The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration. Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards? Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?
When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards? It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.
Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.
It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals. And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality. Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:
We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe
Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you. ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need. Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.
Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise? Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards. Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly. We weren’t born to follow in this way.