Everyone on social media is looking to gain more followers on their social media platform. I say, stop following the crowd. They are lost. In order to stay sane, our brains create the illusion that all our thoughts are completely rational and independent. But, no matter how independent-minded you think you are, it is easier — and unknowingly more seductive — to follow a widely accepted dogma, than create your own. Human beings have a natural desire to be accepted into a group or community. Being an outsider is not a good place to be, it is lonely and uncomfortable. That is why a lot of people prefer to follow the crowd, without realizing that it could lead straight to the slaughterhouse.
Why do most people decide to follow the crowd and adopt a herd mentality?
A herd, as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, is a large group of animals of the same type that live and feed together. Aristotle, the legendary Greek philosopher, said that man is by nature a social animal, inferring that humans prefer living within a group than alone. From this vantage point, it seems perfectly appropriate and not at all demeaning to describe herd mentality as the tendency of people to conform to the behavior or beliefs of the group to which they belong.
Numerous studies have confirmed the fact that the actions of a large group greatly influence an individual’s decision. Pushed by the herd, people act the same way or adopt similar behaviors as people around them, ignoring their own feelings in the process. Are most humans sheeple? Sheep are docile, compliant, kind, quite pleasant animals — and very tasty too; being described as a sheep, has no doubt pejorative connotations. The truth of the matter is that most of us are more sheepish than we might like to admit it and we would rather follow the crowd wherever it goes, than venture on our own lonely road.
A study conducted by Professor Krause at the University of Leeds showed that humans flock like sheep and birds. In his experiment, Professor Krause asked groups of people to walk randomly around a large hall with a select few receiving additional instructions about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to communicate and had to stay a minimum arm’s length from everyone else. As the experiment unfolded the informed individuals ended up being followed by others in the crow. Actions taken by a minority of just 5% of informed individuals influenced the behavior of 85% of the remainder of the group, and more importantly, without them even realizing.
Professor Krause’s experiment showed that in a group setting humans have a propensity for copying behavior. This copying can lead to a type of collective madness when inaccurate or harmful knowledge goes viral. The scientific term for this is maladaptive herding, which can push groups of animals, like sheep, to make critically stupid decisions like plunging over a cliff.
Some people operate under the disguise of acting for the common good of the people and take on the role of our shepherds to guide us on the right path. Sure enough, it is good sometimes not to worry about anything and follow the person ahead of us; but is this really the right path for us? If you act sheepish, you won’t even ask yourself this question because,
“Most people would rather be wrong within the company of the herd than be right outside of it.”
Honey, don’t follow the crowd, they are lost.
Sometimes following the crowd can be the smart thing to do if instead of acting sheepish we emulate the honeybee
Honeybees are known for their ability to work together in a group and collectively make decisions in the search for food or sites for new nests. Perhaps lesser known is how honeybees use their communication system to allow good decisions to spread and bad ones to stop dead in their tracks. Good decisions go viral. Bad decisions are being stopped. How do they do that?
Austrian behavioral biologist Karl Von Firsch found that worker bees use a kind of waggle dance to communicate with other bees. These waggle dances are the bees’ version of an online shopping rating system; instead of stars or good reviews, the ratings are based on the duration of the dance. When bees find a good source of food, they dance for a long time. When the food source is poor the dance only lasts a short time or is non-existent. With this sophisticated — and rather fun communication system — honeybees can skillfully identify the most profitable nectar sources amongst the sites they have visited and can rapidly shift their foraging efforts following updates from other bees in the colony.
The beauty of this system is that even if each forager only knows about its own nectar source together they generate a coherent colony-level response that enables better resources to be exploited and poorer ones to be abandoned. When bees happily dance the night away the information quickly goes viral and other bees will congregate to that spot. This behavior is neither triggered by a control center nor enforced by hierarchy, rather it results from effective communication or collective wisdom.
The madness of the crowd or collective wisdom?
Groups of humans sometimes exhibit the madness of the crow but at other times they are capable of exhibiting collective wisdom. As social animals, humans seek information from others when making decisions. Good marketers and social influencers perhaps know this best. When more people exhibit any given choice, be it fashion, politics, books, etc… the more people will follow in tow — in the same way, that people might choose to trust Instagram, Twitter, Facebook accounts with a large following. The name of the game these days is Trust me, I am an influence. I know what’s best for you. Sure thing, except that some of those influencers have taken residence in Idiocracy Ville, which is run by a bunch of bad actors who believe themselves as morally and intellectually superior to the rest of us, the common people. They appropriate themselves the right to influence the rest of us and tell us what to believe, what to like, and what to buy.
“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd”-
Studies have shown that in a large group setting, humans are largely unaware of their herd instincts or sheep-like behavior. Collective wisdom on the other hand is a source of collective intelligence that emerges from the collaboration or collective efforts of many individuals. To overcome herd mentality and its negative impacts, drop the sheepish behavior. If you are convinced that an idea is irrational or incorrect, don’t follow the crowd, they are lost, and adopt the collective wisdom of the bee, instead.
Advice from HoneyBee. Create a buzz. Sip life’s sweet moments. Mind your own beeswax. Work together. Always find your way home. Stick close to your Honey. Bee yourself!
And this, my dear friend, is Your Quest.
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