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The “Majority Illusion” in Social Networks (2016) (plos.org)
108 points by undefined1 on June 8, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments



I view this as the primary reason that protests and rioting have been significantly more widespread recently.

In order for someone to feel good about protesting and rioting, it helps if people around them are doing it, so that it seems socially acceptable, and so that negative consequences are less likely to occur. Normally you would need to see this physically near you, but now with viral algorithms, all it takes is one protest in one location, broadcast to a billion people, and many of them will start to believe "there's all theses protests going on everywhere, so I might do it too".

In some forms this is useful, but in others it is extremely dangerous and can allow for mass unrest based only upon what uncontrollable algorithms end up promoting due to what is the most viral content.

Humans evolved in significantly smaller societies than they live in today, and it's very difficult to have proper intuition about how many people are doing various things after seeing hundreds of examples of them on the Internet. As a result I notice many people making estimates about the frequency of activities that are not only off by one order of magnitude, but sometimes more like three to six.


I live in a small community outside America. On Saturday I left the mall where I'd been subject to the 'new normal' covid distancing laws shit. Stepped out into the sunshine to see over 1000 people marching down the street in one huddled mass protesting because...riots in America. I watched a car's window get smashed because they wanted to drive through an intersection and had the audacity to ask if they could drive through.

While we have issues with police and abuses of power here, it's not even a speck on the radar compared to America. There's real issues here worth protesting. There's a worrying lack of housing for people here in the last year since the psyche ward and homeless shelters shut down. Businesses have been closing down permanently for months, people are desperate for work, one of the largest clearcuts ever for the area has been proposed in the watershed where the town's drinking water comes from. It contains not only the oldest tree in Canada, so old that our tools can't penetrate deep enough to age it, but some of the largest intact old growth in the province, habitat for numerous endangered species and again, directly feeds nearly every river that supplies our water.

Nobody cares, nobody even acknowledges the issues outside their door. But some riots in America are worth flaunting all the measures forced on people for months because they've been riled up to believe it matters more than everything we've been told to believe for months now because social media tells then they need to care.


I think you fail to understand just how prevalent these issues are for people of color every single day.

Yes, these issues might be just a speck for you. But they're a stain on daily life for millions of people around the world (which is why you see people empathizing not just domestically, but internationally).

Justifying one's existence and identity every single day is exhausting on a level that all other problems are simply irrelevant when existence is in question.

I don't know if you've ever heard the phrase "When White people get the cold, Black people get the flu". Our problems are systemic and the way problems impact people in our society isn't equal.

> There's a worrying lack of housing for people here in the last year since the psyche ward and homeless shelters shut down. Businesses have been closing down permanently for months, people are desperate for work,

Now dig into the data and see what segment of the population these issues affect the most and disproportionately so. On top of all that, Black people have to worry about having to walk down the street too? Any reasonable person would say "fuck that".


>Now dig into the data and see what segment of the population these issues affect the most and disproportionately so. On top of all that, Black people have to worry about having to walk down the street too? Any reasonable person would say "fuck that".

Not sure about the data, but based on the people I see every day and talk to it's poor and mentally ill native and white people. The black community is fairly small here and consists of a few south African families who were not participating in the protests, at least from what I could tell seeing one of the families on the beach that day, while some members of the other were working.

There was an older black Lady who looked at all the white families with their kids protesting who shook her head and called them idiots that i seen but otherwise, it was a bunch of white people yelling about black lives in a community where the main racial problems that do exist are towards natives and there wasn't a single mention about that from those people. The homeless native guy drinking and smoking crack on the street next to them matters less than some guy killed by a cop in the States.


Then it kind of sounds like people are protesting against issue that is actual issue they experienced in their community. And somehow it is not real for you, because they are not right color and should wait for other protests with matching color.


Hmmm, no i was responding to the actual content of the article which is pointing out social media is causing people to overreact to issues outside their area of influence because of what they see online. My point is, I watched a large majority of a community go out and protest over things in another country, ignoring the issues not only caused by the recent lockdowns that seem to matter nothing any more to these people, but the actual issues of their own community are seeemingly not worth addressing, but getting all self righteous about an issue not a single one of them has ever experienced.in their lives, while businesses in their community have closed down because everyone needs to stay away from.eachother. but the second a cop kills someone in America, that means fuck all any more and a thousand people can all stand arm in arm and shit and it's totally fine they're walking past businesses they've forced closed because a week ago they were too scared of dying. What a crock of shit.

