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BTS and the Enneagram: Basic Instincts Part 2

It is the social instinctual arena where BTS has made its musical mark far beyond South Korea and innovated and prospered. The social instinct includes issues related to belonging, community, groups and teams, social relationships, and influence, but also inclusivity, social justice, social intelligence, the use of concepts, and overall coherence. BTS flourishes in all of these, so what can we learn from them? In this blog, I am triangulating my BTS knowledge with my three decades gaining Enneagram expertise, but also my nearly four decades as a behavioral scientist.

BTS as a team

Teaming is in the social instinctual area; high-performing teams sit at the heart of the social instinct.  What makes a high-performing team? Answer: alignment, attunement, and acceleration.

Aligned teams have a strong, clear, and shared sense of direction. They also need a common understanding of their team vision, goals, or intentions and optimal level of interdependence for getting there. This is primarily mind-share.

Attuned teams feel deeply connected with other team members; this can be thought of as team resonance, where members are tuning forks highly attuned to one another. The tuning forks do not have to be tuned to the same note; they just need to work harmonically. Attunement is emotional, with team members feeling responsive to one another’s feelings and needs. This is primarily heart-share.

Accelerating teams are aligned and attuned, then move together in the same direction because they know where they are going, why, and trust their team members to act with integrity and passion. This is primarily action-share.

BTS’ goals and interdependence

From the very beginning, BTS began forming effectively as a team, becoming increasingly aligned and attuned the more they lived and practiced together. Did they have common goals? Yes, and these also changed over time. At first, the goal was to debut with all seven members intact, with none of them either being forced to leave by Big Hit Entertainment, their agency, or quitting voluntarily.

Once they became better known and popular, were their goals to win as many awards as possible or make a great deal of money from what they did? NO! BTS likes the awards they receive and are often surprised by them, with the multiple awards they’ve received over the years still eliciting a state of gratitude in each member and as a team. Are they making a lot of money, both for themselves and their agency? YES, but it has never been their goal. BTS’ goals are more akin to (1) becoming increasingly creative in ever-expanding realms (acting, writing songs, producing music, creating and acting in videos to go with their music, both as a team and as individuals; (2) relishing in the experience of what they create; giving voice to the social issues of their age group and beyond; (3) finding, understanding and being their authentic selves and encouraging others, whoever they can influence, to do the same; and (4) fostering inclusivity and social justice. They also recognize that they are interdependent with one another for their achievements, but also interdependent with their increasing large and global fanbase, called ARMY.

BTS’ fanbase as a social community with a culture: belonging, inclusion and acceptance

What is ARMY? If you are a BTS fan, you would know this is their ever-expanding global fanbase that is now in the multi-millions. ARMY is primarily women of various ages, but mostly in their teens, and twenties. They are worldwide.

ARMY began a very small set of primarily younger Korean females who followed BTS before they even debuted. They knew them from BTS’ earliest social media videos. BTS loves ARMY and would do just about anything for them and vice versa. But why? There are so many reasons, more than I know, but here are a few. BTS loves ARMY because ARMY actively supported BTS even when BTS was unknown; ARMY defended BTS publicly when BTS was treated dismissively by other K-pop groups and the K-pop communities because BTS was from what was considered a ”lesser” entertainment agency; ARMY takes on BTS “haters” on social media in a clear, yet not disrespectful way; ARMY actively supports BTS’ social justice values through community service, donations; and more.

ARMY has, in fact, become a worldwide global community with its own social culture. What defines a culture?  Cultures have symbols, language, norms or rules of behavior, values, and artifacts or cultural objects. For ARMY, BTS members are real people, but also symbols. BTS members have grown from boys to men and have shared their formative development through their music, including lyrics integrated with music and choreography. BTS members change their hair color and hairstyles dramatically, wear eyeglasses or contact lenses (even colored lenses), and they’ve grown up and grown taller. ARMY still recognizes each BTS member no matter the visual changes. In a sense, BTS members are symbols of growth and evolution.

ARMY members do not all speak the same language because they come from all over the world, yet they communicate on a variety of social media platforms and have shared language related to their values and norms. Here are some language examples.

“ARMY” is an acronym for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth. MC means master of ceremonies (taken from rap music). You can officially join ARMY through a small subscription fee on BTS’ Weverse platform, but anyone can call themselves ARMY if they love BTS and adhere to certain norms. So you can be a member without being a paid member and you can be from any country.

