THE MOB MENTALITY OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Jamie Spence MHVB
Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Social media, with all the wonderful ways it allows us to connect to friends and family far and wide,
has also largely contributed to a new online mob mentality that can be truly disheartening at times.
An anonymous, negative, collective consciousness that greys and smudges the horizons
between actions and personal accountability.
Now, cowards sit behind illuminated screens. They’re spiteful as they clack at keyboards with numb finger tips.
They incite hate as they comment, troll, and bully through careless words and ignorant opinions.
They say things that they would never have the courage to say to another human in person. Hiding behind touch-screens, their anonymity inflates their egos and any sense of self or accountability slips away almost effortlessly.
The internet has created virtual mobs where all sense of social responsibility is absent.
It’s now so easy to comment on something, attack a person or group, or be influenced by mob ideals.
No longer do we need to leave our home and join an angry mob to get angry about something together.
Instead, we can troll with other anonymous, insecure, and angry people to attack and bring down others, to spread only hate.
When most people write comments, tweet, or post something that attacks another person online,
they actually don’t feel as though they’re talking to another human being.
The virtual nature of these communications weaken ones sense of self and their social responsibility which,
more often than not, greatly impacts their respect for others feelings.
It’s as if all sense of humanity gets lost between screens and servers.
It’s now easier than ever to get infected by negative thoughts or bullied by digital egos.
Why is it that when we take away personal responsibility, some people slip into a dark, moral-less
world where social norms crumble away and our perception and judgements shift out of focus?
Is it because suddenly the edges of good and bad become undefined and concepts
like social integrity become shapeless forms open to interpretation?
Social psychology describes how we adjust our behavior or thinking to follow the behavior or rules of the group we belong to.
Typically, people conform because a various social influences or desires. Some of these influences and desires are respect for authority,
a fear of being different, a fear of rejection, or a desire for approval. Once we join a group, we are likely to conform to or comply with whatever the group decides, in order to fuel our need to be liked or feel like we belong.
When mobs form, they create a powerful influential factor that shapes a the character ones identity.
“Mob/herd” mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or
purchase specific items. The desire to join in on this group or, at the very least, be recognized by the group,
is an example of conformity.
Another lesson from social psychology is the influence others have on us. Research shows we do not have as much control over our thoughts and behavior as we think. We take cues from our environment and especially other people, on how to act.
We mostly rely on signals like popularity. A large reason that others influence us, to these extents, is that humans are social creatures.
We have survived because of our ability to band together. Early humans who formed groups were more likely
to live continuing the lineage of their blood line.
This highly affected the evolution of our psychology. In our evolutionary past, our ancestors were under constant threat. Keen awareness of others helped our ancestors survive in a dangerous and uncertain world. Modern humans have inherited
such adaptive behaviors as evolutionary “leftovers”. It’s innate and instinctual for us to regularly seek out and connect with others.
We also have a strong natural predilection to imitate one another’s behavior. We end up professing beliefs and acting out
in ways which we would have never otherwise done or considered independently.
Let’s consider the implications of this propensity for violence against others in the online world. We’ve already seen the mob effect on Twitter, where people’s lives have been ruined because others deemed that they had said the wrong thing. Twitter is often the ultimate example of dehumanizing someone—all you see is an avatar, which may or may not
be a picture of the person themselves, and their Twitter handle.
It’s often hypothesized that online trolling and harassment occurs because there is anonymity and a lack of
consequences for the perpetrator.
In most cases, one slogan or one propagandist phrase triggers such a strong reaction from participant in said movement.
The emotional bond becomes more important, and that’s what drives the whole group together.
When you’re having a conversation in person with someone and you disagree with them, you don’t just go nuclear in response,
even if their argument is stupid. Why? Because unless you’re a sociopath, people generally don’t like
hurting other people, physically or emotionally.
However, online your target is dehumanized. We can say horrible things and won’t see the effect it has on our victim.
We’re also not at risk of getting our ass kicked for pissing off the wrong person.
And that’s why, no matter who you are or what movement or group of people you identify with, you need to look thoroughly
within in yourself and confront this fact… you will do evil if the people around you are doing evil.
What we will not do as individuals we may do as part of a group. People may lose control of their usual inhibitions,
as their mentality becomes that of the category of masses . The larger the unit the greater the amplification of that group behavior.
However, some crowd behavior is peaceful, exemplified by Martin Luther King and Ghandi.
If the group behavior is violent, the larger the group the more magnified the violence.
All a riots are considered violent group behavior.
You have never heard of a peaceful riot because riots are, by definition, violent in nature.
The research findings show that as the number of people in a crowd increases,
the number of informed individuals DECREASES.
You are no longer completely responsible for what you are doing. In your head, you know you are one in maybe a 100.
If you burn a car alone, you will face consequences. But when you do it with so many others, you feel safe.
As a result, when many like-minded people get together, they reinforce each other’s ideologies and beliefs
regardless of reason and accuracy, and the end result is a more condensed, stronger, and fixed mindset about things.
Another reason why individuals have a tendency to align themselves with a certain group is to have a ‘sense of belonging’,
This sense of belonging plays a huge role in our self-identity. Also about fitting in and being accepted.
The fear of being an outcast alters people’s behavior.
It seems easier to be a part of a group than to stand alone.
Following others blindly or just ‘going with the flow’ may be beneficial, such as during emergency evacuations.
However, under many other circumstances like mob vigilantism or terrorism, it can rob people of their identities
and turn them into mere puppets.
While humans may be naturally inclined to conform (as various studies have proven time and again),
it is possible to maintain or stand by one’s own beliefs and ethics — even in difficult situations.
It’s time all of us examine ourselves and ask;
“Am I too caught up in everything to see reason?
Am I thinking for myself right now, or am I dismissing everything that doesn’t fit my narrative?”
‘Would I do the same if I was by myself?”