I was eating a meal recently and noticed tables of people celebrating. When the waiter brought out a cake with burning sparklers to a table, everyone reached for their phones. Facial expressions changed – the best side of everyone’s face was positioned towards the cake, lips were pouted and then the phone cameras were relentlessly used. The best images were instantly posted to social media, to show the world what a wonderful time they were having. But as I watched this spectacle happen again and again throughout the evening, I realised that nobody was actually enjoying the moment. When that cake was placed on the table, instead of being happy, everyone was focused on getting the perfect picture. They were missing the most important thing – that moment – and it was acceptable. In fact, it was the only option because everyone was doing it. Taking your phone out at dinner is no longer seen as poor table manners, but as a necessary step in the social media ritual.
Any scroll through Instagram will show you how everyone has started to look alike – the same hairstyles, same clothes, same stance, same facial expressions. In fact, conformity is a multi-million dollar industry. Self-proclaimed ‘influencers’ receive six figure deals to endorse hair products, protein shakes, appetite suppressant lollipops and flat tummy teas to their millions of followers. Celebrities market these quick fixes as consumable shortcuts that just might make you look a little bit more like a Kardashian and a lot less like yourself.
Technology has picked up on our primal need to conform. The cameras on Huawei phones can be programmed to face-tune your appearance automatically in order to comply with the latest beauty trends – bigger eyes, smoother skin, higher cheekbones, narrow faces, larger lips.
Conformity is the enemy of innovation, and the enemy of the rebel entrepreneur. Rebel entrepreneurs walk against the tide of the crowd. They question society and its conventions. They think outside the box. They live in the moment and are unafraid to stand out a little. A rebel entrepreneur won’t accept the norm just because everyone else does – they understand that without independent thought, innovation is impossible.