Groups, especially within the context of social media and online platforms, in general, have come to stay. They are conduits for collaboration—tagged the new currency; and avenues for information sharing and building formidable relationships. And so today, we have all kinds of groups: professional, school, business, ethnic, religious, recreational and, of course, fun or gossip groups. The dynamics of each group vary in almost the same way they share similar characteristics; there are the active members who are vocal about their thoughts on every topic, Frankly, without them, the group would be dead.
There are verifiable stories of joint businesses, contracts, and employment that have been secured simply because someone found themselves in the right company, not to mention romantic relationships and even marriages that are testament to the power groups wield.
Nevertheless, groups have also become notorious for their ability to churn out “Yes men” and stifle independent thinking. It is for the reason I am wary of them. Oftentimes, free, albeit decorous speech is discouraged in the name of not offending others. The risk of being viewed as insensitive or the villain is high when your thought pattern is at variance with that of the majority, and you may even find yourself being shown the exit door when you are vocal about your musings.
There’s one such group on a popular social media platform. I can’t recall how I was added, but once I found myself there, I observed regular stern warnings about “not judging” were made to discourage what the admins deemed destructive or condemning to the poster. On paper, this appeared to be a good idea until I began to follow proceedings on the group.
So someone would confess they had embarrassed their husband’s perceived mistress only to realise they were wrong. The not-so-young lady was his business associate and not his lover, and of course, their irrational reaction had caused tension in their marriage because they had refused to apologise. They would defend their stance by referencing their husband’s potential to attract desperate single women who had no scruples dating a married man. Members of the group would then proceed to praise the narrator’s decision and comments such as “Do you, babe!” “I feel you, I have been there before,” would follow.
If anyone dared to share a contrary view by trying to make the poster see that they were actually in the wrong and should apologise, they would be accused of judging and warned to steer clear of the comments section if they were not ready to obey the group’s “Kumbaya” policy. There was no room for independent thinking; you either agreed with what everyone else was saying or say goodbye to the community.
Where am I going with this? As much as groups are great avenues for forming genuine relationships and making things happen through synergy, they can also encroach on members’ individuality and right to self-expression. The more vocal folks within the community tend to stifle the reticent members.
There’s always the almost inevitable formation of cliques within the group; guys who overtly or covertly attempt to control the state of affairs within the community.
In all of these, it’s important that you do not lose yourself. You may be attempted to agree with the crowd just to fit in—don’t. Even within such forums, personalities who will not cower or pander to popular opinion just to not appear disagreeable are respected.
Again, you must remember that individuals makeup groups and behind the seeming stiff structure and officious approach to issues are people who have fears and insecurities like you. Be courteous, but firm. Stay true to your convictions regardless of what the majority elect to say or do, and you’ll reap the benefits of these communities while maintaining the integrity of your personality.