This post is sort of a part two of my last one.
disclaimer: I’m sure there are many sociological studies that are nicely complemented with psychological studies to explain this phenomenon. I have none of these expertise to offer, except for my own personal experience and studies.
One of my informal research method go-to’s has been YouTube. There are endless channels to choose from and join like a cult gathering. These channels range from educational to beauty to everything else in between and around. I love YouTube for this very reason. If I want something mentally stimulating, I am able to search a topic of my interest and tune in, instantly. If I need more information on how to cut men’s hair, I can easily look that up, too. One of my latest (mini) research obsessions has been skin care. As I enter into my mid-twenties, I feel that it is time to really start investing and preventing those wrinkles that kindly await me in my forties.
While procrastinating, I found that few channels talk exclusively about skincare, and instead will consist of make up and skincare, together. I am not much of a makeup wearer so naturally I don’t know much about it. As a byproduct of skincare research, I have also become more informed about makeup products. Almost overnight, I started to want to incorporate foundation, highlighter, bronzer, blush, primers, etc. into my daily routine. I have never owned any of these products, but suddenly now I needed them. This startling urge is what triggered a cascade of my thoughts on superficiality. I am pretty sure that once I start incorporating all this makeup into my life, a handful of people will really notice or even care. As a matter of fact, I am sure that if you take those handful of people in my life and make a ratio with the world’s population, it won’t even be a blimp. So why do I have an urge that is seemingly only satisfied if I make a visit to Sephora and clear out a whole section? Honestly, do we need more things to complicate our already complicated lives?
It simply goes back to those fields I’ve mentioned in my disclaimer: psychology and sociology. We as humans are extremely conforming (whether or not Western cultures sometimes like to admit). When we see people do something, it becomes a necessity. When we see a norm, we have to be a part of it. Deviating from it comes at much too high of a social cost. Another great example of this is Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast on the underhand free throw. (I highly recommend you listen to this. I guarantee it will make your brain stir for a few days.) Gladwell talks about a phenomenon of how the entire basketball world seems to shoot free throws overhand when physics proves that shooting underhand has a much higher success rate. It all comes down to our need to fit in. We don’t want to be ridiculed.
If there was one word to describe humanity, it is that we are social. Even evil dictators, operate with a squad (a conforming one at that). So next time we have sudden urges that match everyone else’s way of life, maybe we should really do even more research incorporating these conforming behaviors. What are the benefits? Is it really something we truly need? Most likely not. Instead of accepting conforming behaviors that only benefit us, maybe we can put this social conformity phenomenon of humanity into good use. Maybe we can start setting trends on kindness and generosity. Maybe we can make it “cool” to help our neighbors and love our enemies. Now that’s something worth conforming to.