The Role of Social Proof in Bullying

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We may not realize it, but we sell ourselves to the public every day. From making new friends to finding a date, we sell ourselves- putting our best foot forward to impress others and show them our best sides, and we do this unconsciously, without even thinking about it. We give the illusion that we’re a hot item because we instinctively know that it’s what everyone loves and is attracted to, and we’re afraid of not being accepted.

“Social proof (also known as informational social influence) is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Put more plainly; we tend to do what we think everyone else is doing, to follow the pack, to join the bandwagon, to get in on the next big thing, whether it be the new, hot fashion trend, a breakout musical group, anything that’s extremely popular with others! For example, a few decades ago, Cabbage Patch Kids were a hot item! Everybody had a cabbage patch kid- I had one myself. And anytime there’s a hot item that’s “all the rage,” everyone clamors to have it!

It’s the same in the social arena. Everyone wants to hang with the “cool” crowd. Although this crowd may or may not be what you’d consider cool and might be the opposite of, others perceive them to be and want to hang with them, so you want to hang with them. Therefore, you want to do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, it’s also the same with bullying.

With bullying in school or the workplace, if everyone else is bullying you, you can be sure that total strangers who have never met you and even your friends will (if they haven’t already) also try to bully you. Why? Because “everyone else is doing it” and they want to join the in-crowd!

But know that when this happens, it has nothing to do with you and in no way means that you somehow deserve it or did anything wrong. What it means is that most people are followers and drones- sheep! They’re slaves to the prospect of fitting in with the majority.

In essence, bullying you has become a ritual with them. The in-thing to do at your school or your place of employment.

The more you know about the psychology of bullies, the better you prepare and the better you’ll feel. Sometimes, just knowing the truth is enough to make you feel better.

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