It’s starting to get really hot, you’re with a zillion others on the streets, defending your rights, sticking it to The Man, building a better future. You’re chanting. You’re not sure what exactly, with all the noise and lack of coordination (it definitely looked easier on the movie last night), but you’re chanting anyway. You feel proud, and good, and somewhat angry (yeah, I know…). Everything seems to be going great, you’re in the flow, you don’t have to decide anything, it’s as easy as it could ever be. But then, you see at a distance, a small, little shop with a giant poster of your favorite band. It’s getting closer, but you aren’t. A strange feeling arise. You’re starting to wonder.
Where’s the crowd going? And why you shouldn’t follow.
Following a crowd is exhilarating. As part of a movement, we feel empowered, nothing can stop us. Crowds have overthrown governments, crowds have stopped conflicts, but crowds have also started wars and induced the death of many people. When you’re part of a crowd, there are questions you should be asking yourself, and others.
The advantages of being in a crowd
- You’re powerful
- You can fight for your rights, or justice
- You don’t have to decide everything, you can rely on the crowd
- You’re part of a group with similar values or interests
- You benefit from what the crowd provides or obtains
- You share with the crowd, and it shares with you, you’re not alone
The disadvantages of being in a crowd
- You act differently than when you’re by yourself (you are less inhibited, maybe also more aggressive)
- You’re a small fish in a large pond, you may not be able to voice your opinion (or concerns)
- Unless you’re at the top (if there’s one), you don’t decide much
- You become less aware of your actions and their true implications
- You probably don’t know where you’re going
- Your interests might diverge from the leadership’s or the crowd’s and might end up helping changes against your values
- It’s not always easy to get out once you belong to a group (and/or to realize you’re not a good match for it anymore)
Two faces of the same coin, obviously. When you commit to a group action, it is important to keep the goal in sight. Both yours, and the group’s. If it’s a one-time thing, no problem, but if it’s a long-time relationship, there might come a point when you don’t totally agree anymore. If that happens, and you still follow the crowd:
- You might feel bad about the path you’re on and start building resentment
- You’ll engage in actions that don’t match with your values anymore
- You’ll work towards a goal that won’t satisfy or fulfill you
- You’ll lose interest in the group’s activities and will not help the group anymore
- You’ll miss opportunities to do things that really matters to you
Basically, you give up control over (part of) your life.
It is important to join a movement boasting our values, it can even be life-changing, but beware of getting caught up in the action. It might not do you only good. Follow your heart, follow your values, join a crowd, but don’t simply follow it.