The mainstream use of the term "hive mind" is usually in illustrating humanity's putative "collective consciousness." This term actually comes from French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) who used it to summarize shared beliefs and moral attitudes that bring people together in one social whole. It is not necessarily a rational process.
There are many instruments that have been used throughout humanity's prehistory to unify society, including, especially, totemic religion. The idea was to ingrain common principles in the larger unconsciousness within the context of a tribe or group.
Professor Marshal McLuhan is someone who has used the term "hive mind" in the modern era. He believed that the electronic media was a kind of larger nervous system that connected people to each other. He also believed the medium itself is more important than the content and coined the phrase "The Media is the Message" to explain this point of view.
McLuhan believed that newly created communication technologies, such as the Gutenberg Press and now the Internet, have a most important impact on human interactions and history. He postulated that electronic technologies were creating a kind of modern global village – and the hive mind concept fits into this larger perspective.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), has used the term hive mind to describe the combined consciousness of larger groups of people using the technique of TM. Studies have reportedly been conducted that show that TM reduces crime and violence when enough people practice it.
Society is certainly constituted of a wide variety of collective groups and there is no doubt that different groups of people in different nations create different cultures. Certain cultures react in certain ways to a given stimuli, but they may not all react in the same way.
The very concept of hive mind is bound to be a controversial one, as it cannot easily be quantified. Perhaps the most that can be agreed upon is that people are imitative creatures. When an individual sees someone doing something that person may copy him or her, even if s/he has not been exposed to the primary input. Certainly, this is how fashions and "fads" work. And there is a descriptive (if rude) statement that explains this behavior: "Monkey see, monkey do."
In the context of the Internet, information is being generated and disseminated that is probably bound to have an effect beyond the initial viewing. As new memes are absorbed into the culture, worldwide, the impact challenges previous assumptions. In this way new ideas are absorbed and new dominant social themes are created.
The Gutenberg Press accomplished this long ago by making available information not previously circulated amongst common people. The results were the Reformation, Renaissance and numerous political and thought revolutions. Today it is said by some that a kind of Internet Reformation is taking place. Within this context "hive mind," general though that term may be, may well have a place as a useful descriptive.