I recall the classic and famous elevator experiment conducted in a 1962 CandidCamera episode which was entitled, “Face the Rear”. This was pioneered by a Gestaltscholar and a social psychologist named Solomon Asch. There is only one subject being observed per batch of this experiment while the others are actors or experiment- accomplices. It’s hilarious to see the subjects follow the completely irrational and illogical behavior of others inside that elevator. What is heart-dropping here to realize is that, they do so unquestioningly. Is it our human nature to blindly follow others? Is it our human instinct to engage in a nonsensical behavior by which even ourselves do not care to understand? Is it a natural human response to create a mimicry of others just so we do not appear different in a certain group?
On the same light, I wonder whether most of our set-goals or perceived purpose in life come inherently from ourselves. Due to the internet technology, we are more connected to various groups of people per minute. We need not to be space-constrained in an elevator in order to imitate somebody. As soon as you log into any social media platform, that is already your “elevator”. We are constantly bombarded with so many information not only from the mainstream media but also from the minute-by-minute, at-the-moment posts of our family, friends and communities. This is a lot to take in. I wonder whether most of us would prefer to contemplate the crowd’s thoughts as if they are our own, speak their words but not our own voice, jump the bandwagon and follow the madding crowd.
In an overly-stimulated world of this post-information era, it is my fear that my life would become an echo chamber of somebody else’s. There are times when I’m also afraid whether my thoughts are my own – or was I only influenced by what I saw a little while ago which triggered that insecured part of myself – and that has led me to decide in recklessly pursuing something I thought I wanted in the first place. Is pursuing it makes me feel more of myself or does it make me feel empty as though I have just conveniently copied it from somebody else? Or that, I’m just dragging and forcing myself to like it – just because, everybody is doing it anyway? I wonder whether it has affected our way of thinking about ourselves, how we have evaluated our lives and how we have assigned worth or value to what we have gone through? Do we really get to practice our freedom – because if you do, you must be able to choose from a variety of alternatives and not just be swayed along? On this note, it is remarkably possible that depression is not just a by-product reaction towards something that severely frustrates us. It is also the compounding outcome when we poorly process the things which are going on inside of us, when we cannot wisely sort out which is ours to take and which is theirs to work on, when we cannot extract meaning from what we do no matter how mundane, and most importantly, when our action is not an empowered deed based on a well-thought decision but rather a passive surrendering to what everybody does.
Although we can swiftly and easily access information (sometimes, at real time), may this be a helpful Facilitator in showcasing our wide range of options. This information is our Servant, because at the end of it, we call the shots. We are the Masters who would choose which fits us best. If we are going to maneuver the role assignments the other way around and we choose to be succumbed by these ever-changing and fleeting information, I’m worried what it would do to our sanity. This post-information age does not show us what is right or wrong but it demands an answer from us about where do we stand on and by which we are willing to commit to, not momentarily because it is viral or a trend like a wildfire – but like a steady, guiding light in a long haul. Pausing for a moment to ponder these goes a long way. When times get confusing, may solitude be our reliable best friend, packed with your handy journal and pen or an audio recorder if you want to try something new. A lifetime is an awfully long time to impersonate somebody else. May our lives be a daring and breath-taking masterpiece of roads we freely selected that leads us back home – our genuine selves, where joy, adventure, bliss and most of all, our limitless treasure abounds.