Deindividuation and Its Role in Modern Society

 The Deindividuation of Society Since the beginning of time, mankind has advanced as a society of many; each person and individual a piece in the great machine that is time. This unity, this joining of forces, has driven mankind forward throughout the dark ages of humanity’s past and into the modern world people live in today. Much has changed with the passing of time, but what has not changed is humanity’s primal instinct to create allies and forge relationships to stand united against the forces that would oppose them.

This bond is essential to the structure of society and is the foundation on which culture is built, making this “Deindividuation” of society all the more disturbing. This rapidly growing problem can be linked as a source of increased crime rate, dangerous hive-mind behavior, and large-scale social destabilization. Deindividuation is, in essence, the apparent loss of individualism and individual accountability that can take place when someone participates as part of a crowd or group.

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It can cause an individual to be more likely to donate more to charity, but also be the source behind them to being more likely to engage in mob-like violent behavior. There are many examples in which the effects of deindividuation can be seen in real-world situations. Deindividuation can take place in a plethora of situations such as the police, the armed forces, sports teams, cults, gangs, and social organizations. Although the groups may seem very dissimilar on the exterior, these groups share many qualities that make them encouraging to, and even reliant on, deindividuation.

All of the examples share a concentrated focus on group cohesiveness. Sports teams, police officers, and the military all wear uniforms that produce a distinctive “in-group”, while eradicating the individual disparity of personal fashion. Men in the armed forces are even forced to shave their heads in order to better unify their appearance. Although cults, gangs, and sororities and fraternities do not necessitate the equivalent extent of physical standardization, they also exhibit this propensity towards unifying the external in order to unite their group.

For instance, gangs often have a mark that they tattoo on their bodies in order to be accepted as part of the in-group of their gang. Members of sororities and fraternities often wear outfits marked with the “letters” of their respective organization so that they can easily be recognized as part of their particular group. By eliminating individual disparity, these various groups become more unified. The unity of a group can make its members lose their awareness of self in their overwhelming distinctiveness with the group.

An example of this is that a man in the armed forces might classify himself through a variety of character constructs, however while in uniform with dog tags around his neck and a shaved head, he might suddenly only identify himself as a fighter. Similarly, a young woman wearing her sorority shirt, and standing in a crowd of her sorority friends, may feel less like herself, and more like a “Zeta-Oh” or a “Beta-Z. ” Physically stabilized to the principles of their particular groups, these diverse members of the group are all at threat to feel deindividuized.

They may begin to think of themselves as a mere element of the faction, and lose consciousness that they are an individual with the capability to act and think independently from their crowd. They can and will do things they might not regularly do out of self-consciousness, individual morality, shyness, or other reasons. Owing to greatly reduced awareness of responsibility, and increased feelings of uniformity and cohesion, these group members could act in a dangerously non-normative behavior.

From getting caught up in the energy of a mob, to committing violent acts as terrible as rape or murder, deindividuation can cause many people to behave in ways they may have considered unfeasible. A few examples of this sort of deindividuation can be seen throughout history in the form of war crimes and hate groups, one of the primary examples being the case of the torture and abuses that occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison of Baghdad. There were many elements about the situation making it conducive to deindividuation.

One of the key elements of this is that military setting itself is unreservedly encouraging to deindividuation due to its focus on group unity and a lessening of independence. A second major factor was that due to the circumstances of the event, the prison lacked many necessary assets, including adequate clothing for the prisoners and translators, which made it easier to dehumanize the captives as “the enemy. ” Moreover, the prison was badly organized, with indistinct guidance and principle. As the uards of the prison stood on trial for their war crimes, most claimed that if they exceeded some sort of boundary, they would have expected a commander to tell them it was erroneous or order them to discontinue rather than being of the judge of their own behaviors. Another key sample to learn from is that of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Aside from the distinctive group solidarity in this instance, there was also the materialization of violent crowd-based norms that eventually resulted in the violence on part of the Nazi party.

Because of the large scale of the crowd in question, these crowd norms morphed in quasi-societal norms, and thus made the hostility and aggression towards the Jews “normal” and easy. This deindividuation was so proliferate that almost every Nazi official tried for war crimes stated that they never felt individually liable for the devastation and terror brought about by the Nazi regime.

They said that this was because there was always a commander or someone higher who gave them instructions and dictated their actions- an unequivocal characterization of deindividuation. Deindividuation exists almost everywhere through human history, even more so in the present. But instead of simply being a problem of the military, gangs, or hate groups- society itself is slowing losing touch with individuality because of the growing culture of general disinterest with others.

This is an emergent and dangerous trend toward merely not caring about humanity in general because they are “just” another stranger in the crowd. People see violent acts or hate crimes go on around them, but cannot be bothered to care simply because they have deinvidualized the victim to the point that they only recognize them as a foreigner to their self-centered world. People merely do not associate what is happening with their own communal version of reality, allowing terrible things to happen because they are “lost in the crowd” of modern society.

Unless this problem is addressed and awareness is promoted, modern society might just find itself perched on the brink of becoming the very thing it needs to stand against. “If instead you want to discourage deindividuation in yourself and others, you must eliminate anonymity and avoid dehumanizing labels. The more you feel personal accountability, the more restraint you will show. ”

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Deindividuation and Its Role in Modern Society. (2016, Oct 29). Retrieved from