It's a spit in the face at everyone in their community whose lost their jobs, their businesses their livelihoods, their homes over the last several months. All of that was for nothing apparently, because a cop killed somebody in another country.

ETA: To FriendlyNormie, thanks for showing how all this is a bunch of lip service as you advocate murdering a random commenter publicly. You clearly care about your fellow human beings.


I was responding to your comments, trying to piece out what is happening where you live. I did not added up to being consistent, especially after I read whole thread. I understand it is because pieces are missing, but comments are whole I have.

Organizing actual in person protests takes effort, resources and pre-existing network of people. That does not happen out of nowhere. That goes for blm protests, anti-lockdown protests, white supremacists protests and anti-racist protests. Past historical mass protests also always had notworks of activists behind them, none happened without at least informal organizational structure existing.

The violence (smashing car) also does not happen out of nowhere. You dont have personally happy peaceful people reading something on Facebook suddenly going violent. There is series of escalations that takes months, getting used to violence step by step that leads to that.


Not really sure what protest would aim to achieve against job losses caused by pandemic. Killing of people based on race by police on the other hand has been shown to be an systemic issue and something which could be reformed.


> Killing of people based on race by police on the other hand has been shown to be an systemic issue and something which could be reformed.

Could you unpack "has been shown"? Are you speaking statistically here?


Glad I believe in karma, because the people that cut down that old forest aren't coming back as humans for a very long time.


I feel this is not a well thought out perspective.

They have ""bad karma" according to your subjective view of the world. What if that's how they view you? What if a human is the worst thing you could be?


> I think you fail to understand just how prevalent these issues are for people of color every single day.

> Justifying one's existence and identity every single day is exhausting on a level that all other problems are simply irrelevant when existence is in question.

I struggle trying to figure out what this means in 2020, and I would think it would depend a fair amount on the individual and region where they live.

Is this observable mistreatment that people are receiving every day, or is it more of a constant sense of not belonging, like being an outsider of some kind?


> Is this observable mistreatment that people are receiving every day

Yes.

There is a daily burden that comes with being Black in America that is very distinct and systemic. You can educate yourself on this topic, there's great material out there; I'm still learning too. It has very much to do with the default attitudes in a society where interracial marriage wasn't even legal until 1967. That's not that long ago.


I've been doing a fair amount of reading on the subject from many different angles. It's interesting how much we (and here I mean everyone, of all cultures and skin tones) kind of take for granted that we "know". For example, everyone kind of thinks they "know" about MLK and Malcolm X, but how much do they "know", really? And how much (what percentage of the entirety of the big picture) did these two legendary men themselves "know", really.

And then what about other extremely substantial (but not widely legendary) people like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou (who doesn't even get a mention on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civil_rights_leaders)? How many others are out there that I should make the time to read some of their ideas (like a list of civil rights activists, sorted by descending "importance" (relative to today) of ideas)? And for each, how to best educate myself? And this is leaving aside all of the other important thinkers from other domains who aren't directly associated with the civil rights movement, but whose ideas very much are relevant to the issue? And here again, same problem: who to educate myself on, in what order, and how?

To me, racism seems like an extremely complicated problem. It also seems to me that most people consider it to be rather simple.

Speaking of complexity and education, I wonder if we could dig a bit deeper into this:

>> Is this observable mistreatment that people are receiving every day, or is it more of a constant sense of not belonging, like being an outsider of some kind?

> Is this observable mistreatment that people are receiving every day

> Yes.

To my way of thinking, this style of thinking is way too imprecise, if one's goal is to truly understand the situation. I have a sense that this next question is very difficult to receive without taking offense (due to its heartlessly statistical nature), but hopefully by noting that first it will minimize that problem, at least enough to judge it worthy of a serious reply.

In your estimation, what percentage of people of color receive observable [1] mistreatment every day? Or perhaps a simpler way of putting it is: of all POC, what percentage receive at least one observable mistreatment, per day? (And then it would also be interesting to roll these daily statistics up to an average per year and observe changes over time, as well as break it out into different dimensions and categories, etc.)

Due to the complexity of humanity, there are an infinite number of different ways to consider any given problem. Racism is but one problem of many (albeit it an especially important one), and the above is but one perspective from which to consider it. I make no assertion about the relative importance of this perspective, but I strongly assert that it has importance in an absolute sense.

[1] By observable mistreatment, I mean that a diverse group of third parties would be able to recognize the event (perhaps after having the nuance pointed out to them first), and reasonably agree that it plausibly qualifies as mistreatment.


