Chapter 10: Herd Mentality

Herd mentality is something we’ve all heard about and have been warned about more than once. We hear about it often from our elders; in school, in church, at home. It is used as a means to discourage us from doing something or a way of saying no without the need to give a proper reason (You know, when people don’t feel like engaging you in conversation). The phrases that I am used to hearing describing this habit are:

” Don’t be a sheep”

“If your friend jumps off a cliff, will you follow?”

” Just because so and so has been allowed to do it” or ” Just because so and so can do it” “doesn’t mean you have to/ you should”

Also known as group think or crowd psychology, Herd mentality is the inclination of people within a certain group to follow what members of the larger group say/ do.

In my opinion, group mentality is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact group mentality is something that marketers are now heavily relying on to encourage sales. Think about it.. Influencer marketing, celebrity endorsements e.t.c. brands know that these individuals have a large following who consider them opinion leaders, or in simpler terms they trust their choices. Okay, trust is a heavy word, the people just want to be like them.. live a lifestyle like theirs and so in order to feel alike to this ‘leader’ they opt to purchase similar products or services in hope that they will fit in with the larger group. In other words, they hope to get a sense of belonging.

The issue with herd mentality comes in when you get comfortable allowing others to think for you. Going with the example above, to what extent will you purchase a certain brand because you want to fit in? Do you take the time to look at the bigger picture? Does the given brand’s value and mission align with your personal values? Or are you among those who a few weeks ago were surprised that their ‘favourite’ brands were indeed racist?

In such a situation who is to blame? The influencer or the consumer? It would be easy to go for the former because assigning blame on others is much easier than admitting we have our own faults. The truth of the matter is… “birds of a feather…” We can never really know what lured the influencer into getting into a partnership with a certain brand, perhaps they feel as though their personal values are aligned with those of the brand or perhaps they were offered a nice sum of money. What about the consumer though? This for me highlights the issue with herd mentality

I personally do not follow celebrities or have favourite brands that I adore to the point I cannot live without it ( this is a trait which some of my friends find irritating). I just get what works for me and is within my budget. But that doesn’t imply I have been exempt from herd mentality. Towards the end of what I describe as the worst year of my life so far (2019), I began journalling to help me get through some things. To start off my journey I decided to identify and write down my personal values and then analysed my behaviour over the years which led me to the painful realisation that I had been living life but more often than not, I wasn’t true to myself. The more I thought about it, the more I could identify moments when I went against what I believe in and what I stand for; the moments when your gut tells you one thing but you choose to do the complete opposite. As can be expected, I always ended up disappointed or further from where I really wanted to be. I was actively choosing to fit in, when I was made to be uniquely me. It should come as no surprise that I have been working on this actively 😉

Group mentality is prominent on social media, you know how quick people are to comment on a post, jump onto an online fight or believe whatever they come across. Is it because they actually care about the issue at hand or is it because they want to fit in and hence do what ‘everyone else is doing’? For my older readers, this also applies to what you read in magazines/ newspapers or what you hear in your WhatsApp group chats (Yes we know you have them). Are you the type to immediately believe what you read or do you take time to do your own research? Are you the type to agree with everything being said/ done or are you brave enough to speak up against something? Unfortunately it seems that although technology has brought us closer to information we are choosing to blindly follow what we see without first attempting to find out the truth or judge if its what we believe in. I’ll take a wild guess and say it’s because trends don’t last long and we want to appear trendy/ in the know.

(Un)fortunately group mentality also applies to culture, religion, schools and much more. These are practices and places we have grown up with but it reaches a certain point we must choose if we truly believe in them or if we are following ways of life because ‘ that’s all I know’ or ‘ that’s how things have always been’. I think we have all been exposed enough to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong and fiercely follow that path.

Perhaps its time to stop being like one another, perhaps its time to stand out from the crowd and follow your own path. Or… what do you think?