Following the herd will lead you astray

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“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain

When I was in high school, there was a girl who everyone seemed to be fond of. She had even been elected to be a part of our grade’s student council. I hated her. I found her to be haughty, annoying and a downright brown-noser. Her loud and outspoken temperament perpetually rubbed me the wrong way. The mere sound of her laugh made me want to puncture my own eardrums. It baffled me as to why she was so well-liked amongst our student body.

Over the years, I’ve found several people to be similarly overrated. So perhaps the issue is with me, and not the people that I dislike. Maybe I’m just jealous or overly judgemental. If everyone else seems to like an individual, I surely must be missing how great he or she really is, right? And just like that, so many of us blithely shed our own notions because of majority sentiment.

The opinions of the majority can often be remarkably unaligned with individual opinions, but that doesn’t make them superior. The majority doesn’t need to have the final stamp of approval on one’s viewpoint. In fact, it’s important to stay skeptical of majority sentiment, which is often driven by the herd-mentality as opposed to sound rationale.

I find much of what the majority seems to revel in just as overrated as the brown-nosing girl from my high school days. And it isn’t even just the small stuff like how overhyped Game of Thrones is. It’s many of the prominent things that people choose to indulge in on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few stark examples:

Travel:

The majority want to backpack around Europe or explore the cities of Southeast Asia. The utmost compliment these days is to be considered  “worldly,” “cultured,” or “adventurous.”

…Traveling looks fun in instagram pictures, but it really isn’t always that great. The idea of travel is often far more fun than travel itself. It’s pretty exhausting, with people ending up needing a vacation from their travels.

Money:

The majority are money-obsessed. Material goods and social status seem to be the end goal.

…The popular sport of ladder climbing often entails willfully trading in life-fulfillment, meaning and enjoyment – all for a bigger paycheck.

Alcohol & Coffee:

The majority like to spend large portions of their lives indulging in these beverages. Activities seem to revolve around booze and caffeine.

…Do alcohol and coffee really make you feel that good? The only thing more overrated is cocaine.

Long lives:

The majority want to live as long as they possibly can. Hence mantras like “Becoming a gluten-free vegan can add 10 years to your life.”

…Why do we want to live longer again? And what happened to quality over quantity?

New York, London, Tokyo:

The majority are very taken in by these and other overrated cities.

…It seems like the glitzier a city is, the more people fawn over it.

My point is, viewpoints of the majority have largely lost credibility with me. Those around me care for a lot of things that I don’t. And you know what? The people around you also undoubtedly care for plenty of things that don’t appeal to you either. Yet so many of us still pursue these things that we find overrated, hoping to uncover the greatness in them. In reality, all this does is lead us to having high expectations, followed by disappointments.

So perhaps we should stop letting majority viewpoints dictate our own beliefs and actions. We should instead rely more on our own intuitions, and carve out unique paths and experiences for ourselves. It’s easy to get wrapped up in following the herd, so we constantly need to question ourselves. Everyone is going to Punta Cana for spring break – but will I even enjoy myself there? New York University has been named the number one dream school – but how well is it suited to me? Most get married in their late 20’s – but do I even believe in marriage?

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