Have you ever wondered: "Am I in the majority or the minority?"
I don't usually think about that kind of thing, but sometimes I wonder, "Might I be in the minority?" For example, at a meeting at the university where I work, there are sometimes elections which I vote in; when I see the results, I often find out that I was the only one who voted for a particular option.
How do I feel when it happens? I think, "I was right," but I also feel a little unsure, saying to myself, "So, is it wrong to be different from everyone else?" Sometimes I think that had I known before voting that everyone would choose someone different to my choice, I might have changed my mind, thinking, "Well, I guess I'll do the same."
Recently, when I introduced a news story in my class and asked the students for their opinions, many of them expressed the same view. For the sake of clarity, let's say that the opinion was "Mr. A is right."
However, afterwards, when we all looked at the internet news page where readers can write comments on the article, most of the opinions there were that "Mr. A is not correct." Since it's the internet, the number of people was also very specific, and we could see that thousands wrote in with their views.
The faces of the students who had been saying "Mr. A is right" darkened. They must have started to lose confidence, thinking, "Oh, if there are so many people who disagree with me, then maybe my opinion is wrong." I encouraged them not to be distracted by the number, but to cherish the opinions that they thought were right.
That said, as I mentioned above, I also have the feeling that, as much as possible, I do not want to be in the minority. I can voice my opinion and vote to show "this is how I am" when I don't know whether it's a minority view, but I don't know what would happen if numbers clearly showed which opinion is more common, like in the comments section of this online article.
The internet is convenient, but the fact that people can visibly see that "this is what everyone's opinion is" sometimes makes it difficult for people with opposing views to speak out. How can I teach my students that they don't have to be in the majority, but should believe in themselves and say what they think? To do that, I must first be able to believe it is OK to be in the minority. That's what I told myself.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)