The name of this blog-experiment, I think, is a bit of a misnomer. In psychology groupthink refers to phenomenon that sacrifices personal creativity, innovation, and conflict for group consensus. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink)
In the spirit of not conforming, I will begin by taking a sharp curve away from music and movies into a diatribe on the importance of personal responsibility, creativity, and discernment.
The hype surrounding swine flu really brings to surface the true function of the mainstream media in our lives. By only providing sound bites instead of substance, the mainstream media is really only good at bringing the name of a topic into popular awareness. Beyond that, it’s basically useless. Gathering actual useful data about a particular topic requires an individual to engage information, instead of being spoon fed.
I have six recommendations for preventing conformity and increasing constructive conflict in our lives. I strive for these in myself and continually encourage others to as well.
1) Get outside your comfort zone.
Think back over the past 30 days. How many times can you say that you forced yourself to do something, learn something, or endure something that wasn’t easy? If your answer is less than ten, you’re being complacent about your growth as a human being. Human beings are capable of amazing growth, as many individuals in history have proven. Complacency, comfort, and contentment are the 3 C’s of stagnation.
This brings me to my second recommendation:
2) Widen your circle of information
The tech term GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) applies here.
With all this additional information, however, passivity is no longer an option. This brings me to my third recommendation:
The viewpoints outside the mainstream media are diverse, divergent, and sometimes downright dumb. This should not discourage your from your search. When panning for gold, you do not give up because there is dirt present. You keep digging, keep panning, looking for the shiny rocks. Yes, there is pyrite, but there’s also gold. The search is worth it.
You need to apply your own sense of what is possible, what is likely, what is plausible to the incoming data. Do not allow yourself to be duped. Staying loyal to mainstream media does not keep you safe from being duped, but almost certainly insures its inevitability. Yet, not everything outside the mainstream is any more that dirt in the river bed either. It takes discernment, discrimination. Can you tell fact from bullshit?
Ultimately our beliefs in what is possible, what is real will determine how we discriminate the incoming data. This brings me to my fourth recommendation:
4) Challenge your own beliefs
The best way to constructively demolish a paradigm is by introducing compelling data that the paradigm cannot handle.
A great way to find this data is to investigate other person’s paradigms, and the data they are built on. This brings me to my fifth recommendation:
5) Learn other’s viewpoints and rationale
Really get inside the head of your philosophical opponents. Are you a radical, left wing liberal that believes in social justice, equitable opportunity, and civil liberties? Spend some time learning about what the conservatives in this country truly believe. Temporarily set aside your objection to each of their assumptions and learn what it is they are trying to preserve, what they value, what their fears are that spawn the decision you do not like.
Are you a conservative that believes in god, country, and the sanctity of the nuclear family? Try to learn about what drives liberals, what they are striving for. Temporarily set aside your objection to each of their assumptions and learn about the values that spawn their desire to uphold civil liberties for all regardless of ideology.
I use politics as one example. Ethical philosophies, religions, scientific theories and paradigms…..each of these could benefit from truly understanding the “opponent” from inside the opposing paradigm.
My final and sixth recommendation is more of a cautionary warning than a recommendation:
6) Extreme non-conformity is conformity
Intellectual irresponsibility brings conformity in excess. Conformity itself, however, is not necessarily bad. For instance, we agree not to kill each other (generally). This is an excellent convention for us all to conform to if we’d like to cohabitate on spaceship earth.
It goes back to discrimination. There’s no easier answer, no formula to apply. You literally have to make up your own mind on each topic, whether to conform and stay with the mainstream, or diverge into something less conventional.
Good luck with the struggle against groupthink.
merkaba33 is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.