Group Mentality and Social Media

Hello Everyone! My name is Thomas Stubblefield and I am a professor of Art History at UMASS Dartmouth. I hope that you all have enjoyed reading Jonathan Haidt’s engaging book as much as I have. In my posts, I will try to introduce some specific questions that will help us focus our discussion a bit. I would also like to frame these, where possible, through the disciplines of Visual Studies/Media Studies in order to give you some sense of what happens in the Art History department. There is so much to say about this rich and thoughtful text. So, let’s get started…

At around this time last year, I was forwarded Beloit College’s annual list of facts about incoming college freshmen (http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2016/). Circulating this list before classes begin is something of a ritual among faculty. The purpose is to give professors insight into the mindset of our new students, but more often than not it just makes us feel very old. In any event, one of the claims this year’s list makes is that your demographic is “probably the most tribal generation in history.” That’s a pretty bold claim. As readers of Haidt’s book, you can probably see why I was so struck by this statement. Before we assess this claim, let’s revisit Haidt’s discuss of group mentality in Chapter 9 in order to get some information on the table.

In this chapter, the author claims that human nature is both “selfish” and “groupish.” First of all, what does he mean by this exactly? How is it possible for both to be true? To build this argument, Haidt revisits the notion of “group selection,” which was largely discounted in academic circles in the 1970’s. Drawing upon “new evidence” he describes the ways in which thinking about the competition of groups is actually critical in approaching a whole host of larger issues. Why? How does this prove Haidt’s claims regarding human nature? (Feel free to grapple with any of these questions in your response. Please don’t feel as though you have to successfully answer all of them.)

Now to return to the Beloit mindset piece I referenced earlier. The “tribal” quality of this new generation (your generation) is obviously closely connected to social media, which according to some has abolished the possibility and perhaps even the desire to simply be alone. I would like to hear your views on how Haidt’s theories relate to your experience of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Do the interactions that take place on these platforms confirm or contradict Haidt’s position in this section? Is there a connection between social media and the simultaneously “selfish” and “groupish” quality of human nature?

173 thoughts on “Group Mentality and Social Media

  1. I don’t necessarily agree that social media is in it entirety “selfish” or “groupish”. People assume that social media is supposed to is for the narcissist individual who feeds of the attention given to them. It is true, as human beings we do crave attention, we are social animals, There is nothing wrong with that. We stereotype social media outlets as where as mostly “teenagers” gather to engage in selfish activities, where a “like” or a “favorite” gives you status, where they gossip, start rumors and get into “fights”. However i find this to be very untrue. In general, most people join these sites to get in touch or communicate with people they don’t see everyday, From my experience with social media, most people don’t just post pictures of themselves but of their families and of places they been. Getting a like may boost your ego a bit, but in general, it shows that someone cares about you, whether is be your cousin halfway across the world, or your friend who lives just minutes away. When you see a teenager texting on their phone, we assume that they are antisocial when in truth, they may be saying “i love you” to someone they rarely get to see.

    • Cody Hebert says:

      I agree with Haidt’s statement that we are 90% chimp and 10% bee. We as people tend to have a competitive nature about us, but when it counts we manage to overcome this nature and preform a “hive switch” and become more like the bee, working together towards a common goal and the greater good. Social media can even sometimes bring a group together like bees or more often competitive like the chimps, becoming competitive to better themselves and striving to be on top.

    • Chris Milona says:

      Some people use people use social media that was to self promote themselves and that makes them feel better about them selves but some people just use it to contact the people that they care about who they can’t see every day, There is a good and bad side to everything and that means things can be correctly and incorrectly.

    • Elaina Wright-McCarthy says:

      I agree and disagree with your statement. I think social media can be used in many ways. The original use of Facebook was for getting in touch with people all over the world, but it was also for showing how many friends you had for status. More recently the phenomenon of the ice bucket challenge for ALS escalated quickly, but many weren’t doing it for ALS they were doing it to see their friends get ice water dumped on their head. However, on the other hand I know many teenagers or individuals who use social media to get in touch with lost friends and family, or even simply let others know what they are doing because they have the need and want to be accepted into society.