“Tannies” is another name for BTS members because BTS in Korean refers to the origins of the name BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan). IN BTS language, “Tannie” also refers to V’s adorable Pomeranian dog, Yeontan.

“Who is your bias?” This is key social ARMY language which is also an ARMY norm and is used frequently to hold ARMY accountable. Who is your bias means which BTS member(s) do you like the best or favor the most? The expectation is that even if you favor some, you support them all and do not engage in any behavior that elevates one BTS member over another. At the same time, this language recognizes preferences and asks AMRY to be accountable for acknowledging their favorites but still be supportive of them all. Normatively, it’s fine and human to have a bias, but ARMY who exhibit their bias at the expense of other BTS members get called out on this by other ARMY members.

“ARMY bomb” refers to the BTS concert light sticks, battery power bulbs on a stick, with the newer versions allowing ARMY at concerts to wave their bombs that coordinate with the music itself. Most who attend BTS concerts have this cultural artifact, but non-concertgoers can purchase them as well.

“Purple heart 💜” is a symbol of love, trust, and support originally coined by BTS member V in 2016. This has carried over to mean “I love you” and is often phrased as “I purple you” by both BTS members and ARMY. It also seems to suggest “I deeply appreciate you.”

BTS themes: struggles, obstacles and social justice

BTS did not start out writing music about social justice; they wrote about their own lives and experiences. But their experiences were a reflection of the times, and their introspection and willingness to be vulnerable through their music as well as their online presence, spoke to the hearts and minds of their generation. Their themes grew and expanded: self-doubt, self-love, introspection, self-acceptance, pushing against social expectations, sadness, fear, loneliness, overcoming obstacles, going through difficult times, powerlessness, bullying, finding freedom and happiness, inclusivity, finding yourself and being yourself, facing your inner shadows and moving forward, and more.

And as BTS evolved, their fandom grew, and now includes tens of millions of people worldwide. BTS realized they were not only expressing their own voices but also the voices of people of their generation and beyond. BTS also became increasingly conscious of societal issues, as did their fandom, and both BTS and ARMY became supporters of social causes, through word and action. BTS as a whole, BTS members individually and ARMY have donated time and money to a wide variety of causes: rainforest regrowth; hunger projects; hospitals and especially those that provide healthcare for less affluent populations; refugees; LGBTQ+ communities; education including scholarships and tutoring; Black Lives Matter after the George Floyd murder; Covid pandemic response; natural disaster relief; orphanages; animal shelters; domestic and sexual violence; and the list goes on.

Big Hit Entertainment, now called HYBE, has become a major music player worldwide. HYBE’s CEO is Bang Si-Hyuk, an artist himself and the person who helped create, mentor, and support BTS told Time Magazine, “They don’t shy away from speaking about the pain felt by today’s generation. They respect diversity and justice, the rights of youths and marginalized people. I think all of these factors worked in their favor.” HYBE also donates money to social justice causes because social equity and justice are two of their core values.


One could say that BTS does and encourages these efforts because it is self-serving. However, their commitment feels genuine; it is consistent and pervasive, and they don’t call attention to it. They just might be really good people who have evolved as individuals and social influencers.

As an aside, BTS members love animals, and animals, even ones they just met, seem to love them, too. All of them have pets of their own, mostly dogs.  None of them, as far as is known, have children of their own, but many of them adore children and vice versa. Can animals and children be that wrong about a person’s character and energy?

A final example of their social awareness and commitment to social well-being can be gleaned from their decision to record and release their song “Dynamite.” Why did they do this? Nothing seems random with BTS’s choices. Experiments? Yes! Random? No! They recorded and released this song as a response to the Covid pandemic. Here is the answer in their own words:

From Suga
“This is a situation that everybody else around the world is facing, so we just started to explore what can we do right now….”

From RM
“We wanted to give a message of hope to all of the ARMYs all over the world.”

From Jung Kook
“A lot of people are going through some tough times right now. I hope that ‘Dynamite’ will be a healing song, a therapeutic song to make lots of people happy.”

Music Video

You can watch the “Dynamite” video here.

About Ginger

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, author of nine Enneagram books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications. TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

The photo used for this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license and was downloaded from the Wikimedia Commons site. Through Wikipedia Commons, an independent reviewer confirmed that this image was under the stated license on that date listed. BTS is very careful and diligent with their copyrighted materials, which we respect and follow. All photos for this blog will be obtained from Wikimedia Commons with an International Creative Commons copyright.

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