October 07, 2022

“The Crowd”: A million reposts almost gave birth to a deadly “crowd”

We think we are rational,
We think that everything we do is justified.
But in fact, most of our daily actions,
They are the result of some hidden motives that we don’t understand at all.
——Le Pen, “The Crowd”

What is a group? Is it a group of people gathered together? In Le Pen’s view, the group is a living creature. Everyone in the group is more like the constituent cell of this creature, with only unified emotions and thoughts. Attributes such as IQ, occupation, age, and personality do not have much influence.

Today’s numerous online rumors and online violence incidents have even verified Le Pen’s description of group psychology, although “The Mob” has been published for 125 years. Thanks to the information age, most of us can have more knowledge reserves, but the convenience of the Internet has also accelerated the formation of “rabbit crowds”.

Why are we so deceived by lies that even well-educated netizens unconsciously join the forwarding army? And what will become of this “group” after it is formed? All of these can be seen in “The Crowd”.

1. Group destructiveness: violence provoked by a lie

From the perspective of intelligence, groups are always lower than individuals, but from the perspective of feelings and the behaviors they drive, the performance of groups is polarized-better or worse. -Le Pen

In August 2018, a female pediatric doctor in Deyang, Sichuan, China was offended by two 13-year-old boys in a swimming pool. The boys not only refused to apologize but even made a series of insults. The doctor’s husband had physical involvement with the two boys in order to protect his wife. conflict. Although both parties called the police to deal with it, the male parents then posted the incomplete video on the Internet. In just five days, the female doctor committed suicide because of online violence.

Male parents fabricated some facts in order to encourage netizens to stand on the opposite side of doctors. It may be to expand their next negotiation power, or it may be just to vent their anger, using the keyboards of many netizens to “punish” female doctors for the “harm” caused to their children.

Faced with the online violence triggered by such malicious lies, the victims are almost unable to resist. Even if you want to speak up for yourself, you may be overwhelmed by malicious interpretations.

In 2012, Chinese director Chen Kaige directed a movie “Search”. It was about the heroine who was diagnosed with cancer because she was depressed and did not notice that she gave up her seat to the elderly on the bus. It was posted on the Internet by reporters. Netizens searched for human flesh. , Stigma and verbal abuse, until he commits suicide under a heavy load.

Le Pen believes that when the “group” is formed, individual consciousness will disappear, and the “group” psychology will dominate everyone’s feelings, thinking and actions, and even produce the same group emotions——

Impulsiveness: immediately forwarding or commenting on the information without research and verification, making the lie spread rapidly and evolve into a rumor with a larger scope.

Changeable: Emotions and opinions can go from one extreme to another. For example, initially affected by the rumors, accusing the “teacher” or “doctor” in the rumors, when the official refutes the rumors or the tragedy occurs, they immediately begin to blame the “parents” who spread the rumors.

Fanaticism: When information erupts, people often chase events fanatically, but it doesn’t last long and will soon be forgotten.

Paranoia: The judgment of information is either black or white. Either accept it as it is or reject it entirely, and does not allow all parties to the incident to be stained or shining.

2. The blank of group rationality: the simpler, the more fanatical

It is not the facts themselves that stimulate the imagination of the group, but the way they are produced and noticed by people. -Le Pen

Lies are just personal actions, and they may not stimulate netizens to form “groups” and participate in online violence.

To promote the formation of network “groups”, the language used has at least two main points:

1a. The information is extreme enough.

The opponent is either a vicious sinner or a hero who sacrifices his life for righteousness, and must not be an ordinary person with both advantages and disadvantages.

1b. Emotions must be strong.

In order to achieve the effect of emotional stimulation, it is generally necessary to use exaggerated language descriptions to distort facts.

Netizens will fall into the trap of rumors and become network “groups”, which is also inspired by certain factors in individuals, such as:

2a. Create fantasy space

When netizens see a certain kind of lie, they do not think calmly from the standpoint of the bystander, but examine it with a certain attitude.

The experience of corporal punishment of girls has aroused the resonance of netizens’ personal experience (previous corporal punishment experience or similar tragic events) and social perception (corporal punishment is an incorrect way of education).

Under the influence of emotion and cognition, netizens are guided by the specific story plot described in the Internet rumors, and they have a strong sense of substitution. As Le Pen calls “illusion.” Although not at the scene of the incident, as if he had seen it with his own eyes and empathized with him, the mobilized emotions almost replaced the individual’s reason.

2b. Extract collective memory

French sociologist Habwach once proposed the concept of “collective memory”. There are some things that we may not have personally experienced. However, the news, novels, and rumors heard in social life will all become the “memory heritage” of the group. Obviously, the existence of online media makes the group’s “memory legacy” even greater.

Collective memory can provide historical evidence for the spread of rumors, and also provide a data inventory for the content of rumors, adding to the credibility of the rumors.

Similar to this kind of news that teachers physically punished students and injured them, rumor spreaders can find content from such historical reports and fabricate details of the incident. In the face of incidents of corporal punishment of girls, netizens can retrieve the cognition and judgment in their own memory, and then guide them to respond to the current incident.

In addition to event memories, groups also have “emotional memories.” The emotions generated by such incidents will accumulate every time you see such incidents. When related incidents occur again, the emotions accumulated by netizens are like volcanic eruptions.

Under the verbal guidance of rumor makers and the emotions of netizens, individuals on the Internet seem to be hypnotized, lose their self-awareness, and follow group actions.

3. Separation from the group: be an independent thinker

When you find yourself on the side of most people, you should stop and re-examine yourself. –Mark Twain

The anonymity of the Internet can always trigger the instinct of human nature, allowing people to unconsciously indulge their behavior, see an article or post that shocks or strongly agree with, and before it has time to verify its authenticity, they have already clicked “forward” or ” comment”;

Waves of similar topics in the circle of friends and official accounts will always cause emotional contagion, and then the hypnotized individual will fall into the “group” emotion.

[Then how to maintain independent thinking ability? 】

First, keep an open mind.

We need to know that independent thinking people will not easily stand in line, let alone judge the information heard in a black and white attitude, and may not even easily claim that they are objective and neutral. In the case of insufficient information or asymmetry, “objective neutrality” is a false attitude.

Second, distinguish which are opinions and which are facts.

Many rumors use emotions, incitement, and speculation to conceal logic and evidence under the guise of “facts,” and use simple and extreme emotions to trigger the hidden “group” emotions of netizens.

Third, deliberately pay attention to opposing opinions.

When we hear disagreeing opinions, we instinctively reject them and actively shield the main logic in the voice of questioning. However, it is often these opposite opinions that enable us to discover the information we have overlooked and reflect on our blind spots in our thinking.

Fourth, read more classic texts and less fast food summary.

After digesting the complex system, it produces simple and easy-to-understand knowledge. This process usually requires the brain to perform a large amount of information calculation, including inspection, classification, summary, and establishment of connections. This kind of thinking is conducive to the establishment of logical judgment procedures of the brain.

4. Conclusion: The ability to think independently is our freedom in the Internet

The Harvard University teaching plan in the United States once advocated a method of deep understanding and building opinions, which has three main steps.

①Confirm your own understanding of a matter and sort out what you don’t understand yet;

②Resolve the incomprehensible or unclear parts by searching for information;

③Form and hold your own opinions.

However, many people see certain information on the Internet and skip to the stage of “holding opinions” without going through steps ① and ②. The huge database of internet and the fast way of dissemination make it easy for us to reach conclusions.

Only by maintaining the ability to think independently and avoid being hypnotized by the “group” without knowing it, can we be truly free.