Why does it need to be observable? What if it's there and unobservable? Then what?

Do people who break the rules normally do so in a highly observable way?


Please reread what I wrote, and interpret it more literally (do not inject novel ideas of your own).


I'm responding because you and gp are talking about precise measurements.

I'm asking basic questions about if and how you can measure it and you respond like it's "injecting ideas"... What lol? Can you not be a baby or not handle a question? There's nothing to reread which alters this.


> you and gp are talking about precise measurements.

Measurements of things that have actually occurred in shared reality. Absolute precision is not necessary, but a reasonable amount of consistency with observable reality doesn't seem too much to ask about, is it?

> What if it's there and unobservable?

I would be interested in learning more about the nature of this sort of thing, in great detail. I actually think this relatively unexplored territory may be where society should be spending more time mutually exploring. I think we should be exploring all territory, including not only statistics, but literally everything than anyone considers important. I doubt every perspective is of equal importance, but that doesn't mean no importance.

> I'm asking basic questions about if and how you can measure it and you respond like it's "injecting ideas"

For injecting ideas, I refer to this:

> Why does it need to be observable?

Where did I say it needs to be observable? It sounds like (it is my perception that) you are characterizing my comment to be something along the lines of ~"if it can't be measured, it doesn't count". Have I misinterpreted you, or is that what you're actually suggesting I've said?


> it's not even a speck on the radar compared to America

I do believe that there are problems with racism in state police in any country but I was surprised how restrained the police in America is by numbers. I would have expected much more death by the hands of the police. Outside of America there is certainly a stereotype of their police being cowboys.

Still, I think the numbers alone clearly show police isn't going on rampages killing random people. State abuse today looks completely different.


People don't usually protest in person unless they really believe in the underlying cause. There are developers on HN who worry about a 500 millisecond delay in their app because users are so fickle that half a second puts them off.

If people don't have half a second of patience, how much does it take to motivate them to go to a protest, shout, march, and sometimes even risk their lives? Sure, if we're not careful, if we don't implement the right controls, social media can be used for ill. However, I'd be very careful not to generalize from results like in the OP.

There are groups of people that you wouldn't even pay attention to if it weren't for social media. There is suffering that would be invisible to the world if it weren't for social media. It is our duty to expend the small amount of energy required before assuming the worst about a freedom struggle, because sometimes solidarity is the only thing that powerless people can have.


> People don't usually protest in person unless they really believe in the underlying cause.

Citation needed. For riots, it's obviously wrong: football hooligans have been doing it for ages, and they have no underlying cause but "let's fuck shit up".

For demonstrations: it's mostly a social thing. If your friends go, you go, because otherwise you're signalling to your friends that you are not like them, and you don't want to do that, because being isolated hurts.


> For demonstrations: it's mostly a social thing.

Only if you aren't invested in the cause. Not everyone takes a nihilistic nothing-matters approach to this sort of thing.


Sure, there are some people who are invested in the cause, they're not social events only. But a large number of those showing up are not, they're there because their friends are, because it's an event and something to do, and because they want to belong to a tribe, and tribal outings are the thing to do when you want to be a part of the tribe.

Most of them don't want that more than they want to stay dry though, so bad weather usually translates into smaller events.


That's a ridiculous assumption to make. You have no idea what percent of any crowd is there to appease someone else and any claim otherwise is silly.

What if someone is there for more than one reason(Hint everyone)? Do they not count anymore?

Bad weather lowers attendance for all events you dullard that doesn't support anything you've said. You're just ascribing intention to thousands of people and it's really lazy thiking. You haven't even scratched the surface of why some people are there but go ahead and keep making your wild assumptions


>People don't usually protest in person unless they really believe in the underlying cause.

Tell that to the guys who didn't believe in the cause but joined the jihad and died in Iraq/Syria because all their buddies were doing it. There's a huge element of peer pressure involved in getting off the porch. That's why this article about distortion of apparent norms is relevant to the topic of protests (and other implementations of "getting off the porch"). Having the belief that people your respect and identify with are also doing something is a massive motivator that makes the difference to a lot of people.


500 milliseconds is huge. I don't know what that app does, but in my world if you have as much as 10 microseconds delay you've blown your time budget and you're missing all your KPI and your goals. Have you ever tried to have a voice conversation with a delay of half a second? It's a very frustrating experience. Also, if your framebuffer rendering pipeline has that kind of delay, the user will leave the app in frustration very fast.


> People don't usually protest in person unless they really believe in the underlying cause.

