Monday, July 27, 2009

Groupthink in Social Media

Ron Callari, from Inventor Spot, asked the question "does social media produce groupthink?" This is a fair question with a somewhat predictable answer. Ron does a good job of breaking down the instances of groupthink and explaining his thoughts on the subject.

For those that aren't entirely sure what groupthink is, it occurs when a group of individuals avoid confrontation and questioning what they believe to be the mass consensus because they are either afraid to be wrong or don't want to mess with the amicable nature of the group. Groupthink often leads to quick decisions, which aren't always the best decisions. Nobody in the group thinks critically, asks the hard questions and stands up against what they may believe is the wrong result.

Social media enables groupthink in many cases. People are so concerned about fitting in with a community, increasing their followings and being seen as a authority or reputable source that they refuse to stir the waters. This has been demonstrated many times over with marketing campaigns, social consciousness campaigns and more.

With that said, social media also enables the movers and shakers of the world to really stir the pot. There is no face to face interaction so people are more willing to go out on a limb with a contradictory comment. This scenario has shown to be the minority case, but it does exist.

It is important to note that groupthink on social media doesn't go to extreme levels. There haven't been extreme cases of groupthink like you would find reading the anals of a Phil Zimbardo study.

Another popular psychology phenomena that takes place in social media quite is the "recency effect." This just means that people remember the last thing they heard best. Social media is unfortunately a forum where the recency effect occurs all the time. People are always trying to learn the newest technology, the most up-to-date strategies, want to be the first to post a link. This often means that people forget to process the new information with their long-term or short-term memory, which makes for a lower quality of information.


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