How original are your opinions?

How many of your opinions are actually your own?

If you think carefully, you will realize very few, or maybe even none. Most of our opinions are either picked up from some article we read or some famous personality or that friend who has lots to say. Quite a lot of our opinions and likes exist due to influence. Maybe you love Priyanka Chopra and you get influenced by her and actively participate in feministic issues around you. There is nothing wrong with being influenced, as long as you process that recommendation on your own, rather than, just blindly accepting it. This brings me to my next point, Groupthink.

A few months ago, I became aware of this term called groupthink. While struggling to make sense of certain situations, one of my friends, he'd like to be called lil' bitch (he is the wierdo! you will get the reference, keep reading) told me to not take it so personally, as this was a classic example of groupthink. And that made a lot of sense. I finally had an explanation to so many questions and even my own behavior in certain situations. 

So, here I am going to try to explain this concept. Going by the conventional definition of groupthink,             
“a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics” 
Well, that did not make it any clear to me. Let me try and break it down for you. Firstly, groupthink is the ideology, where individual thinking is trumped by a collective opinion and more often than not steered by dominant members of the collective. That seems okay, right? I mean we all agree on something and have similar opinions on things, duh, that’s why we are friends. C’mon Shiro.

Let me get to this. Now the intent of groupthink is to avoid conflict and maintain harmony in the group. So, in trying to achieve that, conflicting/alternate viewpoints are not entertained or not critically evaluated and are suppressed. This leads to dysfunctional group dynamics that threaten individual opinions and the person who raises them.

The next question that comes to mind is that why would people just agree to things they do not actually believe in? I have two answers for you.
  • I understand that we humans are social animals and have an ingrained need of belong to a group. This is how we survived, by being a part of the group. That is an evolutionary concept. So, in an attempt to be a part of a group or collective, we suppress our own contradictory views. We keep those opinions to ourselves rather than voicing them. We would rather no speak out minds than be an outcast!

Let me give you an example. One of your friends cheated in her exam, now you think that this was wrong of her to have done. She comes and talks to the group about it. Being very good friends, most people in the group tell her that it is completely fine and she shouldn’t give it a second thought. In this scenario you have two options, either you could agree with the group and make your friend feel better, or you could be bold and tell the entire group that you think cheating is bad, and maybe this one time it’s okay but she shouldn’t do it again.

If you chose to be silent, well you have been Group-thinked. You did not express your opinion and restrained yourself. This is one form of groupthink. The one where you practice self-censorship.
  • The other reason could be that since a group forms an important part of our lives, we are highly influenced by them. And even if we disagree with something, we scourge through our memories to find any possible incident we can attribute to the group’s opinion and convince ourselves of an opinion we would not have accepted were we not part of that group.

The other one would be, there is a girl in your class, who is a bit different from your friend circle, but you think she is a decent person. Now your friends start saying that she is a weirdo and isn’t nice. So initially you resist and struggle because it contrasts with your opinions, but eventually, you convince yourself that, the other girl is actually a weirdo.

These are two very basic examples of groupthink. We do not realize how big a part of our lives it occupies. And I suppose it is harmless until it starts to encroach on your individuality. 

These are my views on why people would conform to conflicting views and practice self-censorship. And you would have done that in your life at some point. Everyone does. I have too. You just have to think really hard and identify those instances. Groupthink is terrible to be subject to. It strips people of their individuality and all while nobody is realizing it until one fine day you wake up and can’t recognize the person you have become.  


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