There’s a classic “Candid Camera” segment on conformity. As a test subject enters an elevator, he finds that everyone else in the elevator with him is facing the wrong direction. In the words of the Candid Camera announcer, he “tries to maintain his individuality”, but soon gives in and turns to face the same way as the others. It is a psychological experiment, and it shows, very simply, that we can be influenced. You can see the video HERE.
Conformity is behaving according to accepted social standards. When we act as a part of a larger group, we are conforming. There is power when many people are able to act as one, as the group can often accomplish more than the individual. It is “herd mentality”, and it can be a big influence toward driving our behavior.
Now, conforming can be a good thing, if the goal and the aim of the group is positive, as in missionary work. It can be neutral, like the elevator experiment. Or, it can be negative. Criminal gang activity might be one example.
But conformity can also be an excuse to stop being critical about our own responsibility for the decisions we make. I hear from my children sometimes, “another kid was doing it”. Parents, has that ever been an acceptable excuse? Not in my family. Hopefully not in yours.
Ultimately, each person makes his own choices. Regardless of what the advertising message is, you decide whether or not you buy the product. You decide whether or not you join in. You alone.
In my profession, structural correction of the spine, I very often ask people to think about their health in a different way. I give them a different point of view. I challenge their way of thinking. I ask them to think outside the herd mentality, outside of what is considered usual and customary. People commonly tell me that my explanation for what causes their problems is logical. They often agree with my approach and my methods.
When someone makes the choice to separate from the pack and follow a new direction, they lose the comfort of all their peers who still follow the old ways. It’s uncomfortable sometimes. And, sometimes they face criticism and questions. Any time you try something new, there can be fear of the unknown.
I would encourage each person to make sure they understand why they behave the way they do. If you are not sure what motivates you, or you think you are doing certain things simply because everyone else is, it might be time to think outside the box. You might find that your new direction leads you somewhere you would rather be.