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  • Writer's pictureLouise Carnachan

It's Hard to Stray from the Herd

I heard Dobie Gray’s version of “The In Crowd” on an oldies station a few days ago. Great song. I love the refrain, “I don’t care where you’ve been, you ain’t been nowhere ‘til you’ve been in…” We all want to be “in.” The kid’s whine is, “But everyone’s doing it!” Perhaps you’ve been known to utter the typical parental response, “If everyone was jumping off a cliff would you do that, too?”

Bucking the tide isn't as easy as one would think. During the halcyon days of summer, my state lifted indoor mask mandates. But the delta variant had begun to circulate so I remained cautious. I wasn't surprised to be the lone masked person at the grocery store, but I was surprised by how uncomfortable it felt to be different.

We’re copycats by nature and I experienced an emotional tug to be part of the crowd. What I was feeling was real and has a name: social default. The natural pull to do what everyone else is doing is a powerful force.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin in her article 5 Ways to Avoid the Herd Mentality (Forbes, June 25, 2014) offers these steps.

· Stop being on autopilot

· Make a conscious effort to form your own opinion

· Take time to make decisions

· Be aware of ways in which stress affects your decision making

· Be willing to stand out

Her advice adds up to being informed and taking your time. It’s impossible to learn about everything but you can find out more about that which is important to you. The internet is ripe with misleading or false information so beware of supposed experts with sketchy credentials. Who funds them gives you a clue as to their biases. Does what they’re saying even make sense? Your own BS meter maybe one of the best defenses you have against manipulation.

When it comes to the crowd, if you choose to be a non-conformist be prepared because you’re going to want to fit in. (Well, that’s most of us; there are always some proud contrarians.) Huddling with the herd was probably a factor in our species’ survival because going it alone can be dangerous. The problem is when we develop sheep-like tendencies out of ignorance or a lack of awareness. No one wants to come to the sudden realization they’ve been unconsciously swayed to act in ways that are not in their best interest.

Trust your reasoned decisions. If your research leads you to a different conclusion than what the in-crowd is doing, go ahead and stand up and be counted—you might be surprised to find out you aren’t alone.

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