Are You in a Stealth Mob?

Mobs don’t want facts. They don’t want logic. They don’t like to be interrupted. They don’t care for order, plans, laws, history, long-term outcomes, or your feelings.

This is obvious when we see an out-of-control riot on television somewhere in the world. The mob is filled with individuals that are acting in ways they may never behave alone. Perhaps the mob gives permission. Perhaps the mob creates the momentum. It likely does both. Regardless, it can be dangerous and thoughtless.

While we all would like to believe we would never act in such a manner, I submit that many of us act in a very similar way as part of what I call “stealth mobs.” By that, I mean groups that gain their own momentum over time (perhaps years) and function like a not-so-obvious mob in life and business.

Sports Fans Rioting Riots are not the only place to see a mob. Sports fans for a team for which they are passionate show mob behavior even when just watching a game. Mob behavior is not just the crazy mobbing of the field after a big win. The bad behavior is often obvious from callers to sports talk radio.

I am dismayed at how many people, including fans who pull for my favorite teams, have the attitude that “My team is always better than your team at everything. If my team makes a mistake, there is an understandable reason. Your team has no excuse and must fail or be penalized now!”

There is mob behavior in the hard-core fans of certain revered products, such as Apple computers and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Attitudes that say, “If your computer is not a Mac then you are an idiot and a drone that mindlessly follows the stupid crowd.” It is one thing to be a fan of something, and quite another to emotionally need to intellectually assault those that may not share your passion.

There are very hard-core stealth mobs in politics now, within all political parties. “We are right. You are Wrong. We must win. You must lose.”

Where does this black-and-white, win-lose mindset come from? Well, as I’ve written before, All-or-Nothing thinking is one of the ten classic cognitive distortions we all have to some degree. However, I contend it is the stealth mob that gives this mob mindset both momentum and encouragement. These attitudes typically do not develop with such focus in a vacuum. The people we spend most of our time around often shares our filtered thinking. This adds energy and reinforcement to our behavior. The group-think can limit perspectives instead of broadening understanding.

I see many individuals that are part of a stealth mob mentality that actually work very hard to continually reinforce their bad behavior and limited viewpoints. They make a distinct effort to avoid understanding the perspectives of others, as if understanding another point of view may be some admission their viewpoint is less important or flawed. Eventually, the thinking becomes incestuous thinking, with no new perspectives and only reinforcement of a “See, I’m right!” mentality.

Not all large groups are mobs, even when the groups are protesters. Large organized protests, such as those seen recently in Egypt, are generally not out-of-control mobs. While these groups had a few clashes with police, they were not mindless attacking entities. Despite limited communications, these protesters had a generally logical, organized plan that was not out of control and mindless. Even with anger present, it was controlled and harnessed for a goal, not used to attack, injure, and loot.

I want to be clear that I think passion is great. I encourage everyone to have and know their passions. It is when passion is the excuse for poor behavior that it becomes an obstacle.

Pay attention to your attitude and the attitude of those around you. Be respectful of the perspectives of others and willing to accept that not everyone sees the world as you do. This alone will make you easier to understand and easier to be understood. Don’t mindlessly join a mob, even a stealth mob. Mobs are jerks, whether they realize it or not.

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.