In 2004 I conducted research in which I visited a local fashion mall. I took a pen and pad and found a bench in a high traffic area. My objective was to simply observe people as they walked by. When I set out on this mission I was intending to observe body language in the context of a group. Essentially, I wanted to know if people change their body language depending on who they interact with (this may indicate an innocent crush, or annoying school friend that they are trying to end a conversation with) and if there were universal body postures depending on the situation. This was the data I intended to collect. This was not the data I collected.
When I observed people in this context, I began to notice things about friend groups (with teenagers and young adults….which represented the largest people group at the mall, and the people groups that the stores in the mall were targeting). Below are some of my findings:
- Alpha member– In every group there was a friend who seemed to stand out. They often walked in the middle of the group and led the rest in where they would walk.
- Alpha member clothing– For the most part the group all wore the same style of clothing. The alpha group member also wore this style but had an added accessory unique to only them. This may have been a light jacket, over sized necklace, hat, etc.
- Secondary groups– If the group split to either go to the restroom, or run into a store to do a quick return, a new leader emerged in a smaller group that would all travel together to the new temporary location.
- Group Dynamics– When someone had something to say they had to get the attention of the whole group. When someone became irritated with another person a scene was made.
These concepts were very interesting to me because they illustrated the fact that humans naturally desire to influence groups and exist in community. For some reason, no matter how individualistic we try to be it seems that a level of conformity always exists. A group who desires to be unique in their style definitely stands out but all resemble the other members of their group.
So, the culture is in this never ending cycle of trying to fit in, creating influence, and attempting to gain status. It is nearly impossible to look around us and not see some sort of marketing expression. In ancient times, items were created out of need…it today’s society the market gives us options and the only things that are available to purchase are those that have appeal to a group.
What if we were to abandon the mentality of mass influence? Sure, we feel as if we have a message or personality that is worthy of being noticed, but sometimes so much time is spent seeking to have mass appeal that we forget about souls. As Christian influencers…we are called to listen. There is no such thing as loving in bulk. Abandon appeal. Become aware of others.