As this is a mostly American board, I suspect that most people will say that they never make decisions based on going along with the crowd.
After having lived in a completely different culture for over 25 years as an outsider, while slowly growing more distant to my home country and completely separating from the religion of my birth, I find very few people who operate outside of social norms.
There is a much larger pretense of being independent in America and a much greater pretense of fitting in exactly in Japan.
When you pack up and move to an alien culture, you can really see how much role society plays in people’s choices.
I grew up Mormon, so I went on a mission. I wasn’t really sure is I really believed the church and so at the time, I resisted going, but there is so much pervasive conditioning from such a young age that I finally went along. At the time, I wouldn’t have said that I was going along, I told myself that I was going to see if I really believed in it, but it was going along with the crowd.
Mormons get married really young; at the time it was like 21 or 22 for guys and 19 to 20 for women. Many guys get married shortly after they return from their missions. I found a girlfriend and proposed to her within months of returning home, just like everyone else. Fortunately, we were able to see it was way too quick and called it off, but there was a subtle, but strong sense of going along the given path in life.
I think this is true. Reading the posts, I find myself thinking of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon of the huge “carpet” of penguins in the Antarctic, with one jumping up and saying “I gotta be meeee…”
I definitely followed a herd of sorts. Tech undergrad (computer science); worked at *In Search of Excellence *type company for a few years, back to get a top-tier MBA, then a stint in management consulting. The Mad Men of the 80’s and '90’s alongside I-Bankers.
I had no clue I didn’t really know what I wanted, and had been following The Recipe for Success until I got older. Very cliché but true.
Despite being much more of a nonconformist and freethinking individual than most people (and everyone who knows me would agree with that assessment), nearly all of my past choices have been “following the crowd”.
The individualistic freethinking part lies in choosing which crowd to follow. And taking time to check out far more of the available crowds before making that choice. And following no one at all some of the time with a certain “no that still ain’t it” attitude.
Very little entirely original thought takes place in individuals. Even a line of thought that is 10% original in its departure from something that people have at least heard of may be incomprehensible to nearly everyone.
Religion is definitely a “following the crowd” thing. Most people think they are making an individual choice in their religious convictions. But that sounds mighty pat when all their friends and family have made the same “choice”.
Like don’t ask, I’ve done little else but go with the flow. I thought of life as stuff that happened to you, and didn’t have much notion of steering it.
I went to college for a year because my grandma wanted me to.
I moved in with my boyfriend because he told me to.
The first time I got married, I was 25 years old. The person I was dating asked me to marry him, and I sort of felt, “Well, this is what happens next.” I also wasn’t too pleased with where my life was going, and just wanted to detonate a bomb in the middle of it. Well, I did that.
When I went back to school, I signed up for the course of study recommended by the registrar, though I wasn’t particularly interested in it.
I applied for this job because my mom wanted me to.
I can’t tell you what my problem is. I’m just not driven, nor even very smart. I’ve been very lucky that things have turned out well for me.
At least I quit smoking back when everybody else did.
I bought my house because it seemed like a grown-up thing to do and apartment dwelling was what you did until you could get a grown-up person house, I suppose. Fortunately, I seem to be one of maybe ten people in the country not to get screwed over by buying a house during the bubble but, in retrospect, the social concept of it probably had influence. It was just myself and my son at the time so it’s not as though we seriously needed the space or anything.
To be honest, I’m not sure. I know that I often have to be convinced to follow basic rules. My mother would recall the conversation that got me housebroken. After she explained that they weren’t going to let me attend pre-kindergarten unless I began interrupting whatever I was doing that was too important to visit the bathroom, I stopped pissing my pants. Before then, no-one had had a crisis when I did. These people would, so I quit doing it.
So, I’ll go along with the crowd, provided I’m given a reasonable explanation why (or have sussed it out myself).
I went to college because literally everyone said, “go to college” in one form or another and I was a good teenager who did what they were told. I was given no other advice though and so I majored in whatever I felt like. Thankfully it all worked out and my major got me a job in my field, but these days I am shocked at how nonchalantly my path to college was taken and how well it went. In the meantime, I see all the people in my parents’ generation decry the stupidity in which my age group chose their college path. All I can think about is how I was given no advice other than “of course you will go to college, have fun” and how, apparently, they all honestly expected a bunch of teenagers to accurately and knowledgeably predict and pick a good major without hardly any help. Or that all the teenagers should’ve known that the economy would go into a recession in the middle of our college careers, and we should’ve known better than to accrue any debt in 2005. Right. It’s nuts, really.
I’ve known others that until they really thought about it, thought they would have kids because “that’s just what you do”. They’d talk about how they didn’t really like kids, and they’d probably be a distanced mom or dad and be annoyed by the kids all the time. But hey, everyone has kids right, so I’ve gotta do that one day I guess. Eventually though they applied some critical thinking and decided that you know, maybe if I don’t want kids I shouldn’t have kids. And find a partner who feels the same way I do. So, I’m glad that so far in my friend circles, everyone’s made the best choice for themselves on this front and nobody has gotten married or had kids because “that’s what you do” but because they really wanted it.
I’d say that more people follow the crowd than they think. It’s often on smaller decisions like “what TV do I want to watch tonight?” and “where should I go for vacation this year?” type stuff. Growing up with family traditions and then continuing them are practically picturesque “following the crowd” examples, just on a tiny scale. Same for religion.
Ehh, double post, but I was just thinking that aside from deciding what TV to watch when you were 8, the biggest “that’s just what you do” in American culture is/was the driver’s license. We’ve gotten more than one thread with people wondering at the change where some kids these days don’t get driver’s licenses as soon as they are able. Because heck, “that’s just what you DO!”
Indeed. Most of my choices involve following some crowd or another. Though, interestingly enough, religion was one of my more individual decisions (albeit I decided which crowd of Christians to join, but I was under absolutely minimal pressure to do so).
But if we really slice this down… I mean, look at the clothes you’re wearing. That’s a follow the crowd choice. The way my hair is cut. Sure, those aren’t major life decisions, I guess, but the shape of EVERYTHING you do and think is governed to a huge extent by what people you know and interact with do, and it shapes all your major life decisions.