If you're concerned about the fact that American culture seems to be deteriorating, you might be talking about local communities having fewer strong bonds. But plenty of other people are concerned about the idea that, if they bump into a stranger, they might not share anything with them. No more sports teams, no more universally popular television or books. What would you speak to a stranger about? What links all Americans together?
I think it's possible this is a nonsense goal, considering how little interest people have in actually having an answer to this question. Because the obvious answer is: pop culture. This is the definition of pop culture. And yet most people prefer to admonish modern pop culture because it's, well, weird. And sort of bad.
Don't get me wrong, I don't use Tik Tok. I don't know about memes before everyone else. I'm not even entirely sure where to go if I wanted to learn about new memes. Most of them aren't terribly funny, and it's okay to wait until someone goes out of their way to share something with you. That strategy works for me, at least.
But that is the shape of modern pop culture. Memes and arguments and strange conversations and jokes. It's less focused on celebrity than it was a few years ago, but there's still plenty of that. If I want to talk to a stranger, I might mention a funny joke I heard lately. I think a lot of people would do the same.
Normally, this wouldn't be particularly remarkable, but I mention it because I think it's fair to say, excepting mega-phenomenon like Game of Thrones, American just is internet culture. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the things shared online are about real life events, or real life things sold or planned in person. But it's worth acknowledging this, because it focuses our attention on what it means to ask for assimilation into American culture.
It's not something some people, young or old, seem to have any interest in doing. And that's okay. This is why I think it's overblown – why care about if people share a culture if you don't want to share in it yourself? Particularly with a more self-serve culture, there's not much reason to engage in the more universal elements.
American culture, in the broad sense, may be dying. But I think it might be getting replaced by the communities that had been destroyed by the internet before. So it's probably better than nothing.