Have you watched those documentaries where a herd of cattle jump off a cliff in a frenzy?
I have watched several and often wondered at their stupidity for surely they should be able to see that their action is doomed, nevertheless, they go ahead, even struggle to make the jump, blindly following their leader.
This phenomenon known as Herd or Mob Mentality is not restricted to animals, human beings are also subject to that behavior and if you have been on WhatsApp or Social media these past weeks you must have encountered it or even been part of a Herd.
Herd mentality has been described as the the inclination of individuals within a group to go along with what the group, at large, thinks or does, a situation in which people act the same way or adopt similar behavior as those around them – “often ignoring their feelings in the process”.
Simply put, Herd mentality is the tendency to follow the crowd based on our emotions and not by rational thought. The fact is that, we are all subject to this kind of thinking as we buy and do things based on the dictates of our social class. The advent and accessibility of social media and the emergence of social influencers has however made it more pervasive and extensive.
This mentality exists and cuts across all ages and social classes. It manifests in children as peer pressure, adults as cults, in investment circles- by the buying of shares that other people show an interest in irrespective of whether or not the shares are viable .
In the business world, we see it when people jump into a line of business mainly because some people seem to be making money from it. In politics, it is apparent where people follow a leader from party to party without any thought as to the party’s policies. In fashion, it exists where people wear what is in vogue whether or not it fits their body type. We experience it in mob actions where people because of their company and environment act in ways they would not ordinarily act if they were alone.
Herd mentality like all things has its advantages and disadvantages. It is normal to follow people we trust and believe in and there is safety in numbers but we must be careful to ensure that we do things because we want to and because it is good for us and not just because of what someone else tells us. We must be careful to ensure that the people we follow are in no way misleading us or that they are not just using us to achieve their own goals.
The recent brouhaha about Coronavirus being caused by 5G technology has gotten me a bit bothered and it’s not because I don’t believe that conspiracies do not exist, they do, my fears are that a lot of people who should know better did not subject the theories to rational thinking. It is alright if the illiterates and uneducated do so but it is very worrisome when educated people take things at face value and run with it because their influencer, who may be a pastor or politician, says so.
I say this all the more because I have stood aghast in shock at the way the evangelicals in America have stood by President Trump even when he has desecrated the values that Christianity ( which in my opinion is being Christlike in character) stands for just because they believe he has been chosen by God. I cringe when #istandbymypastor appears whenever a man of God is criticized especially when the criticism is obvious, objective and true.
Herd mentality becomes dangerous when everyone in the group agrees with whatever is being said or done whether or not they believe in it; where objections, opposition or dissensions are not encouraged or allowed and any attempt to point people to see things from another perspective is hushed down, silenced or ridiculed. It is dangerous when the Leader must be obeyed unequivocally, is seen to be infallible and can make no mistakes or if he/she does make mistakes it is hurriedly swept aside and justified. It is in existence when individuality and one’s opinions are discouraged and everyone has to conform to the standards set by the Leader(s), where individual aspirations are sacrificed at the altar of the common good, where falling out of grace with the leader means abandonment by the Herd.
The rise of Hitler and the atrocities committed by the Third Reich are classic examples of the dangers of Herd mentality. So also is the Guyana and WACO tragedies where leaders Jim Jones and David Koresh caused the mass suicide of their members. Human beings generally tend to want to belong to a herd, it’s the way we are fashioned however, we must resist it if we see that belonging to the Herd erodes our individuality and uniqueness. To do so, we must be conscious of our actions, our beliefs, and why we believe what we believe . We must engage our minds , scrutinize our thoughts and come to an acceptance of our beliefs outside of whatever anyone tells us no matter how highly we esteem them. We must be careful that we do not loose ourselves in a bid to fit in and pattern our lives after others.