Social Media Mob Mentality


Ever heard of the phrase: “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you?” This question is sarcastically used since one would not follow their friend off a cliff … or would they? There is no doubt that we want to fit in. Our brains respond with fear and anxiety when we diverge from the group’s desired path. Once entering a group, deindividualization and the loss of self awareness can occur. This ultimately results in people thinking as a group rather than as individual and is known as mob mentality. Though mob mentality can be helpful, it is often detrimental.
Mob mentality is often expressed on social media; however, it sparked controversy way before technology. The famous author, Jack London, wrote about this concept in 1901. In his novel Call Of The Wild, the main character, Buck, faces the pressure to find his place within his sleigh team. Buck eventually attacks the lead dog, something surprising from the seemingly peaceful character, because the other dogs encouraged him to. By wanting to be apart of a group, Buck lost his ability to think of the consequences he brings upon himself. Harper Lee who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird also wrote about mob mentality in 1960. While Tom Robinson is in jail, a mob of townsfolk try to kill him in his cell. To much surprise, they encountered Atticus Finch and eventually his daughter, Scout, standing in front of the jail. The group was tense and ready to attack for they were acting as a mob, but once Scout came out, the mob began to back off since it would be immoral to kill in front of a young girl. This mob made of friendly townies was not thinking of the individual repercussions they could face. Members of the mob could have been charged with murder, yet they did not think of that because their desire to agree with the rest of the town outways moral obligations. Luckily, Scout was there to make the mob change its mind. In addition, Ray Bradbury wrote about mob mentality within his book Fahrenheit 451 which was published in 1953. Within Bradbury’s society, books are illegal which causes citizens to feel miserable. The government tells its people that they are happy, and the people believe them despite the pain they truly feel. Instead of speaking up about their true emotions, they remain silent. They do not want to differ from the majority’s opinion for they would be seen as an outcast. All of these authors made one thing clear within their books\; mob mentality is dangerous.
Despite these authors attempts to warn society of mob culture, technology has enhanced it beyond control. This sociology evolved from people following others to do risky behavior to immediately believing people and their unjust accusations. For example, recently, youtubers James Charles and Tati Westbrook got into a social scandal. It started when Tati posted a video in which she accused James of sexual misconduct as well as being inappropriate around respected figures. Her video quickly became the number one most watched video of the week, racking up 47 million views. With millions of people watching her video, the support towards James dropped\; he lost 2 million subscribers in 4 days, something unheard of. The beauty community seemed to react quick as well, attacking James and “exposing” him. The problem is, Tati had no proof\; later her claims turned out to be faulty. After finding out the truth, James followers rose again. Millions of people believed accusations with no proof and unsubscribed to James simply because everybody else was. Not to mention, of those 47 million viewers, most of them left hate mail and death threats addressed to James. The hate and damage put upon him was completely undeserving, yet those who imposed it did not check for evidence to post such hateful comments.
On the contrary, mob mentality can be useful to enact social justice, as some celebrities deserve to lose a mass following for their actions. Famed running back O. J. Simpson was accused and eventually sent to jail for armed robbery and kidnapping. He served 9 years for his crimes. After social media discovered his conduct, O. J. lost the American fame his career brought him (as he deserved). The mass movement shows others that actions have consequences even if one has fame. This moral idea is fueled by the few who actually form educated opinions and the rest who follow the general consensus out of fear of thinking differently. Mob mentality can be supported, but in any situation sending hate mail, death threats, and any other form of verbal harassment is unjust.
Mob mentality has only become more prevalent with more technology. The ability to know information is simply a swipe away causing people to know everything about everybody. This abundance of information, much of which is untrue, causes people to quickly form faulty, unjustified opinions. It is scary to believe that people could attack a celebrity for false accusations and ultimately ruin their career. That is why it is important that society forms theirs views on proof-based evaluations that might result in them diverging from the popular opinion. Remember, the popular stance is not always the right one.