I read this article awhile ago and have had it as a blog draft for a long time. I have read it several times. It exerts different feelings and emotions every time I read it. It’s hard for me to put feelings and emotions into words. The article is intense and makes us look how we do things as a group that we normally wouldn’t do alone. It’s an unconscious decision unlike conformity, in which we adopt others way of thinking to feel accepted and included.
It’s called deindividuation. Deindividuation is when we lose our identity in the presence of others. The more people, the more we lose. Perfect examples: rioting and looting. We react, instead of think. It’s like a herd of cows. The fire alarm goes off and we all herd down the stairwell. This is especially true for soldiers and adolescence. I can recall always getting in trouble as a teenager, not as an individual, but as a group. We were all doing the same thing…like drinking, smoking, skipping class, and staying out beyond curfew.
These shades of self you’ve molded and honed over the years started out awkward and blunt, obvious and tacky. As you approached adolescence you tried on a variety of personae until one fit. You may have pierced body parts or tattooed areas you could cover up when needed. You may have singled out some celebrity or fictional character and cherry picked from their wardrobe, stealing a bit of their magic in the hope you could add it to yours.
Through each season of your life, you sharpen your image and polish your patina until you have a sense of the individual you claim to be.
Are we more likely to be deindividualized while anonymous? It does make it easier. Doesn’t it? We don’t have to take accountability for our actions. We can do whatever we want, be unruly, not be judged and accept no recourse. But does that make it right? Deindividualization does brings out the worst in people. But can it also be a positive thing?
What makes it wrong vs. right? The behavior which follows deindividualization makes the difference. The environment shapes the behavior. “The norms of the mob, good or evil, replace the norms of everyday life.” Positive, prosocial environmental cues can lead to positive behaviors, like volunteering. Negative environmental cues can lead to negative behaviors, like rioting. It all depends on how we handle the situations we are in…to do good or to do evil. Be aware of susceptible situations.
Be an individual. Remove the masks. Be civil. Think. Have an identity. Have a face. Have a name. And deindividualize for a good cause.