People sometimes talk about either being unique individuals, or about following the crowd. The consensus seems to be that it’s weak to be like others, and desirable to be “your own person”. I agree to an extent; however, it’s not always that simple. We all know about things that are mandatory, like taxes. Paying sales tax is not optional – pay the tax, or don’t purchase the item (and it would be nearly impossible to avoid that completely). Then there are those things that most of us ‘choose’ to do – like obeying the law – in order to avoid an undesirable consequence. Sometimes we basically have to follow the crowd.
I do think that we as humans tend to buy into the mentality of not wanting to be too different. Many people choose what they see around them because they don’t want to get negative attention, or simply because they don’t know what else to do.
But I don’t think it’s all about choosing to be like “everyone else” or deciding to “be yourself”. Sometimes what happens is that there’s not much of a choice. I am still fighting against some of it, but sometimes I find myself quite grudgingly following the crowd. One example is Facebook. Despite having no interest in joining, I found myself seeming to have little choice about the matter. I first signed up several years ago because it was the only way I could figure out how to contact an old friend. I didn’t find any other way to reach him, so I created an account just to send a message to say hi. I basically didn’t use it after that until I discovered that everyone in my family was delivering all of their news through Facebook. Once, I found out about someone in my family getting into an accident because someone had posted about it! I reluctantly started checking almost every day just to see if anyone had a birthday I didn’t want to miss, or if something else important had happened. I was able to limit it to about 5 minutes each morning. Then something came up that affected the family, and since everyone else in the family was using Facebook messaging to discuss important details about it, I pretty much had to check in frequently or be left out.
I’m still resisting in other areas, though. The main one is getting an upgraded phone. When my last phone stopped working several years ago, I had to upgrade a little – now I have a phone that has a camera and can (sort of) access the internet, but it still doesn’t do nearly as much as the newer ones. I’m not really able to (or want to) pay more for a new phone and upgrading our service (and increasing the monthly fees) just because everyone else has done so. However, it’s inconvenient. When people send me group text messages, I don’t get it as one conversation thread. I get each person’s contributions as a separate thread, which is very difficult to follow. The first time it happened, I had no idea what was going on. I don’t participate in group messages very often, though. Another thing is when people send me different emoticons, they don’t show up on my screen the same way. I usually get little black boxes, which doesn’t clue me in on what anyone is trying to convey. The worst part is that everyone I know seems to use their phones in place of their computers, which means they all contact each other frequently, even during the work day. I end up being left out of many things, at least until the evening. Then, I have to catch up on reading what everyone else wrote all day long. For some things, it’s not a really big deal, but sometimes it’s something significant. I think this sort of situation shows other reasons that people decide to “follow the crowd”. It can be for the sake of convenience, or just to keep from being left out.