> If people don't have half a second of patience, how much does it take to motivate them to go to a protest, shout, march, and sometimes even risk their lives?

People are bored right now.


>there is suffering that would be invisible to the world if it weren't for social media.

Definitely, but the algorithms for social media do not help the worst cases of the most suffering become more viral than more infrequent cases of lesser suffering.

The issue is that all that matters is virality. Sometimes suffering is viral when it should be, but other times it is not, and when it is not, no one will care, because the algorithms of virality control what everyone will see and care about.

We're seeing this right now with covid as it becomes less viral and fashionable to report on, and we've seen it previously with things like the mass factory farming of billions of animals, which doesn't seem to get a ton of attention nowadays, among many other terrible things, even though the magnitude of suffering involved is so great.


I've read enough history to be convinced that democratic-anything is usually better. Social media is a more democratic medium than traditional media. On the whole, that will turn out for the better, especially as we learn how to control the worst aspects of social media.

Before Facebook came out, how much did news reporters, even on MSNBC, lead the conversation against systematic social and economic injustice towards African Americans? They failed miserably on that front. Now we don't have to rely on the media for that. The oppressed people themselves are leading the narrative, not because it's fashionable, but because they can't breathe.


Not attempting to argue against democracy, but that the algorithms that control what news and items we see are very important, and they are not even open-source! They could take many different forms, some that don't promote outrage as a bottom line, and still be democratic. You mention "especially as we learn how to control the worst aspects of social media", but are we actually making any concrete progress in this area, that we can measure and also call fair?

>The oppressed people themselves are leading the narrative, not because it's fashionable

I'm simply suggesting that the narrative is led by what content is viral. Depending on what people like to talk about, sometimes that might be a just cause and appear to have good effects. But, there is not at all guaranteed, and the system doesn't really care if your cause is just or not, only if it is viral and profitable to report on, which generally means enraging.


The term 'democratic' has fundamentally different connotations in politics, and in media.

'Social Media' is not 'more democratic' it's just a free-for-all where small voices have massively disproportionate power, and there are no controls or integrity - it's just crude, unbridled, bloody populism. A more democratic 'social media' would weigh every plebe's opinion equally.

The 'Free Press' is a self-regulating institution, like a 5th estate, much like the Central Bank, you don't get a 'vote' to determine what interest rates will be, but there is an open system in place for that to happen. You can 'vote' by buying papers and whatnot, but there are other systematic controls.

Social Media is not something we have figured out how to properly use just yet.


To me, "democratic" basically means "majority rule". By that definition, a website offering "social media" is the antithesis of democratric. The website owner is always the deciding vote.


That's a huge mistake. Democracy means "people rule", not "majority vote". The minority are part of the people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority


I used the word "basically" for a reason. Nor did I use the word "vote". I said "majority rule". FWIW, I used that term to refer to an outcome not necessarily a process. I should have been more careful.

The Tyranny of the Majority Wikipedia page presents a criticism of majority rule. This criticism does not contradict the idea that democracy is likely to result in majority rule; it supports it. One can say "democracy bascially means majority rule" because, for those of us in the West, that is, by and large, what we get. According to Wikipedia, the legistlatures of all democratic nations use majority rule (the process) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majority_rule

However, I only presented a personal and basic definition of democracy, not necessarily a comprehensive or correct one. That is why I used the words "To me" and "basically".

When majority rule is not the outcome of democracy, would you agree that "the people", at least some of them, will contest the notion that what they have is a "democracy"?

How can anyone see the popular social newtorks as democractic?


> I've read enough history to be convinced that democratic-anything is usually better.

How did you come to this conclusion? Legitimately asking because I'd draw the opposite conclusion.


I recommend reading “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu. At a very high level, nations often fail because of elite-driven rent extraction. Sometimes they don’t just fail for a few decades, they continue to spectacularly fail for centuries.

When people are forced out of their social and economic agency by a narrow elite, they will continue to be deprived of their agency long after that elite is replaced by another elite and another elite until people forget that they ever had culture and wealth. Now, I don’t think we’re seeing the worst manifestation of that in the U.S. Far from it. But it was striking to see not only how consistently problematic elite stratification is, but how good it can be to give power to the people.

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty https://www.amazon.com/dp/0307719227/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_pp...


During the rise of social media I tended to think the same way, but now I think it’s vital to be able to distinguish between “democratic” and “accessible.”