    • Joel Niles says:

      I disagree with your viewpoint on social media. Most people post pictures to show off where there going, how cool they look, or how much fun they are having at a party. Facebook and other social media sites are just ways for people to feel like part of a group and the amount of likes they get only boost there ego.

  2. Kyle Cordeiro says:

    I definitely agree with Haidt’s views regarding people as being “selfish” and “groupish.” Right now we have tons of social media and everyone is basically exploiting this for attention. Let’s have a look at instagram. Instagram is a way for people to share their photos edited with cool effects. People usually use it for popularity and just post pictures for likes. Lets take a look at facebook. Facebook was used as a way for friends to keep in touch and it still is, but now it used for selfish things. This may include likes on photos, statuses, and just gaining social popularity. I believe that social media today just groups you into categories such as the popular kids, or the nerds.

    • Mike Doherty says:

      I also agree with you Kyle people are abusing social media to gain a certain level of popularity. Just scrolling down my instagram, facebook, or twitter feeds I can tell who is considered to be “popular”. Its very saddening because I feel as though some people get warped into it because they get a lot of likes on a post and from then it consumes their lives. Rather than posting a picture or tweeting about what were doing we should live for the moment and not become associated with the social media group mentality.

    • Ryan Pelchat says:

      You look mostly at the selfish side of things as it seems. I may be wrong but don’t forget social media is a way for people to be groupish by connecting and not looking for social media attention.

    • Beanca Saint Elien says:

      I agree, from past experience I’ve seen small situations turn viral because lots of retweets on twitter. Not only does it cause people to be groupish, it harms the individual who are part of the situation. Kyle you made a great point and I hope for change in society and the way others think.

  3. James Grainger says:

    Haidt accurately depicts how people can be both “selfish” and “groupish”, and the social media at hand in today’s world clearly shows this. Social media is causing today’s society, mainly teenagers and young adults, to believe that many aspects of their lives should be made a public affair. With social media sites such as facebook and twitter, members can post pictures and statements, and have others respond to this pictures and statements. This is the groupish aspect of social media; when members of these sites respond to each others posts, it gives those members a sense of community and the feeling of being accepted. The selfish aspect of social media is merely the fact that these sites cause people to believe that others are that interested in their lives that they have to constantly post tweets, status’ and pictures regularly to keep everyone else up to date on their “interesting” lives.

  4. Joshua Valliere says:

    Haidt’s claim that it is human nature to be both “selfish” and “groupish” is 100% accurate. It is in our nature to want to be part of a group of some sort, but we almost always put what is best for ourselves first. The example that he uses in the first lines of this chapter is great because he states that he felt the need to put up an American flag after the tragedy of 9/11. Now he didn’t just put up the flag right away because he was a professor and being in that profession it wasn’t in the norm to do so. Even though he was part of the “group”, America, he thought of himself and his self image before doing something. This example shows that yes we strive to be in a group or multiple groups but when it comes down to it, we think of what is best for our individual before the group.

  5. Spencer Lynds says:

    I definitely agree with Haidt’s view on social media, and how it is a platform for our being “selfish” but “groupish” at the same time. We are “groupish” to fill our selfishness, as we need constant validation for our actions. When getting that validation requires just turning on a device and posting or tweeting something, social media becomes that garden in which we can grow our inherent selfishness with the help of the fertilizer that is our “group.”

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself. Social media makes it very easy to be “groupish” by being constantly connected to a VERY large population of people (friends on Facebook, Twitter followers, etc.). This large of a crowd will generally create a large response to a post, fulfilling the need for constant validation.

  6. tristanmachado says:

    I definitely agree that many of the interactions that take place in or on social media are both a mix of “selfish” and “groupish”. The majority of the interactions on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram fall under the “selfish” category. Many of them are simply posts and pictures describing one’s life and what’s happened to them recently, usually in search of a positive response to ‘boost them up’.
    Other posts, however, fall under the “groupish” category, two such examples being the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the “Boston Strong” slogan. Many users on all of the above sites participated in one or both of these, and proceeded to spread it for others to see and participate in. Whether they did so for selfish reasons or to actually support was their choice, but they nonetheless participated in the larger picture.

