On Reading, Flocking and Voting
Dewey linked me to Neil which linked me to Science Daily and this article about how humans flock like sheep and birds.
And, by the way, today is the last day to donate at Dewey, so for the deep, abiding, passionate, head-over-heels, seventh-grade-drawing-hearts-on-notebooks, head-over-heels love of books, please go and do it. It’s the fifth year running, and so far this year’s drive has gotten 15,000 books to libraries that need them. How cool is that shit?
I was at my library yesterday, and seriously, they really are kind of magic. You go in and take whatever you want. It’s free. And you basically just bring them back when you’re done. Really, where else in life does it work like that? So please: go give. I did.
Anyway, back to sheep. It’s interesting that there’s a genetic predisposition, and not just a character weakness, to drive us to just sort of follow along. That’s usually considered a flaw – but if it’s innate…?
The article says all you need are five percent to direct the movement of a whole crowd. And I think the ways you could extrapolate this are pretty interesting.
Like, I wonder if there’s something that triggers this more strongly during teenage years. A survival thing, maybe. It would make sense. Before your brain finishes up on the prefrontal cortex, do you automatically get a push to follow the herd more, so you won’t go off and do as many stupid things by yourself? Are teenagers programmed to stick together to help themselves survive adolescence?
And if you go even further along bringing the idea from physical movement to strictly thought, what does this mean for the impact of social media on the presidential election? It’s safe to say that our “five percent” is not the same media authors that it used to be. (Mine’s completely different from the last election, anyway.) But this new five percent is a lot more scattered – less the one voice of reason and more a handful of chatterers.
The post-hoc analysis this election is will show how much effect social-media authors end up having. Until then, though, I don’t think anybody knows quite what’s going on. Who matters? How much? It’s nerve-racking, but at the same time, I like that it’s so game-changing. The pandering is not so automatic anymore – the candidates don’t always seem to know where to turn. Sort of democratizes things, if you will.
But does social medial go against our genetic sheep mentality? On the one hand, there are more opportunities to band together with people who think similarly. But on the other hand, there’s not as much of the Walter Cronkite mentality, where we all look to a trusted person for their opinion.
Do we want people to tell us what to do, and is it so uncomfortable to have to go out and find the details, that we’d rather not bother? I wondered when I read this memo released today by the Obama camp. How many people are actually going to read it – versus the ones who’d rather just hear a sound bite and watch an ad? I guess there’s no way to really tell for another eight months.