Counter the influence of the many

There is something uncontrollable about the influence that the masses can have on one, and it can't be completely avoided (i.e. consciously avoided). When you're among the many, chances are that you are swept away by that influence. Perhaps you have heard of the 'law of social proof', and similar phenomena?

The name already shows how dishonest it is: neither is it a law (it's only a bad habit many people have let themselves into, or have been conditioned into), nor is anything 'proven' by the mere fact that others had the same opinion. Most of the time, it's just the automatic pilot who's decided that drifting with the stream seems to be a safe option. It may be right, or it may be wrong - but it would be better if you decided that yourself.

The 'law of social proof' is, however, an actual phenomenon, and you'll find it everywhere, once you have learned to watch out for it. They use it actively: they'll make you think you want something by showing you how others have also wanted it.

But things are not desirable just because someone else desires them; make sure they have also value for you. Things are not funny just because others treat them so; isn't it actually a bit scary that someone else should have already determined what makes you laugh?

And then, have you noticed what stupid, boring and mindless stuff draws most of the attention in our world? Have a look at a random TV channel. Check out those newspapers and magazines with the large headlines and the stupid stories (they even use short sentences and simple language to make sure you don't have to be too bright to be a consumer). You'd be better off without this. Only think of all those hours of valuable time wasted on it - good, important time thrown away, invested in stuff you won't remember in just a week's time. True, lots of people do it - so does that make it a good investment? (Does it 'socially prove' something?)

You should not, of course, fall into the opposite error: don't take anything as wrong just because the masses have accepted it. When it comes to deciding what to think, there are no simple rules. You're not safe by just accepting what everybody thinks, but neither will you automatically be right by just opposing it. (Naturally, other people's view may sometimes be a factor in your considerations - but certainly not the only and decisive one.) Make sure that you are the one who is deciding what you want, and why you want it. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.