  7. Jamie Gionfriddo says:

    I think it’s easy to look at social media sites and assume that the purpose is to receive attention and acceptance from others and ultimately climb the social ladder, and although that is true for some cases I don’t think it applies to everyone. I disagree with Haidt when he says that we are all “selfish” and “groupish” because there are plenty of times when people post things that go against the social norm such as extreme opinions and comments. If what Haidt was saying were true, that we are “selfish” and “groupish” how can you explain the times when people post things that go against what others say or believe.

  8. Alyssa Macdonald says:

    There is definitely a connection between social media and the simultaneously “selfish” and “groupish” quality of human nature. Nobody signs up for a social media site to be alone. They add friends on facebook and they read what everyone is up to. They’re nosy and pry into other peoples lives, but at the same time they can use social media to fall into the social norms of society. Just recently, I saw a facebook post of one of my friends wearing a really cute dress. After lots of comments of compliments, somebody asked her where she bought in, and the next day I noticed that same person had gone shopping at the same store the dress was bought at. I don’t think that’s a weird coincidence. However at the same time, she was being selfish. She wanted to claim almost the same style for herself, without giving any credit to my friend. In a way she was trying to fit into the group, but selfishly trying to be better at the same time.

  9. Sagar says:

    All I can say is, there are more complex and evolved social organizations that are less connected than the smaller ones such as families and local communities. This is because they are still emerging and have not yet had nearly as much time to define themselves. This is one of the reasons Haidt and others see liberals as less”groupish.” It isn’t that liberals are any less committed than conservatives but the fact that the groups they are committed to are not as clear as conservative groups.

  10. Rachel Colby says:

    I believe that Hadit’s view on people being groupish is completely accurate. Social media has caused many people to group together and create a social media account. Using twitter means you are part of a group. You belong to Twitter. And how does social media grow? It grows by people grouping together. When twitter first came out someone made an account. After an acquaintance made an account, it was likely that they would group together to make an account.

  11. Jessee Mower says:

    I agree with Haidt 100%. Social media is without a doubt a base of people being both selfish and groupish. Most of the time when you tweet you are trying to make others jealous of what you have or the things you do. That is the selfish part. The groupish part of social media is when you are only tweeting to get retweeted or favorited which is basically just wanting to be accepted by your peers.

  12. David Morency says:

    Haidt’s claim that human nature is both selfish and groupish very accurate, and showcased more in our current generation. I think this is because most people naturally yearn to be accepted by others. So when this doesn’t happen as a defensive measure that person will become shelled and selfish until given the chance to become part of a group of again. Just like darkness is the absence of light, selfishness is the absence of care. Its much easier to care when your environment is caring. As Haidt says on page 222 “groups compete with groups, and that competition favors groups composed of true team players-those who are willing to cooperate and work for the good of the group, even when they could do better by slacking, cheating or leaving the group”. This shows hows both sides of human nature react when in groups versus not.

  13. Erin Smith says:

    I think Haidt’s claim on humans wanting to be both “selfish” and “groupish” is very accurate and also insightful. As people, we want to be part of a group. We want people to like us, we want to make friends and to be accepted. But we are also selfish. When it comes to being part of a group, we almost always put ourselves above anyone else in said group. Social media enables today’s society to be “groupish.” As social media users, we make everything public and hardly have any privacy. We write about our personal moments on Facebook, and tweet play-by-plays on Twitter.

  14. Daniel DiFusco says:

    I believe that certain social media sites are geared more towards fulfilling a “selfish” means more than others. For instance, I have seen or heard of more than one person taking a picture off on Instagram if it does not receive a certain amount of “likes”. This is possibly due to the fact that if not enough other people validate the worth of the picture by tapping on it twice, rapidly, the person who posted it may feel embarrassed about the picture being posted in the first place. However, I feel that if one wants to communicate with someone that they may not see as often as they’d like to, there are video chatting applications (Skype and FaceTime, to name two) that would allow for a more intimate communication. There is no space for validation on these sites or apps, only online “communication” at its very least. I believe that certain sites are taking away from the “intimacy” of different moments; in that rather than simply enjoying a sight either by yourself or with others, many people’s first thought may be “This view would get a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook or Instagram”.

