Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | The truth behind the bandwagon effect

CW / Elijah McWhorter
Alabama fans cheering during the LSU game on Nov. 4 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

For as long as collegiate sports have been around, so have bandwagon fans. 

The kind of fans to drop their beloved team faster than their quarterback did the ball in the previous game. Merriam-Webster defines the term bandwagon effect as “the phenomenon by which the growing success of something ... attracts more widespread support or adoption as more people perceive and are influenced by its increasing popularity.”

Many SEC fans would more than likely have some considerably harsher things to say about the crowd. It happens all across the wide world of athletics. From college sports to the professional level, there have always been and will continue to be fans who ride on the coattails of the team that’s currently winning.  

The University of Alabama is no stranger to the bandwagon effect. Having fans go from die-hard to disgusted in a matter of two plays is something that the players have seemingly grown numb to. 

“You actually root for them when they’re good,” said Terrance Williams Sr., father to University of Michigan senior basketball forward Terrance Williams II, in an interview with the Associated Press. “But then they make a mistake, and a game doesn’t go your way and you turn to hate. That’s unacceptable.”

With collegiate athletes on the rise as the next big content creators, media pressure for these students is at an all-time high. 

This issue of opposing opinions doesn’t apply only to Alabama’s sports, but to sorority life as well. To out-of-state onlookers, the theatrics that Alabama game days entail can seem over-the-top. The tradition of dressing fashionably for Southern football games has been established for quite some time at this point, though with more concentrated media commentary on this in recent years, the stakes have risen.

This follower phenomenon has more to it than just having a herd mentality. The psychology behind the bandwagon effect reveals much more insight as to why we tend to imitate others. 

According to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, the bandwagon effect results from a heuristic, or a mental shortcut that allows our brain to make decisions quickly, and therefore is an immediate relief to the everyday stress of decision fatigue

In this case, the heuristic assumes that if a majority of people agree on something, they’re probably right. The effect is a prime example of our innate inclination to integrate ourselves into a group, to be a part of something bigger.

The influx of social media coverage of UA women going through sorority rush has created not only bigger and bolder fashion statements on game day, but a designer domino effect across the country. Schools such as the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin have had students start to roll out their own content to make their presence known amid the multiplatform pandemonium.

Although these schools are nowhere near the University, students frequently use the hashtag #BamaRush to boost their content’s reach, once again following in the footsteps of those who have found success.

The bandwagon effect is not confined to sports teams and affects many more aspects of our lives than we realize. Take Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce’s budding romance, for instance. 

It’s no secret that the Venn diagram of Swift fans and NFL fans did not have much overlap, but after the couple went public, fans could carpool from concerts to championships.

The union of two extremely powerful public figures created an unfathomable increase in the young female fan base for the NFL. “Swifties” have been studying up on professional football, and following Taylor Swift straight to Arrowhead Stadium. 

The influence of someone people can resonate with is one that can reach much further than song choices on a playlist, but as far as one’s personality. The media have even become so obsessed that Gannett, which owns USA Today, hired a Taylor Swift beat reporter.

We must no longer confuse coherence with conformity, as we are losing all individuality in the process. Dr. Seuss spoke on the subject once in a pithy yet powerful statement, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” 

The reason Dr. Seuss had so much success, the reason he was so well liked, was that he was unlike anyone else. He took individuality to a whole new level, going to great lengths to separate himself as a person. He even made up his own words in his books, including “nerd.” 

He did not try to adjust himself to fit with others, but rather embraced his eccentricity and used it to his advantage.

We could all take a page from any one of Dr. Seuss’ bestsellers, because after all, “There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

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