Groupthink, individualism and how social media contributes to both

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Social networks are full of contradictions. He succeeded in both connecting and isolating us. It plays the role of crucible and echo chamber. It promotes self-acceptance, while squandering self-esteem across demographics.

One of its most fascinating paradoxes is how it contributes to groupthink and simultaneously encourages individualism.

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Thanks to social media, getting together with like-minded peers can be done in just a few clicks. People are attracted to familiarity and social media amplifies this behavior alarmingly. Algorithms ensure that we are isolated in a bubble where our existing beliefs are validated, opposing beliefs are rarely encountered and, therefore, rarely considered.

A proliferation of this phenomenon is “cancellation culture”. Although this trend began to promote accountability, it has evolved into a form of popular rule that encourages censorship and silences dissenting opinions.

Coordinated attempts to punish the attacker are the final stage in which the cybermob acts as judge, jury, and executioner. In some scenarios, even neutrality is seen as complicity. The pressure to conform to popular opinion prevents the discussion of other viewpoints.

Another manifestation of social media-induced groupthink is the mass circulation of misinformation. The fact that most individuals don’t bother to verify information they see on other accounts before sharing it from their own makes this a common occurrence. Once a belief has taken root, people are reluctant to change their narrative.

Our innate confirmation bias ensures that we see flaws in stories that don’t align with our own, but we don’t possess the same level of skepticism for our own views. In some cases, spreading false information can lead to political polarization, conspiracy theories and even social unrest.

While some users feel the need to conform, countless others spend years building a unique social media identity. It’s encouraged to create your own “brand” or “aesthetic”, especially on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

From curating streams to sticking to certain visuals, a lot of effort goes into getting likes, follows, retweets, or any form of social media currency. Maintaining a strong presence in these populated networks requires more than ever to focus on oneself, which is seen as a major instigator of a culture of narcissism.

For teens and teens, social media is also a tool to explore and experience their identities. Virtual spaces offer more flexibility and even anonymity for those who need it. People’s online personas exert a massive influence on their real-life personalities. Many create and distribute digital content, be it art, poetry, videos, or even random ramblings, as a means of self-expression.

While the two phenomena have co-existed in the past, recent trends indicate that collectivism is winning out over individualism. Whether it will stay that way remains to be seen.

Ziba Mahdi is your resident pessimist. Encourage her at [email protected]

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