In a recent post I mentioned the natural human tendency towards conformity. The important question is – have we really become more conformist? It certainly seems that way.
Of course it has to be noted that in the political sphere conformity is more rigidly enforced than ever before. But what about other areas of life? Are we more conformist when it comes to tastes in fashion, popular culture or intellectual pursuits.
Like many other people I once believed (in my innocence) that the internet would make people less conformist. After all if you have some kind of obscure interest (and I have quite a few) the internet makes it possible to find other people who share that interest. I assumed that this would lead to a blossoming of interest in all kinds of esoteric subjects. This has happened to a limited degree, but what has surprised me is the incredibly tiny scale on which this has occurred. It’s even possible that the internet has actually made things worse. Before the internet people with unusual interests were highly motivated to find others of similar tastes. When I was young I had very obscure tastes in music but somehow I managed to connect with people who liked the same completely unknown bands that I liked.
Of course no-one twenty years ago expected the internet to end up being dominated by a handful of mega-corporations, in exactly the same way that the media/entertainment industries are dominated by a few gigantic corporations.
One of the depressing features of the internet age, for me, has been the decline of old-fashioned hobbies. It seems that for most people today leisure activities are entirely restricted to things you can do on a mobile phone.
I have no idea if anyone has done any actual research on this subject. My totally subjective view is that we really have become more conformist in almost every area of life but perhaps I’m wrong?