Crowd

On Tuesday, I mentioned the “tyranny of extroverts,” a set of expected behaviors assumed to be superior, simply because they are louder or more visible. And since all of the tech industry extroverts are at Burning Man this week being as loud and as visible as possible, I figured I would continue writing for the introverts who stayed home.

Part of the tyranny of extroverts is the allure of “everybody.” Extroverts, and those who aspire to be extroverts, are driven by everybody, as in “everybody will be there,” “everybody wants to go,” and “you’re going to miss everybody.” Everybody is their god and their raison d’être. The only justification they need for doing anything is knowing that everybody else is doing it, and since everybody can’t be wrong, then it must be right and good and incredible, because everybody is proof that it is

But for introverts, the allure of everybody is a false promise, an illusion of good times that doesn’t bear out.

The first false promise of everybody is that it must be an indication of quality. There is a belief that if everybody is there, then it must be good. But mobs and riots are also made up of everybody, and clearly they’re not good. The problem is that a crowd of everybody is not a discerning judge. Any number of negative factors can cause a group to reach “everybody status,” and then the cycle of growth becomes self-fulfilling. Instead of going along with something, because everybody else is doing it, one should question if the crowd is truly an indicator of quality, or if it’s just a pack of followers.

Another problem with everybody is that it is extremely oppressive. Even the most well-meaning crowds largely strip you of your free will. Everybody demands that you conform to the culture and social norms of the group. Crowds expect its participants to behave in a certain manner and believe in its ideals. When you choose to become a part of everybody, you lose a part of yourself.

Many people are drawn to everybody, because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. For people naturally wired to plug themselves into the energy of a crowd, the feeling of being connected to everybody can be euphoric. But for people not inclined to give in to crowd dynamics, the promise of euphoric participation is never fulfilled. Introverts tend to feel alone when they’re lost in a crowd. Watching the people around them plug into the group is both strange and isolating. Instead of feeling inspired as part of something larger, many people end up feeling disposable and insignificant amidst the sea of everybody.

In order to participate with everybody, one must be willing and able to interact at scale. Everybody demands that you be open to everybody else. And since everybody is not a discerning judge, this means taking the bad with the good, and there is almost always lots and lots of bad. But it’s not everybody’s job to worry about that. The only thing everybody has to do is provide you with a critical mass of people.

As I mentioned earlier, connecting to a crowd can be euphoric. For extroverts and people who are naturally inclined to do this, the allure of everybody is real and powerful. I imagine my extroverted friends at Burning Man are having a wonderful time. But for those of us who value comfort and intimacy, everybody has little to offer. If you feel this way, don’t worry about missing out on everybody or where everybody is going. While everybody can be fun for some people, not everyone is meant to follow the crowd.

[Image Credit: James Cridland on Flickr]