If we all apparently harbour an innate desire to be different from the next person, why then do we go out of the way to fit-in as smugly as possible with those around us?
I’m waiting in line for a cappuccino. It’s gonna be a good one: short, intense, the foamed milk emulsified with the syrupy shot. I glance up from my phone and look around at the cafe. It is, for lack of a better adjective, a hipster joint. There are the artfully branded items for sale (T-shirts, espresso cups, etc.) and a long list of single varietal beans. Hot water is being poured out of sleek Japanese kettles; the baristas are wearing fedoras. And then I look at the other people in line. I notice their costumes: the slim dark jeans, flannel shirts, scuffed boots, designy glasses, mussed hair. Everyone is staring down at the gadget in their hands. They all look like me. I look like them. This is the definition of self-loathing.
While none of the cafes I go to sell their own t-shirts, or any other branded merchandise for that matter, I have made the effort to avoid using my handheld device in recent days.
Children who are marginalised at school because they are considered to be geeks or nerds, tend to be more successful as adults, as they are far more self aware, spontaneous, and creative, than popular students, says Alexandra Robbins, who has written a book on the subject, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.
So called popular students are more likely to act and think according to the wishes of the groups or cliques there are part of, rather than on their own, behaviours that are unhelpful in adult life.
Even if the kids in these cliques are momentarily on top of the world, Robbins says the traits they are learning could be toxic in their future lives. “When you are in the popular crowd you are more likely to be conformist, you are more likely to hide aspects of your identity in order to fit into the crowd, you are more likely to be involved in relational aggression, you are more likely to have goals of social dominance rather than forming actual true friendships,” Robbins says, pausing for a breath. “You are more likely to let other people pressure you into doing things. None of those things is admirable or useful as adults.”
The thought that non-conformists – variously considered to be rebels, dissenters, or alternative free-thinkers, by themselves and others – are not interested in popular endorsement in the way that “conformists” are, is not entirely correct… they are instead seeking the approval of a less standard – less conformist – “audience”.
This seems to be the case with most interesting “non-conformists” I know. They are human, and surely care deeply about the opinions of others. But their special care for the opinions of particular others often leads them to disapproval by ordinary others. Sometimes you can’t please everyone, and must choose whom to please. It seems to me that the main difference between folks is that “non-conformists” try to please less standard audiences.
Via Big Contrarian.
Have you ever been in a group of, say, ten people who cannot decide on a place to eat, even though there are a dozen restaurants in sight? This indecision is just one example of crowd conformity. The group cannot decide, and no one wants to break ranks with the group’s… will.
However one person, with a clear idea – or suggestion – of what to do, can sway the rest of the group. Try it the next time you find yourself among people who cannot make up their minds.
As soon as there’s someone who disagrees, or even just dithers or can’t decide, conformity is reduced. Some studies have found conformity can be reduced from highs of 97% on a visual judgement task down to only 36% when there is a competent dissenter in the ranks. Dissenters must be consistent, though, otherwise they’ll fail to convince the majority.