Benjamin Franklin said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
Recently, I lost a few friends because my views differed from those held by the majority and since I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my beliefs to cater to theirs, they decided to end the relationship. Immature, I would agree, but I also found such behavior enlightening.
I’ve come to realize, people are inclined to gravitate towards those who share similar opinions and beliefs. Understandable, because humans are pack creatures. Embedded in our DNA is the ability to pick up on social cues, and synchronize our behavior with those around us. It’s how we survive. Research has shown that moving against the pack provokes the alarm circuits in our brain, while conformity keeps us calm. So essentially, it’s easier to fit in rather than stick out. Which leads me to the dreaded phrase “mob mentality” which describes “how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors”.
Neurobiologists have found that when people break off into groups, their brain produces chemicals that diminishes their normal thought pattern to a more primitive state. Which literally means people stop thinking when they’re amalgamated into groups. Dr. Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase, “[The] banality of evil”, controversially argues that what happened in Nazi Germany could largely be blamed on ordinary people conforming to “mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions.”
Now, I know that is a bit extreme to bring up the Holocaust which is in no way comparable to me being dumped by a few friends, but I feel this issue has been plaguing modern humans for centuries. I.E. the Salem Witch trials, the torture at Abu Ghraib, or the hysteria during the French Revolution which the guillotine claimed around fifty thousand lives. And now with the internet and the growth of social media, a new and more covert form of mob mentality has arisen. People are not only losing friends and family members, but they’re being torn to shreds by complete strangers for not echoing “tumblr friendly” content.
It is as though mass majority of people only enjoy hearing their ideas (or what they think are their ideas). A study by Leeds University has shown that it takes just “five percent of people to influence a crowd, while the other ninety-five percent follow without realizing it”. It is as though the world is just one big narcissistic cesspool, where everyone is looking in mirrors echoing one another, and if the mirror doesn’t look like them or sound like them, then there’s an uproar, a sort of disbelief that someone might disagree with the herd. Such actions are leading to people losing their jobs and being condemned (due to social media) by millions around the world.
This behavior is not only dangerous but stifling to innovation and the development of new ideas. If everyone is too afraid or lazy to speak against the mob, what hope is there for change or the improvement of the human race?
We need disagreements and debates to sharpen ourselves. Succumbing to conformity quashes growth, creating stagnation which brings upon a sort of putrid rot, a veil of toxicity that seems to be permeating every society due to social media. And I can only imagine how many future atrocities could be avoided if people simply thwarted away the herd mentality and started thinking for themselves.