essay

Herd Behavior: Comfortable and Necessary

I don’t follow herd behavior. I think of myself as a creative and independent thinker. I don’t always go with the crowd and I do my own thing. You might think of yourself the same way.

Hah.

The truth is, we pretty much all just follow herd mentality most of the time.

When businesses started to open again after the shutdown, there was not a mask mandate where I lived. And every time I went somewhere, I looked around to see if people were wearing masks or not. If the majority of people seemed to be wearing masks, I would wear them too. If they weren’t, then I wouldn’t. I knew I should wear a mask, but I just didn’t want to feel awkward.

When the mask mandate happened, then everyone was wearing a mask and it was easy.

We follow herd behavior even when the information says otherwise.1 So we will literally know better, and then follow the crowd anyway. If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, chances are you will consider it for quite a while.

People standing on a cliff

Is this always a bad thing? Not necessarily, because usually the herd is not jumping off a cliff. Sometimes herd behavior is safe and comfortable. We end up feeling nicely invisible, fitting in and doing what other people think we should do.

But other times, we really need to act differently. Sometimes the herd is not doing what is right, and we know better.

Find Your Herd

Instead of trying to be independent thinkers and have the willpower to always stand out, we should instead simply surround ourselves with better herds. No matter how strong you think you’re are, the pull to fit in is very strong.

We are social creatures and we need the support of other people. There are so many uplifting groups out there, and we can often choose our friends and the people we spend time with. We can realize that the desire to fit in and be safe and normal can be a really good thing–as long as we are choosing where we fit in and what group we are going with.

When we better understand our own values, we should work to create herd behavior that follows those values. We can work to make the world a better place, by elevating and expanding those groups that want to do what is right.

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