Is Social Media Killing Ability to Think Critically and Independently?

Groupthink on online platforms | IN 60 SECONDS
Groupthink on online platforms | IN 60 SECONDS

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Tumblr can promote groupthink, and Silicon Valley companies might even perpetuate groupthink withi...


Initially, things started out good. People connected with long lost pals, family found ways to send out group alerts to cousins and aunts and uncles. Dogs and cats being adorable abounded.

But over time we've seen an increase in social isolation, hostility among people with different opinions, and fake news.

Social media platforms have had the effect of creating echo chambers, realities in which people generally see the things they already agree with, and little of what they oppose.

The result is "groupthink," a situation in which the group makes decisions and judgments rather than individuals; it is a mob mentality that destroys creativity and individual responsibility.

Communications professor Roslyn Layton says companies that run these platforms have fallen into a similar pattern in their company culture and employee management. Google fired James Damore for advancing what was called "harmful gender stereotypes." Facebook too had an ouster of employees who disagree with popular media memes, and has been trying to create adversity among its own advertisers.

What is the solution? Some suggest limitations to the First Amendment and regulations of these tech giants. Layton suggests that's not right.

The First Amendment states that 'Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.' But for years, regulators have been exacerbating the problem with policies such as Title II Net Neutrality, which concentrates power with online platforms.

Instead, says Layton, liberation of the Internet will allow new ideas to flourish.

To create a marketplace of ideas online, regulators should remove the barriers to entry which limit the ability of other companies to compete in the online advertising space. If forced to compete for ad dollars, Silicon Valley would have less incentive to placate its own bias and the market will have more meaningful platforms for different kinds of speech.

This is a part of why TPOH moved to The Maven. We want to be able to share ideas with people freely, without being subjected to the groupthink approach that has come to define other social media platforms. It is only when people are exposed to the marketplace of ideas, and are able to freely and respectfully talk with each other, even when they have strong disagreements, that we will find workable solutions to make our communities better places to live.

Comments (4)
No. 1-4

@sconnell1791 I don't know if that's true - how hard it is to enforce community standards? The problem is what is considered a violation. FB is doing a hella job shutting down people who disagree with its executive suite, even if it's not a misuse of the platform. Then there's the whole free speech issue. Aren't these spaces designed for robust exercise of speech? Granted, with freedom comes responsibility, which is lost on so many! That's why I'm here, having conversations with strangers, rather than on FB. I'm hoping we can communicate without shutting down dissent with a lousy accusation, meme, or insult!


There's something to be said about people in life who addict to having their meaninglessly strung together small mouth noises (ego burps?) seeking any form of attention aside from actually thinking. Thier just special; and mostly harmless. Not so much on social media. It's very easy to detect someone who encourages and enjoys thinking critically; being wrong a mere side effect of intelligent conversation vs. provocateurs who if one looks for, as I enjoy doing in good groups with great thinkers, seem to have an agenda. Some are actually just webots quite honestly!It can get weird though. As on FB, hurting someone's feelings when they are blatantly ignorant about topics and get hateful the second you point it out very clearly to them. Sometimes getting others involved conveniently fast in a mob scene of total hate against you. Clearly violating guidelines to prevent such things but not enforced, and quite fishy I must say.