Life 20 years ago was kinda nice. Computers were cool. Sunday news is what you need to read to get global coverage. No social media or friends showing off their best and hiding the worse, neighbors and LAN parties, 9/11 happened and the country got together, I don't know... we didn't have insane Javascript frameworks. Things were much better. Ecommerce wasn't that big, so I actually went to the stores to buy stuff. Malls were cool.

I am pretty sure I am wrong.


> 9/11 happened and the country got together, I don't know... we didn't have insane Javascript frameworks.

You really just need a common enemy, some far away country that you can focus your energy on, that you can bomb etc. It will bring the country together ... and give you more advanced javascript frameworks.


I'm surprised you lump in 9/11 with the good times.. instead of starting their decline.

There were no insane JavaScript frameworks but some really nifty flash apps. The quality of flash games was improving everyday. The TAS community was in its golden era...


Perhaps you weren’t a member of any groups affected by the issues that have been protested recently and throughout recent history.


> Perhaps you weren’t a member of any groups affected by the issues that have been protested recently and throughout recent history.

I am, and I still think that the protesters are making a mountain out of a molehill.

Their response to police brutality is disproportionate. They are destroying innocent bystanders lives and livelihoods; the celebrities who are egging them on are doing so because their neighbourhoods, livelihoods and lives are not getting burned down (see https://www.rt.com/sport/490393-burn-that-shit-down-tweet-nb...).

Th only way to stop the protests is to bus protesters into those areas inhabited by these celebrity morons.

The people who are arguing against the police using teargas on rioters will sing a different tune when the mob is coming down their street, burning everything in their path. I guarantee that they will call for an armed response to someone attempting to burn their house down.


> They are destroying innocent bystanders lives and livelihoods; the celebrities who are egging them on are doing so because their neighbourhoods, livelihoods and lives are not getting burned down (see https://www.rt.com[...])

With due respect, I fear this may be precisely an example of the "majority illusion" described in the article.

You're not seeing a representative sample of "their responses" or "celebrities" -- you're seeing a sample selected by the media specifically for the quality of being newsworthy. (Or entertaining, or engaging, or aligning with the outlet's political views)

If we're to learn anything from this PLOS article, it's that we should not be overly confident in our views about what "everyone else" is doing.


> You're not seeing a representative sample of "their responses" or "celebrities" -- you're seeing a sample selected by the media specifically for the quality of being newsworthy. (Or entertaining, or engaging, or aligning with the outlet's political views)

You are quite correct, but that just means that the mob is getting positive reinforcement for their actions from a vocal minority.

After all, I am seeing what the mob is seeing, and it looks like overwhelming support for the disproportionate response.


I think there is a difference if the police kills someone because it is state violence everyone in society is responsible for. That is a huge difference in these events. I also think there was a powder keg that got released.

That said, I fully agree on the proclamations of many celebrities and I don't think anyone sees discrimination through an objective lens. I would certainly not kneel to any demands of protesters. Honestly, I think a majority of them would benefit from a stern talk by their parents. But that doesn't apply to everyone.


I have not seen any video or even claims of police using tear gas to cause looters to stop looting. It has probably happened a few times, but it looks abundantly clear to me that tear gas is overwhelmingly used on large groups of organized and peaceful protesters, and the looting is happening elsewhere. I’ve seen so much footage of organized protests marching down streets, and it does not appear that they are burning anything in their path.


Definitely, I feel like my life just has been in this cacoon lacking externalities and realities of struggles many others experience. I express my empathy towards them and protest for a just, fair and accountable system of law enforcement.


Did you consider that perhaps you may be perceiving the majority illusion in regards to the prevalence of rioting as opposed to the prevalence of peaceful protests?


> uncontrollable algorithms

What do you mean by this? Do you mean uncontrollable in the sense that we as users don't have much fine-grained control over what we're shown?


I think I'd best say it as two parts, the first part is that the algorithms behind social media content are not known to us as end-users, which seems a bit unfair given that they control the entire world around us.

The second is that there is a system at work here that no individual person or company is in control of. If one news agency decides to not publish content that is outrageous, they may simply just be out-competed by all the others that decide to maximize for outrage, and no improvement will occur. Similarly, it's difficult for social media companies to simply 'change' their algorithms to do good things and promote good content, for this reason and many others.


Yep, gotcha. Thanks for the comprehensive response.


This is a timely article. If I only viewed the world through my Facebook feed right now, I'd believe that everyone in the US wants to defund every police department.

In reality it's an incredibly unpopular view among everyone, left, right, and center.

https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/20...