  15. Haidt’s statement of society being both “groupish” and “selfish” is definitely accurate. We as humans tend to selfishly go about life fulfilling our every want. However, in order to succeed in that task, we must act as a group in order to gather the necessary tools to complete our wishes

  16. Amanda Lopes says:

    Social media without a doubt shows the “groupish” nature of individuals. Social media allows for round the clock interaction with members of your circles. For instance, you can literally join groups on certain social media sites including Facebook and LinkedIn. In addition, people gain satisfaction from gaining likes and comments on their post. They need these things in order to feel like people like them and that they fit in.

  17. Ian Hibbert says:

    i agree with the observation that Haidt made on today’s social media, stating that it was both “selfish” and “groupish”. All social media stems from a social instinct to constantly be in touch with friends, and sometimes strangers, alike. This need for socializing comes from not only a primal need to survive and hunt as a steam, but also from a more modern want; validation. Many people would argue that the main purpose is to just see what friends are up too, however, there is not one social media that does not have some sort of device of gratitude, i.e a ‘like’. It s this validation that keeps the user coming back to use the site. It is also why pages with many ‘followers’ or ‘friends’ are viewed as more desirable than a page with fewer of those members.

  18. Jenna Morton says:

    I don’t believe that social media is entirely “selfish” and “groupish”. The original purpose of social media was to connect people with far away friends or relatives, or people they don’t get the chance to talk to on a regular basis. It was a way to link people, it was a new means of communication. It has however taken a turn where it is now used for attention and validation of somebody’s appearance or self worth. By posting an edited Instagram photo or a recycled tweet, it creates this false sense of friendship and popularity between people. The more likes you get, the better and more interesting you appear to be. This is not the case when it comes to the actual world instead of the virtual world, so I can understand why this selfishness and “groupish” behavior has been more and more prominent within our generation.

  19. Joe Echelmeier says:

    While social media has become a fixture in WEIRD culture, I am also interested in the non WEIRD societies and their use of social media. People in the industrialized west tend to be very selfish and want people around them to know how their lives are going. They do this to be accepted by the group.

    In the eastern cultures, the culture is such that it focuses on groups of people rather than individuals. The nature of the social media sites focuses on accomplishments of individuals, and this is completely contradictory to their culture. Would this create a more democratic culture in oppressed societies? Thinking more globally, can this progress a democratic world? The USA has long be involved in overthrowing governments across the world to protect the safety of its own, and social media may be doing the job of the American government for them.

  20. Ryan Pelchat says:

    Humans can be both selfish and groupish but, they can be these at different times. We can be groupish when we need other people and selfish when we need to be. It is a sad face that human nature is not always good but that’s just the way it is.

  21. Jocelyn Quintin says:

    I think that social media could be related to the “selfish” and “groupish” quality. I think that in some way social media is a popularity contest where people show off the things that they do and have. This being the selfish where you strive to be the best, you strive for all the attention you want it all and no one else can have it. However I don’t feel that people do this on their own i feel like its subconsciously what we do. Also social media is related to groupish. Ill use Facebook for an example, you are one person you have a profile, then you have all of your friends and people you may have met or just added. Making you all part of a group that you choose to be in. Within this group you get to be selfish.

  22. Chris Roth says:

    I do believe that this generation could “possibly be the most tribal generation in history” based on what you see all around society. When you look at our generation, our trademark item is the smartphone and online social media. This is also seen in public because it has become almost expected to see teenagers on their phones at a restaurant or store or anywhere in public. So even when we are not around people we have the ability to remain “groupish”. But I don’t feel that we are becoming “selfish” from this.

