At its root, the familiar phrase, “You are who you surround yourself with,” is often taught to children and encompasses a much larger social issue that has forever plagued humanity: mob mentality.
Mob mentality, also referred to as “herd mentality,” is a psychological occurrence in which an individual “deindividuates” and adapts behavioral practices and thought processes of a larger group. On a neurological level, the human brain releases a chemical called oxytocin which elicits a “bliss” response whenever people partake in social events. In order to connect with a group of people, an individual may subconsciously alter their behavior to attain the sense of security and warmth that can be gained from social activities.
Examples of this are abundant. From incidents of high school neglect of sportsmanship at sporting events, to larger scale incidents such as the stampede at Qasem Soleimani’s funeral, mob mentality continues to plague the human race as an object that promotes a culture of hate and even death. Combating an issue such as this may seem like nothing short of an impossibility, however, the solutions are shockingly simple in retrospect.
The first of these solutions is to have a good sense of self. People who are comfortable with standing alone regardless of the choices of a group are less likely to fall victim to mob mentality. This can be achieved by remaining conscious of one’s own values, and spending the time to determine exactly what those values may be.
Next, make leadership qualities a priority. Anyone can exemplify leadership, as it goes beyond the typical image that we associate with a leader. Leaders are people that take into account the wellbeing of others when making decisions. In a mob, the wellbeing of all parties is sacrificed for the sense of security that comes with “being right.” Acting as a leader can help you remain true to your values, and it can push others to remain true to theirs as well, therefore avoiding deindividuation and pulling away from mob mentality.
Finally, foster a sense of creativity. People who become accustomed to thinking creatively are more used to making decisions based on their owns thoughts. Creative people have trained themselves to be able to receive ideas from others and then differentiate between whether or not those ideas should be implemented in their lives. So, when faced with a crowd, they have trained themselves to differentiate between self and mob.
While mob mentality is an epidemic of sorts, these tips are a starting point for combating a culture of death and violence. It takes strength to go against the grain, and training yourself to do so is a process that takes time and discipline. However, the first step to building a better world and combating mob mentality is to recognize individuality in all people, including oneself.
Photo courtesy of Emma Melcher.