Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Shouldn't I?

Leanna M.W. Lui, HBSc


January 27, 2022

"Get in, loser! We're jumping on the bandwagon."

How often have you done something, promoted a specific idea, or behaved a certain way because other people were doing it? It could be as innocent as posting a dance challenge on TikTok, wearing flared pants because everyone you know has been lounging in them, or even cheering for a certain sports team because your friends are big fans.

I'd like to make an educated guess and say that at some point in time, most people are guilty of falling prey to the bandwagon effect. I know I have... I definitely had some questionable highlights a few years back, as well as cheered for teams because it was "cool" or "trendy."

The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon wherein people do something, think a certain way, or promote an ideal regardless of their own personal beliefs, perspectives, or thoughts. This effect is incredibly contagious as a result of the desire to be socially accepted and conform rather than stand out like a sore thumb. Another way to conceptualize this movement is "herd mentality," wherein people adopt or align their thoughts and ideals with that of the group or the mass. Why? We are oftentimes swayed by those around us because it's easier — it's a heuristic.

If everyone does it, then it must be good... right? Not necessarily. If everyone jumps off a bridge, would you think jumping off a bridge is a good idea? Probably not.

When a group of people think or behave a certain way, we are inclined to believe that it is appropriate. Put plainly, individuals prefer to conform rather than go against the current. Like ignorance, conformity is bliss. Supporting the opposition can lead to social exclusion. Conversely, going with the masses often means social inclusion and can even be considered a way to accumulate social currency and build social status. However, widespread adoption and popularity are not necessarily synonymous with well-informed decisions. A famous, yet dangerous, example would be the anti-vaccination movement. The propaganda that has amassed in the online world to sway individuals, and specifically parents, away from vaccinating their children has resulted in harmful outbreaks of measles and created distrust between the public and scientific community.

To avoid falling prey to the bandwagon effect, it's critical we seek out various sources of information from a multitude of perspectives. Being able to slow down and think critically, as well as independently, is key. For example, keeping up with the news, reading and listening to various sources of news and news mediums, and having insightful and thoughtful conversations with others outside of your social network is invaluable toward building and establishing your autonomy.

Additionally, avoiding environments where you're likely to be pressured into certain decisions or behaviors is critical. Especially in a time where there is infinite access to information, we are also vulnerable to false campaigns and questionable information. If we don't have independent thought, then what do we have? Our ability to freely think for ourselves and access information at our fingertips is one of our most prized possessions.

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About Leanna Lui
Leanna M.W. Lui, HBSc, completed an HBSc global health specialist degree at the University of Toronto, where she is now an MSc candidate. Her interests include mood disorders, health economics, public health, and applications of artificial intelligence. In her spare time, she is a fencer with the University of Toronto Varsity Fencing team and the Canadian Fencing Federation.


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