the strange pleasure of the mob

What would Freud make of group minds in the digital age? I don’t think he’d be surprised by the witch hunts, call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons. On the other hand, social media allow for the creation of micro-communities and the fostering of niche interests. Digital affiliations may discourage collective action, insofar as online discourse can substitute for “live” interaction, or they may send more of us into the street – like my Canadian friends and I, stirred into action by the online calls to march on Washington. Social media may alter the way we join and negotiate our group memberships, but it’s unlikely to change our fundamental need to be part of something larger than ourselves. Humans are social animals by nature and by evolution; we thrive by working together. This will always be something of a paradox to an introvert like me, whose idea of a party is a locked door and a good book. And yet, having tasted the strange pleasures of the mob, I’m certain I could be lured out from my behind my own barricades again. For a good cause, of course.

Sarah Henstra. One of the major themes of my How to Think is the vital importance of distinguishing between the “mobs” and “crowds” and “Inner Rings” who discourage or forbid thinking from the kinds of groups that offer us the possibility of genuine membership and that, accordingly, encourage us to think — and are, therefore, good people to think with.