All Mobs Are Self-Selected
All mobs are self selected 1 – 2Mobs bully/attack other people3 but they do so because people have gathered strength from finding other people thinking/feeling just like they do. I think the Internet and all the social media tools4 makes it really easy to surround yourself with the echo-chamber, or a self-selected mob, and then it becomes much easier to start doing dumb things while still feeling like your ideas/actions have been vetted and approved by an unbiased crowd.
I’ll also say that the Internet and social media allow you to do the opposite. That is you can surround yourself with vastly different ideas and people from very different backgrounds that will challenge your thoughts and ideas and help keep you from doing or continuing to believe stupid/wrong things.
I think far more people do the former. It’s human nature. I try to fight it in two ways. One, I try to get lots of ideas from outside what I do. I try to broaden where my information comes from and both the kind of information and the view points on information that I’m exposed to.. Two, I try to find people who make me just a little bit mad when I read them but mad in a way that makes me think. It’s easy to find people that make you mad but who you feel are idiots. That’s an echo chamber as well, just built of different stuff.
The way information flows on the Internet often results in people reacting quickly without thinking too deeply5. That reaction spreads quickly and can result in a lot of misguided action. I’d say that Twitter can certainly spread this kind of mob think because it’s designed for speed and the space restrictions result in complex messages being over-compressed which further encourages the polarization of the reaction.
1 and mobs often do very stupid things based on emotion
2 This post was inspired by some comments at the Edupunk panel at SXSW, which while disastrous as a whole, did have some good pieces. Granted, you had to look very, very hard.
3 or burn down building etc. but we’re talking Internet “mobs” here
4 from twitter to blogs
5 There are lots of reasons for and examples of that