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The Power of Influence

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In “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell states that, “When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” The police officer is the protagonist in this short article. As the story goes, one day there was an elephant ravaging the bazaar. It was not a wild elephant; it was chained up, but had broken its chain and escaped. Though the elephant did much devilish damage such as kill a cow, crush a van, and even kill an Indian, the protagonist did not plan to kill the elephant. But the villagers pressured him, wanting him to kill the elephant. Finally, unable to resist the pressure anymore, the police officer killed the elephant. At the time the officer killed it the elephant was peacefully eating grass and looking harmless. The officer’s decision to kill the elephant was based on the will of others. He did not want the natives to laugh at him or to be looked down at, so he shot the elephant to appear to be of the same mind as the villagers. In this article, Orwell illustrates his point that other people’s opinions do influence others in their own decision making. In other words, a person does not make a decision independently of other’s opinion. I agree with the author. Sometimes people put aside their own ideas and make the decisions others expect of them in order to fulfill a need for inclusion or to avoid disappointing people we care about.

Sometimes we make a decision to avoid disappointing people we care about. When I was applying for college in high school, I was indecisive in choosing a major. I was interested in cuisine art, because whenever I eat delicious food I want to know how to make it. However, my mom is a businesswoman, and she wanted me to major in business. She thought becoming a chef would be too challenging for a girl. My mom has always been a hero in my life. When I was nine years old my grandfather passed away. A week later, while we were still in pain from the loss of him, my dad went into apoplectic shock. Luckily, my dad was not paralyzed. But the experience left him much weaker, and he needed a lot of time to recover. All of a sudden, my mom had to support the family. She had to wake up early in the morning to cook for my dad, give me a ride to school, go to work, and in the afternoon she had to pick me up and take care of my dad. She never complained. I know how hard it was for her to support our family all by herself. I remember one night on my way to bed, I saw my mom sobbing. I tried to console her, and she immediately stopped crying, telling me she was ok and that I should go on to sleep. I knew she was having a hard time, but she did not want me to know or to worry. It was her burden as a parent to carry. She is a role model in my life. I have always admired her and leaned on her for strength. I wanted to grow up and be like her. While I was deciding between a major in cuisine art or business, I took classes related to both. These included accounting, AP calculus and food. At first, business classes were not easy for me. But when I thought about the hard times my mom has been through, I knew that I could not give up easily. So I studied hard for these classes and it paid off. I got all A’s in my business classes. In the end, I chose business to satisfy my mom’s will. After all she had given to me I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to fulfill her dreams for me. My mom has had a big influence in my life; I have to thank her for who I am today. My interest in cuisine art did not disappear. I chose to go in the same direction as her because I love and respect the person she is.

Sometimes we make a decision to fulfill a need for inclusion. In the course of our daily lives, everyone has an influence on one another regarding the products we use and the clothes we wear. People see who is using the latest phone and wearing the latest fashions. Have you ever thought about why there are so many people using the iPhone? Is it really better than other phone brands? As technology advances, people are urged to keep up with the newest version. It was no surprise, my friend Betty always wanted to get the newest cell phone as soon as it came out. She changed phones three times in two years. First she had Nokia N97. Betty was ecstatic when she got the phone. A few months later the iPhone 3G came out. She immediately traded in her almost new Nokia. Her reason was simply, “Everyone has to have an iPhone!” After using the iPhone for a few weeks, she began to tell me the app store for iPhone was better than Nokia’s, and that Nokia was too slow, too outdated. I was still using Nokia at that time. She managed to keep her iPhone for a year and a half, but when the iPhone 4s came out, she could not resist. The main reason for this was that some of her friends already had the iPhone 4 and were telling her how much better the apps, camera and quality were than her iPhone. She was curious, wanted to check it out herself and didn’t want to be the only one left with outdated technology. After Betty bought the iPhone 4, she started telling me how nice it was and convinced me to get it too. Betty bought the new phones, because she was influenced by peer pressure from her friends. That it was not conscious peer pressure it did not matter; Betty wanted to be included. She wanted to fit in with her friends. Although this is just a small example, this kind of influence happens on a larger scale all over the world with many products, especially technology.

Many times we ask to be influenced by other’s opinions. We like to ask for opinions when making decisions. More often than not, people go with the general consensus. This too, is allowing oneself to be influenced out of a need for inclusion. Take this example of a trip to the mall with friends. We were dress shopping. After an hour of looking, my friends had bought their dresses, but I just couldn’t find a dress I liked. Finally, I found two cute dresses in the Guess store. One was a simple black dress. The other was completely different. It was red with the back hollowed out and done in lace. I liked the red, but worried I would stand out among my friends. So I asked my friends for advice. They both answered that the red dress was too showy. Their advice made me doubt my own choice. I hesitated between the two dresses and finally chose the black dress. It was less of a choice between the dresses, and more of a bid for my friend’s approval. I did not want to disagree with them. It was important to me that my friends believed my thoughts and ideas were the same as theirs, that I fit into a certain mold and I am considered part of the crowd. Because of my concern over how others would view me, I chose not to follow my true preference.

I think most people who choose to follow the crowd do so, because they feel safer as part of a crowd. They like the validation having someone to back up their decision. Sometimes it might be right to make the decision that will benefit others, such as when I decided to follow in my mom’s footsteps. But sometimes following the crowd might not be the best decision. When people make decisions based on what other’s want, they need to consider how much of their own individuality they are giving up. People do like others that hold the same views and opinions as themselves, but many times they welcome something different and fresh. It is important to be aware of the influence others have on our decision-making process, so we can decide for ourselves if their influence is harmful or not.

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