Category Archives: Get on the bandwagon

“In the age of the Internet, the truth does not matter”

“In the age of the internet, the truth does not matter. The message you want to propagate can be told, and it will spread like wildfire. And spread it did.”

Propaganda spreads faster than wildfire on social media, often torching everything in its path. The marriage of social media and propaganda is extraordinarily dangerous if you think about how Internet mobs convict people, groups, ideas – in a matter of hours – in the absence of a full set of evidence. Or how similar behavior may rally support for a war – or rally a mob of protesters that trash a community.

The above quote is from a scientist that was slimed, tarred and feathered by an Internet mob about a supposedly secret email he had written to help stop an anti-GMO initiative. The story began with incompetently written and unvetted news reports from Wired, Nature and others and was then shared online in social media. The report and the social media mob, in fact, had the story backwards – and completely wrong.

Social media then propagated the false story – manufacturing a “new fact” out of thin air – a fact that was never true nor even possibly true. And in so doing, ruined the reputation of an innocent scientist.

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Social media peer pressure enforces conformity to group norms

If you want the tl;dr response, stop here: social media is a pretty effective mechanism for peer pressure. If you disagree, please consider how many temporary profile pictures have been updated on Facebook to red, white, and blue in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris (including perhaps your own). We know that online peer pressure is powerful. But what we don’t know is whether that pressure is driving real change.

Sharing your opinions and thoughts online is as simple as clicking a button. But you might want to hold off on clicking that button if your opinion or thinking differs from the at-the-moment sentiment sweeping through your social network. To do otherwise, might bring the ire of your connections, and with it ostracism from the group. While it has never been easier to share online, it’s also never been harder to share things that differ from public sentiment or to not offer an opinion in the wake of emotionally charged eventsPeer pressure, which was once categorically regarded as a negative driver of drugs and deviant behavior, has morphed to a broader expression of social pressure in online spaces and is more aligned with maintaining group norms.

Source: What Do Those Temporary Facebook Profile Pictures Really Mean?

(Emphasis added in bold face text)

The above was written after the attacks in Paris but is just as relevant today after the ISIS-affiliated attack in Orlando, Florida.

Peer pressure is the same as the propaganda method of “Get on the bandwagon” (or don’t be left out or off the bandwagon).

Let us re-emphasize the last point:

Peer pressure, which was once categorically regarded as a negative driver of drugs and deviant behavior, has morphed to a broader expression of social pressure in online spaces and is more aligned with maintaining group norms.

Not having an opinion on social media is the same as having the wrong opinion! There is no escape! You must have an opinion to, among other things, signal your virtue and membership in your social media groups!

How System 1 Thinking controls our thoughts

TL; DR Summary

  • Many people insist their views are based on science and education (fact-based) but on many topics, they stick to their ideology or party/group think position.
  • In the chart below, especially in the “Climate change & Energy” category, the strongest factors in one’s views are ideology/group membership and age. Both political parties are likely to be “fact deniers”, contrary to the views they hold of themselves. (Indeed, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson emphasizes this point – left and right are both “science deniers”).
  • This leads to intuitive, quick, easy “System 1” analysis versus the time consuming, harder, rational thinking of “System 2”.
  • This illustrates the persuasive power of propaganda to influence opinion.


Source – Linda Regber


Thinking Fast and Slow author Kahneman, and creator of the “System 1 and System 2” thinking concept acknowledges that 11 of 12 studies cited in his chapter on “priming” were from weak studies. That chapter implied that “subtle cues in their environment can have strong effects on their behavior outside their awareness“. This does not mean his conclusions are wrong but that the evidence supporting his conclusions may be weak on the subject of “priming”. This acknowledgement is independent of the System 1/System 2 thinking style issues.