://fetishcon.com/our-official-mascot/

Hagerty, B., Williams, R., Coyne, J., & Early, M. (1996). Sense of belonging and indicators of social and psychological functioning. Archives Of Psychiatric Nursing10(4), 235-244. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0883-9417(96)80029-x

Harlow, H. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist13(12), 673-685. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0047884

Harlow, H., Dodsworth, R., & Harlow, M. (1965). Total social isolation in monkeys. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences54(1), 90-97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.54.1.90

Harlow’s Monkeys. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O60TYAIgC4&t=44s

Mellor, D., Stokes, M., Firth, L., Hayashi, Y., & Cummins, R. (2008). Need for belonging, relationship satisfaction, loneliness, and life satisfaction. Personality And Individual Differences45(3), 213-218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.03.020

Paston, B. (2009). An Exercise in Personal Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Surgical Technologist, 347-353.

Pillow, D., Malone, G., & Hale, W. (2015). The need to belong and its association with fully satisfying relationships: A tale of two measures. Personality And Individual Differences74, 259-264. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.10.031

Shaw, P., & Hammer, T. (2016). Captain America: The Search for Belonging. Journal Of Creativity In Mental Health11(1), 118-124. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15401383.2015.1113151

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