Social Media Promotes Groupthink
September 22, 2021
For centuries, human individuals have remained deeply connected. Generational bonds, intertwined civilizations, and intricate stories— our history of connections go back to the beginning. In the contemporary world, humans maintain their interconnectivity, but no longer with clear physical separation like in the past. Current technology directly connects individuals from every corner of the world.
Social media is a powerful and arguably the most influential aspect of our generation. Social media provides us with an outlet to share our experiences, discover individuals we admire, and discuss our own beliefs and morals. However, these seemingly simple interactions can disrupt individual thinking, as the phenomenon of groupthink increasingly appears today.
As society grows increasingly digital, individuals with huge tractions of attention become highly admired and idolized. Generally, these individuals are celebrities and influencers. They hold influence not only over their supporters but over entire media platforms. Often rapidly, their ideas, beliefs, and even experiences become ones of their audience, too.
Large-scale instances of groupthink can frequently trace back to social media and celebrity influence. It is heavily prevalent on the internet, and as a result, can go unrecognized as out-of-the-ordinary.
Last week, admired celebrities and influencers attended the 2021 MET Gala. However, one of the most well-known attendees, Nicki Minaj, informed her supporters of her absence from the event. Touching on a divisive topic, Minaj revealed a personal experience of her family with the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, explaining her decision to remain unvaccinated.
My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied
— Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) September 13, 2021
Though these claims contradict current research by scientists, many of her supporters praised her for speaking out. Minaj has unimaginable influence through her social media platforms, and her media activity reaches large audiences.
None. Natural immunity is the way to go!
— Leigh-Allyn Baker (@L_A_Baker) September 13, 2021
However, groupthink does not always account for the entire audience. Misinformation or harmful information publicly stated by these individuals can be both picked up by their audience and rejected. With just one tweet, Twitter users and internet users from other platforms spoke out on the situation— some calling her out, others reacting with shock or praise to what they believed to be the truth.
Though these instances commonly appear, individuals are capable of navigating and fighting against them. If we address and understand the problems with groupthink, we can support the figures we admire while also maintaining our individual beliefs positively.
AHN junior, Grace Carreja, has followed and supported international celebrity Taylor Swift for many years.
“I personally do look to my favorite figures for a lot of things. They definitely do influence a lot of my beliefs. Especially Taylor Swift, I respect her so much as an artist and advocate for other issues around the world. She isn’t afraid to get involved in political discussions which definitely can be good and bad at the same time. She takes risks when she publicly states her beliefs, and whether I agree with them or not, I respect the risks she takes.”
If we understand the effects of groupthink, we will take the necessary steps to overcome it. Frequent instances of groupthink do not produce harmony in beliefs. They suppress individual ideas to reach group agreement and following. Groupthink, by definition, creates unfavorable outcomes for the individuals involved in the phenomenon. It can lead to a lack of creativity, ignorance of important information, and resistance to new information or ideas. It suppresses personal thoughts and opinions, which are essential to our identities as people.
The current culture and way of life on social media promotes groupthink. With around 72% of the public involved in social media, every individual must do their part within the large group. Individuals active on social media can cultivate a culture that encourages and welcomes individual beliefs and creativity— an environment that allows and promotes both personal reflection and social connection with others online.