  23. Chrisopher Lamarre says:

    Haidt calls human nature nature both groupish as well as selfish. When he says this, I believe that he is correct. Groupishness is what causes separation between the human race. Whether that separation be represented through religion, political affiliation, or other things, it still separates humans as a whole. Now, groupishness can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. It’s good because it does show how complex human nature is and displays how preference is important in society. But groupishness is also a bad thing, very arguable that it causes much more bad than good. Throughout history, groupishness has caused separation within the human race and rather than bringing people together, it has ultimately lead to people joining groups due to selfish motives or horrible motives. This can be seen in most cases of racism such as the KKK or the Nazi party. Both groups were created for selfish reasons and caused a lot of damage throughout human history.
    In regards to social media, it does display acts of this generation being groupish as well as selfish. One example of this is particularly recent. While this was for a good cause, the ALS ice bucket challenge showed the selfish and groupish mentality that most people have. Rather than using the ALS challenge as an outlet to create awareness for the Lou Gerhig’s diisease, a lot of people on social media just did the challenge because they’re followers and wanted to do what all their friends were doing. That isn’t the only example of social media showing groupish or selfish motives. Social media in general is usually based around “likes” and amount of “friends” or “followers”, so social media has caused people to lifelessly spend their time getting the most likes or followers because that’s what makes a person popular on social media. So rather than actually contibuting to society, people try to get the most likes as competition and those who do, are essentially worshipped by their “followers”.

  24. Rafael Segura Matos says:

    What I got from Haidts point about “selfies ” and “groupish” is that when people have are selfie is when they don’t like to share even though they could share with other people but they don’t want to do it. and groupish is when a group of people came together and start talk about other with negative comment about them.

  25. Julianna Bardon says:

    Social media has turned into a very selfish and groupish part of the internet. At this point, everyone has seen the posts of, “Help me get a million likes so I can get a dog!” or the, “Like this picture to support this hungry child!” People place too high a value on likes and shares where it’s become almost like a mental currency. Neither of those examples are really helping anyone. How can a like feed a hungry child? And if parents tell their child that the only to get a dog is millions of likes, this will only feeds into the selfish nature of social media. The pity posts are abundant as well. What purpose do they serve? They serve to gain likes and internet popularity, it doesn’t help them gain money, influence, or anything else that will move them forward in life. That’s why I agree that social media can be a very selfish thing

  26. Abigail Duarte says:

    In todays world social media seems to be a teenagers paradise because all the do is use it, even when they are with another human being they are on social networks. I found a picture online of a train station in the 1900s and everyone was reading a newspaper not talking to each other. In anytime now or years ago there was always something to draw people away from normal conversation with one another. Today it just happens to be handheld electronics, which may not be useful but it is the way of the world today.

  27. Delaney Burns says:

    I agree that being “selfish” and “groupish” is human nature. We are constantly either trying to fit in a group, or be our own person and be the leader of a group. It is natural to want to be popular and fit in. Since social media has grown dramatically in the last couple years, it has impacted people’s attitudes and actions. When I am scrolling through Facebook, twitter or Instagram, I feel that everyone is either posting things about themselves or posting something about a group. I think that people use social media to brag and gain popularity. Nowadays, we are so concerned about the number of followers we have on social media rather then its real purpose. If a post isn’t exactly selfish, then most likely it is regarding a group who is using social media to join together and spread awareness of what they are supporting. Today’s society is centered around trying so hard to fit in that the real purpose of social media is disregarded. People purposely use social media to show off what they have and the lifestyle they live, which is only creating a more selfish and “groupish” world.

  28. Vanessa Martins says:

    I completely agree with Haidt’s view, in which social media is “selfish” but also “groupish” at the same time. There’s obviously a positive and negative side to social media. There will always be those people who mainly use it to make their lives public and for attention. However there are also those people who use it to create groups, raise awareness of certain things and more.

  29. Social Media was in fact designed for two main reasons, and they are opposites. Social media was designed to connect everyone with each other, but then it also offers a perpendicular effect of allowing groups to be formed, and others to be ostracized. Wit
    h social media, groups are formed, but barriers within groups can also be knocked down

  30. Katie Condon says:

    In Haidt’s book he introduces and develops the idea that human nature is both “selfish” as well as “groupish.” Naturally, we tend to do things for the benefit of only ourselves. This characteristic has been passed down by natural selection. Those who were able to survive and pass down the gene were those who may have been the most selfish in crucial or dangerous times. However, I also agree with Haidt and his idea that human nature has also evolved to be “groupish” as well. Not only do we want the best for ourselves, but we also want the best for our team or group. Sometimes putting the group’s needs in front of our own will help us to be more successful.
    Society’s recent increase in dependability on social media may have been influenced by human nature’s quality of being both “selfish” and “groupish.” We are always looking for ways to connect with others and stay in contact with those who may live far away. We do this because of our natural quality of being “selfish” as well as “groupish.”

