Don’t get lost in the crowd: Individuality versus a hive mentality
Fitting in is a normal, almost instinctive response that we have to our environments. We try to fit in, adapt to our surroundings and make ourselves comfortable with our peers and those around us. And for those of us who don’t feel the need to fit in with the “norm,” those of us who take our own paths, we may group with people who are traveling down a similar road as us, taking us to a familiar destination. A path that is paved with similar ideologies and established out of a like frame of mind. This clumping of like-mindedness is normal; it’s hard to find where you fit in the world sometimes, so when you find the place that you belong, it feels like home. But with this newfound sense of belonging, it’s easy to fall prey to a hive mentality.
For those who don’t know, this phrase essentially refers to a group of individuals thinking and acting as a whole. This may seem obvious to some, and it may not seem like a problem at all. In some way or another, we all value inclusion, being able to share the comfort of knowing that you’re accepted by those who are like you. It is this comfort that acts as the largest contributor to why people group. But this comfort comes at a cost, and that’s the cost of individuality.
It’s happened to me, more than once, where I’ve felt compelled, required even, to speak on something that I’ve felt strongly about; some idea that I conjured up in my head that I felt the need to voice. But I didn’t, and I knew that I wouldn’t, for speaking on this or that topic had the potential for backlash, a possible renouncement from the group in which I had found my solace. This sentiment speaks to two issues, the first being to the group, the second to the individual.
In regards to the group, difference is natural, difference is normal and difference will remain despite the similarities that stand, no matter how overwhelming their presence. As the group, the solace, the home to individuals, it’s important to meet this difference not with scrutiny or judgment, but with reflection and understanding. This is not to say agreeance is a necessity; disagreements are bound to happen in any group of people, large or small, no matter how similar individuals may be to each other. However, individuals should not feel as though a difference of opinion must be suppressed as a means to maintain their acceptance within the group. Of course, there are circumstances that would warrant other outcomes. But, generally speaking, ostracization and condemnation should not be the go-to actions when someone within the group speaks on something that may go against what the group feels is the norm.
To the individual, you don’t have to–and shouldn’t–think something just because you feel that you’re “supposed” to. No matter your identity, no matter the group that you feel you belong to, at the end of the day, you are you, and that is whatever you make it to be. When I ignored my own thoughts, rejected my own beliefs, I was no longer myself but rather a conglomeration of what I felt I ought to be, a mixture and product of the ideas I was told I must believe and accept, were I to be a part of this or that group. In doing so, I was stifling my own voice, hiding from my own beliefs for fear of being ostracized from a community that was just as much mine as I was its.
It is true that at the end of the day, regardless of how much we preach and make efforts to avoid it, sometimes the whole wins out. Sometimes individuality is swept under the rug and forgotten, enabling us to blend in and accept whatever we’re told we must accept. And sometimes, when we try to let our individuality win, it costs us that comfort of what felt like home. Although neither are preferred, these truths should not stop us from speaking out.
We shouldn’t let fear and the possibility of discomfort rob us of ourselves, for that is too great a price to pay. When everything is said and done, all we have is our name and what that name means to us. Who do we become if we give that away?