punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Mini-mob mentality or "Why did you stop being liked?"

I was talking with someone the other day about paranoia, and whether people actually conspire, en masse, to do something bad to someone. I mentioned a few things I had seen others do, and explained what I see usually happen in this smaller version of "mob mentality."

Say you have a social group composed of ten people. Let's say #1 doesn't like you. #1 is friends with #2 and #3, and he manages to form a small hate group, either directly or unconsciously through gossip and body posture. #4-7 are pretty wishy-washy, and are easily swayed by the nearest social tide. They are the next to go, albeit slightly less forceful. #8-#10 are your friends, and a sort of protective wall that will defend attacks or push the sway of #4-7 back the other way. What comes next may be essentially a stalemate (most common result), the hate backfires on the aggressor, or your friends start to hate you, and suddenly the whole group hates you like falling duckpins. If you never had good friends to start with, you will almost definitely lose. If you are pretty social and make everyone happy most of the time, chances are the aggressor will have to stand down. It's kind of like watching waves of grass in the wind, going back and forth.

A lot of people I know suffer from having a whole group just suddenly hate them, but they don't seem to realize that the hate may have stemmed from just one person who turned the tide. Many people just "go with the flow" and if it seems everyone agrees you suck, then... who's to stop them? Let's say someone is a member of a chess club. They join, and do really well. In our example, let's say the new guy makes friends, but doesn't realize his new found fame has attracted shallow people who want to look good by being near him, and one enemy, a guy who has felt generally threatened by everything since he was a kid. The enemy has friends, who turn the tide of the wishy-washy against him, and since the new guy's friends aren't very deep, they panic, and go with the flow of how much the new guy sucks. The new guy didn't have to do anything, and he's tossed out of the chess club because of one guy with a will stronger (albeit more desperate) than the rest of the group. And the thing is, the new guy never saw it coming. The new guy gets paranoid, and timid because of this "unpredictable" response, and so his next attempt to be part of a club might make him bitter, which will not make him any more liked, it may happen again, and thus the cycle continues until he's a bitter, antisocial mope who hates people in general because they all seem to conspire against him.

This can happen to anyone. You could have been a member of your sewing circle since the 1970s, and suddenly some new blood with an agenda can do this to you out of nowhere. It won't be easy, unless other members of the circle despised you and you couldn't tell, but it can happen to the best of us. Things that trigger it are usually someone who joins a group and suddenly becomes popular, someone who is already halfway to being an "outcast" (clothing, facial features, ethnicity, religion, etc.), or someone how has had this happen to them before. They almost radiate a kind of desperateness that many women have told me single men give out when looking for girls. You can almost smell the need to reject them.

What to do? Well, I always try and keep a lot of friends in different groups, try not to show off, and keep making new friends in case I lose the older ones, which in the area is usually because they move away due to their job. It's not foolproof, but it's the best working model I have. If you have had this happen to you, you might want to try with a new group of people totally unrelated to the ones you had before. Join the group quietly, and learn the wisdom of silence. Work your way up socially by joining conversations without dominating them; take a passive role for a while before becoming more active. Allow people to make friends with you before you try and make friends with them. If you are open to it, they should come on their own. Be respectful, don't engage in gossip to be "popular," and don't force your way into a conversation without being invited. Soon, you will have your own group of friends you can rely on, and once you know who your friends are, come to their defense. Give them credit where credit is due, and after a while, you will be a good part of the group. Then if anyone decides to hate you, it will be tough to knock you out.

Oh, and don't be a jerk. I would think this was obvious, but "treat others as you would treat yourself" is not good advice for someone who already hates themselves. That's why I suggested the passive approach.

Best of luck! :)

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000233.html
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