I think making this worse is that even a mild concern about this policy would be received very poorly on social media -- so nobody objects and you see a silent majority phenomenon.

It's frightening that social media is a primary news source for so many people.


The requests that the protesters are focusing on now are mainly around shifting funding from police departments to other departments to do the same job but without being armed and dangerous. For instance, house calls can be done by social workers and a separate system of traffic patrollers could give out speeding tickets. “Defunding” is a misnomer that’s easy to say but not really what many protesters want.

Also an end on the war on drugs would be a good step too; cost saving plus decreasing the need for police.


Survey questions can be incredibly misleading. There's a huge difference between do you support "cut funding for police departments" (with no broader context, so sounds scary -- all risk and no benefit) vs. "move excess police funding to social services which reduce crime" or even just "remove funding for militarized vehicles and equipment in police departments".

Intelligent policy decisions very, very, very rarely can be reduced to just five words. In fact, it's a well-known phenomenon that as survey questions become more nuanced and in-depth, the percentages of "extreme" views decrease dramatically, and most Americans turn out to hold largely centrist, reasonable views, totally different from what the media portrays.

It's the simplistic survey questions that force binary extreme answers without context or compromise that get all the press.


This is a silly straw man argument you’re making. Asking every American whether they want to defund the police is like asking everybody in the US if they enjoy taking the subway to work. Only a fraction of Americans live in cities that are calling for this action. A more reasonable poll would only ask Minneapolis residents.


Case in point: The reality that it's unpopular doesn't save you from the downvotes you're currently getting from those who wish it were otherwise.


A poll from a week ago might be pretty out of date now. Americans' perceptions of the police fell about 10% during that time:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/06/06/amer...

An important factor to watch is how that phrase "defund the police" gets defined--see peer replies here for examples of how people can interpret it positively.

I predict some of the ideas behind it will indeed become mainstream and we will see police budgets fall in the next few years. LA's mayor has already committed to cuts, for example.

I would not underestimate the impact of social media to rapidly move ideas from the radical fringe to close enough to the mainstream to have political impact. See for example InfoWars, avoiding vaccines, "Q"-type conspiracies, heck even Donald Trump himself.


> An important factor to watch is how that phrase "defund the police" gets defined--see peer replies here for examples of how people can interpret it positively.

Also see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23447259 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23420016



Y'all are going to crucify me for this comment but I believe we also suffer this as a technology community.

We assume certain unhelpful behaviours are the norm and perpetuate toxic defaults through the majority illusion and what amounts to impostor syndrome.


Not new to technological social networks. Edward Bernays wrote a couple of books on exploiting pre-computer social networks in the early 20th century.


I call this anecdotal growth mutation.

You see something, you share it, a lot of other people share it.

Suddenly the anecdote becomes statistically significant in the heads of everyone.


I see a lot of posts on reddit which basically consist of the formula "My <other political gorup> relative keeps doing <behavior our side despises>. They make me so angry." Perhaps with some extra details of being an obvious two-dimensional jerk for good measure.

Always has lots of upvotes. Could be someone trying to affect opinion with fake upvotes, someone trying to fish for easy upvotes, or just organically motivated by the network's desire for anecdotes to rage about.


If someone held a gun to my head and told me to increase my reddit karma by 10k in a week I would quickly hop on to r/politics


I would elide the word "statistical" from your comment but otherwise I totally agree.


I think majority illusion has existed even before the social networks. If you surround yourself with people who share the same view on most things, aka living in the bubble, you might end up getting caught in the majority illusion since everyone you know has the same views. One of the few cases where I have listened and changed my(far right) views was when a close friend of mine talked me through the nuances of various(left leaning) views from his side. I was willing to listen to him because we were close friend by that time already. If he had tried to discuss various issues before we became friends, there is a good chance that I would have discarded all his views as wrong. The only place where people of opposing views can end up becoming friends is college afaik. It is difficult to form close bond later in adult life.


About 2 years ago there was an online game/simulator where one could add “information blocks” onto network nodes and see if they become true.

It nicely demonstrated how things became a “fact”.

Does anybody have the link to it?


Nicky Case "The Wisdom or Madness of the Crowds"

https://ncase.me/crowds/


Great! This was it!


And the sackers might inspire more international sackers too


Sounds like a great explanation for the spread of very polarized political opinions in social media.

Everyone thinks their niche opinion has obtained majority support.


Do you think this is the first time in history that there are very polarized political opinions?

How do you explain it in the past? Maybe polarization comes from... polarizing circumstances?


What do you think about the research in question as it relates to social media?




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