  31. Arjun Banerjee says:

    I do believe that social media can be “selfish”. However, social media is an extension of the person who is using it. A selfish person would most probably be a selfish person whether he/she may be on the internet, or in reality. Social media doesn’t make people selfish. Many of kind and generous people use social media as well. However, I believe social media can make people groupish. But for the most part, in a good way. We can “like” humanitarian pages that bring awareness to different diseases, or troubles that people are going through. Through the people that “liked” that page, they can make donations to better help the world.

  32. Megan Pray says:

    I would agree that “selfish” and “groupish” is part of human nature. Typically a person either wants to be an independent model for the rest of the world to view and have people be in awe of you, or they want to be apart of a group, to blend in. Sometimes being in a group is selfish, doing what the group wants instead of maybe following the morally right way to do something. Today’s world of social media is both selfish and groupish. Most people join a social media site, like Facebook, to be apart of a group and to be aware of what others are doing, usually friends, family, peers and colleagues. It becomes selfish when one posts to gain likes, shares and comments. They want people to see them and immediately recognize them or praise them. Several people use social media to put out their personal information and lives to gain something. But, it can positive in spreading awareness and raising money for certain things, which the ALS challenge can recently prove. However, all though it is raising money and awareness, several people are choosing to just dump the ice and water instead of donate because it is what their friends and family are doing, showing the negative affects of groupish.

  33. Meghan McCarthy says:

    In regards to the social media aspect of “groupish” v “selfish,” I believe that social media allows us to appear “groupish” when in reality (away from the screen) we may actually act quite “selfish.” Through the use of social media we are able to communicate and interact with each other over great distances. This creates a false sense of being”groupish” because we are connected virtually but not in reality.

  34. Alan McCombs says:

    I believe that social media is often “selfish” in the majority of its posts/tweets. As human beings we do seek attention, not everyone is necessarily looking for “likes and shares” another part of these social sites are the groups created through them, take the group “Umass Dartmouth Class of 2018 (Student Led)” for example, that group gives us the ability to meet new people and make connections not just seek attention. As social animals we do tend to “group” this doesn’t change online if you break the surface of these sites, scrolling through a newsfeed would usually support a “selfish” claim, but once searched and explored its evident that we still “group” through social media.

  35. Zachary Silveira says:

    Social media is a way for human beings to engage in conversation with one another and stay connected. I would consider social media to be more along the lines of “groupish”. The reasoning behind this is because social media is exactly what it sounds like, a way to socialize. Socialization is something we humans have to do in a group setting. There is no evidence that social media could in anyway be considered “selfish”, because the whole reason for it is for people to see your posts and respond to them. Although some people can use social media to complain about certain problem they are experiencing, this would not be considered “selfish” because they are making these posts with the knowledge that other people will be reading them.

  36. derek mcnulty says:

    Haidt definitely was correct about society being “groupish” and selfish. Social media among young adults portrays this statement perfectly. Social media is used top bring certain groups together , yet divide them at the same time. Individuals can make new friends and communicate with existing ones. However they can also use social media to form a group to harass or embarrass a particular person. Social media is also used for many selfish reasons as well. Media platforms such as facebook or instagram can be used to give a person self worth which is determined by how many likes or followers a person may receive. This can cause individuals to distinguish themselves into almost different social classes all through media.

  37. Sarah Thomas says:

    I can see both sides of how social media could be considered “selfish” or “groupish”. It is “selfish” in the sense that, as many students mentioned, it is often abused by people looking for attention. Nowadays, a person is not known for their great personality features, but rather their amount of “likes” on Facebook, or “retweets” on twitter. However, it is also “groupish” in the sense that social media is also often used to connect people. Whether one uses Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, or Twitter to keep members of a certain class or group updated on upcoming events, the outcome is the bringing together of different groups of people.

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