From Above the Noise.
Is social media encouraging conformity — or is it a way for us to express our individuality?
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**What is conformity?**
We’re all social creatures who want to be accepted by the people around us. For that to happen, we need some level of conformity, which is when we change our behavior to fit in with the people around us. We humans are some serious copycats. It comes in handy when we need to make a decision without enough information. Society ITSELF relies on conformity. Stopping at red lights, standing in lines, putting our trash in a trash can, wearing a suit and tie, politics, and even certain aspects of religion. The list goes on and on. Conformity really kicks into high gear when puberty hits. There’s this biological push to separate ourselves from our parents and develop our own identity that better aligns with our friends. And for a lot of young people, social media is where a lot of this identity formation can happen.
**How does social media contribute to conformity?**
You might think that having millions of people interacting with millions of different ideas and photos and videos would increase individuality and creativity, but there’s this little psychological concept called groupthink that can do the opposite. Research has shown that the larger the group, the more the people in that group tend to think alike. You might start out with a bunch of different and unique ideas and opinions, but only a small subset of those ideas will actually filter up to the top and get noticed. Our brains are subconsciously pushing us to reach group consensus. And social media can lead to so many other pockets of conformity that I’m sure you’ve heard of, like echo chambers, where we’re only hearing the same perspectives and opinions that reinforce what we already believe. You also got performative activism, where people pretend to support a cause because it’s trendy or gets them likes.
**So is social media just some giant conformity factory that has us all trapped?**
Nope! Social media, the very thing that can supercharge conformity, plays a big role in how we shape our own individual identities, especially in young people with developing brains. We’re signaling to others who we are by the photos we post, the info we share – and we can use this to influence how other people perceive us. One big part of creating an identity – for better or worse – has to do with social comparison. Like, when you think about your friends, how do you measure up? Are you more successful or less successful? Are you better-looking or worse-looking? It all taps into another psych concept that social media can exploit. It’s called reflected appraisal. It’s when we think about ourselves in the same way we think other people think about us.
Social media might be screaming at us to conform, but if we’re able to be more authentic when using it, we can tap into our REAL interests, instead of the algorithm dictating to US what our interests are. In the end, conformity isn’t all good or all bad. It depends on how and why we’re conforming. Is it mindless participation, or are we actively choosing something that aligns with what we value?
0:52 What Is Conformity, Really?
2:33 Your Brain On Conformity
3:22 The Role Of Social Media
6:40 Creating Identity
Why Imitation Is at the Heart of Being Human
The Brain Science of Conformity
Relationship development in teens
Benefits and Costs of Social Media in Adolescence
Opposing Effects of Oxytocin on Overt Compliance and Lasting Changes to Memory
The power of groupthink
Echo chambers in social networks
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#socialmedia #identity #conformity