‘Groupthink’ dangers: Examining the lost art of thinking for yourself

“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”

That is from Wikipedia.  Obviously.  Look at those vocab words, top-notch stuff.  Not like my writing.  I joke, of course; I am astoundingly articulate.  

The groupthink mentality is a fun one to think about, for most people can begin to rattle off examples with a ferocious velocity including Fox News watchers, ‘Crossfitters,’ vegans, pot smokers and so forth.  I am not speaking of casual pot smokers, or those Fox News watchers who only occasionally watch Nancy Grace freak out.  Rather, I am speaking of people who become so fanatical in their involvement with a certain group that being around them becomes a burden to the cerebrum.

That this phenomenon is intensely prevalent on college campuses should surprise no one.  Usually young people are struggling to figure out who they are. For many, trying out new identities can be like trying to find a pair of pants that fits properly.  Now imagine if there is a full outfit your size, a large group of people, all willing to be your friends and the only thing required of you is to adopt their philosophy.  Who wouldn’t be willing to take on their mindset?

Greek Life is a prime example.  You come to college alone, unless some of your high school friends accompanied you onto this next platform in life.  If they didn’t, like I said, you’re alone.  But here comes a massive group of people, willing to open their arms, home and kegs to you for only a small fee and a few demeaning rituals.  Is it any wonder why young men and women continue to line up to try to win the approval of kids who they will have to pay for friendship?

And yet, here are people who come out against your fraternity, leveling terrible claims of sexual harassment or the use of date rape drugs.  Or that your sorority is seen as the slum of campus, and you all probably sleep with more people than you should.  These critics are insulting your friends!  And you paid good money to call them that! How dare someone present any argument that might put your group in a bad light!

The issue with facing criticism in a groupthink mentality is you don’t.  Any sort of opposition is immediately mocked and never given a second thought.  How could you possibly be in the wrong? With your group? This is the best group ever! Outsiders just wish they could be a part of this group.  

Attaching yourself tightly with a group takes your self-worth and ties it into the fabric of an idea.  The danger in all this is the loss of rational thought.  But handing your identity to a group is a much easier way to go through the world.  Because who wants to decide what to wear every day?  Who wants to figure out what to eat?  Why should you have to think through what you saw on the recent political debate?  Much better to just let someone else do that thinking for you.

You see this quite a bit with religion.  Tom Cruise, you may be a great actor, and “Mission Impossible” movies never cease to excite.  But dude, your religion is bonkers. It’s based on a science fiction book. And yet, scientology is not alone in that respect.  Why do we give up on the idea of Santa, but stick with the fairy tale of some garden where a snake is incredibly concerned over some guy’s fruit intake?  If not for being surrounded with others that tell you from a young age that it is the truth, most would come to realize how odd the whole idea of creation stories are. While everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs, these same beliefs can lead to the mistreatment, and sometimes even deaths, of others.

It is not difficult to imagine that a large number of people would be willing to kill others if not pushed by the idea that they are fighting the good fight, blinded by the groupthink phenomenon.  Islamic terrorists believe they are doing God’s work, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to get angry enough to kill over a cartoon, or a lady in a bikini.  Bikinis are fantastic.  Thank you, ladies.  And we Americans think we’re the best country in the world, so anyone we kill is a bad guy, because we have it reinforced by politicians constantly telling us we’re awesome.  Most of us have a sore shoulder from patting ourselves on the back so much.  Sorry folks, we’re not that great.  And Justin Bieber fans, who must be brainwashed, are ready to cut your throat if you say anything bad.  Like point out that he seems to have the IQ of a ferret.  I mean, come on, that kid is horrible.

The best thing to do is to pull out of the bubble.  Of course it is great to be involved in something, but don’t let that thing become all that you are.  Every once in a while, poke your head above water to see what other people are saying.  The most left-leaning liberal should  listen to the argument for why excessive political correctness is coddling the American mind, and the argument that while some government services are good, what happened to what can you do for your country and not the other way around?  And the most conservative Republicans can probably accept that it is taxes that fund the military, and it is probably a good idea to have some sort of entity in place to make sure the roads are kept in a drivable condition as opposed to being so riddled with potholes that traveling on them feels like you’re a human shake weight.

Question yourself.  The moment you think you’ve figured it all out is the moment you are furthest away from doing so.  Low-carb eaters: Do you really think it’s that bread that’s making you fat?  It’s the most popular food on the planet.  Vegans: What about the scientific research that argues we got our big brains from the extra protein and calories meat provides?  Just sprinkle a few bacon bits on that salad.

So listen to critics, because they might have a point. People say when I open my mouth, garbage spills out of it, and if I give it some thought, I might have to agree.

Tim Drugan-Eppich is a senior majoring in English.