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Don’t just follow the herd, think critically

January 13, 2010

By Kelvin Chiang Kok-sheung, STFA Lee Shau Kee College

Recently, a television soap opera has become very popular with my classmates. They all imitate the characters and are always discussing the story. Because I haven’t seen it, I can’t join in.

A similar thing happened not long ago when a friend of mine showed me a brand of pen he said had become popular. For a moment, I wondered whether I should I buy one too.

Every time I see people around me all doing the same thing, I ask myself whether I should join them. If the answer is yes, I am a follower. But if I don’t follow, I will become an outsider. I still prefer not to follow because I don’t want to be part of the herd.

Most people simply follow the others. They think it’s a safe way to get through life. Even if what everyone is doing is wrong, it often feels easier to join them than to make waves. We can call this phenomenon the “herd mentality”.

We all have to be followers in certain situations. For example, when we learn a language, we have to imitate the pronunciation if we want people to understand us.

But there are plenty of examples of following being a bad thing. Take drug abuse among students – some students become addicted to drugs because they follow their friends.

Following mindlessly can have bad consequences. We need to think about the pros and cons of our choices. We need to think critically. There is nothing wrong with being a follower if we know why. If we haven’t thought it through, we are simply being part of a herd.

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