Studies show that when we band together we become a collective identity – a crowd, a herd, a mob. In the workplace we call it “groupthink.” We loose our ability to own our thoughts and take on the thinking and the behavior of others. We get pulled into acting and thinking like the loudest voice – which is now, not ours. You and your kids get told what to think; I have some information on how to stop it.
The Braindead Megaphone
MacArthur Genius Award winner, George Sauders, cautioned us about this in his epic essay, “The Braindead Megaphone.” He shares that the one with the megaphone influences what the rest of us hear (and therefore consider and do), even if what is said is false or inaccurate,
Today’s world is loaded with people with megaphones. They show up in Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, talk shows and 24-hour news. Someone always has the microphone or megaphone and we move blindly from channel to channel and social media to social media absorbing these loud voices and considering them as true. Volume doesn’t make truth. Repetition doesn’t make truth. We know this. But we forget because it is easier to have others tell us what to think. It saves us doing the hard work of owning our thoughts, our beliefs, our feelings, our actions and our outcomes. Think of the impact on us; think of the impact on our kids.
Today’s instant connection technology ‘encourages’ this. I said ‘encourages’ not ‘blames’ because when we blame, we give any ownership – we absolve ourselves of responsibility. When it is someone else who controls, we are just victims.
But remember, at the center of every one of our actions, inspired by groupthink or not, is our choice. Too many times, we are mindless and let others decide for us. A better response is to realize that in the same moment we have the ability to challenge what we hear and intentionally use our gift of choice. Though a loud voice can pull us into a crowd, it doesn’t have to make us act like the crowd.
Some megaphone examples with our kids:
- They see others do drugs and drink and follow along.
- They see someone being bullied or intimidated and ignore or avoid the situation or join in the event.
- They are passionate and focused on a career or area in life but get pulled away from it by others who don’t see or appreciate its value for them.
Some examples with adults:
- We see others send hateful email, tweets or posts and join in.
- We make a racist or insensitive comment about others fueled by or instigated by a news or television show pundit.
- We critique or put down another who doesn’t share our beliefs or values.
The megaphones are everywhere
We are pummeled into hearing and digesting what others tell us. That is UNTIL we choose not to. That is it. Stop and notice when you are hypnotized by the megaphone. Only then can you undo its hold. You can turn off the antagonistic “news” shows, reality series and vitriolic political commentaries. You can refuse to participate in things that take people down and lessen their value. You can refuse to play into stereotypes, biases and racism. You can. You just have to see when and how the megaphone influences you. Then choose to hear and direct your life in what is right for you – instead. And in the process, imagine what we have modeled as dads and moms – the lesson we have offered our kids – and the way we have changed our lives.
Sure, groupthink is easier; it does our work for us. But if we are to own our lives and raise kids who own their lives, we’ll have to get good at stopping and noticing the megaphone. Then, we can work hard to get the facts, understand our world and make decisions based on our voice, not those who seems to control the volume.