Tumble, Tweet, Like . . . Baa?


“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

According to a recent article by Discovery News, positive comments or “likes” on a post or status update encourages a sheep-like mentality for today’s internet users. Simply said, if someone “likes” a post, others are increasingly prone to “like” the post as well, according to a new study done by Sinan Aral, a managerial economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We’ve all seen those posts on Facebook with hundreds upon thousands of “likes” and comments. Here’s one that has been making the rounds on my own Facebook Newsfeed:


While this picture merely represents one of the many innocent stories posted and liked by thousands of people, companies may be starting to seize our propensity to “join the crowd” for their own gain, when it comes to online activity.

Think about it: online reviews are everywhere. We use them to judge whether a new electronic will fit our needs, if a new restaurant has a delicious menu, or if the hospitality of a vacation destination fits our standards.

According to Aral, companies could be taking advantage of our sheep-like mentality by adding their own positive reviews and “likes” on products in order to encourage others to buy their goods or services. “Think twice before you trust how many likes something has,” Aral suggests. “That’s something you have to interpret with a grain of salt.”

It can be argued that our human tendency to follow (hello, Twitter!) is as ingrained in our human psyche as our knowledge of riding a bicycle. We first follow our parents, then our school-aged friends, then members of the online community throughout the world. We can’t stop. We want to be part of a global network, and sometimes that means we want things just because others like them.

Companies are in on the secret of our psychology, and some are using that knowledge to lead the sheeple (nudge, nudge – get it?) of the world to buy their products. After all . . . everyone is buying their product. Why shouldn’t you?

While it’s difficult (well, sometimes impossible) to distinguish between a real or fake review or to decide whether that fashion blogger is wearing sponsored products or ones she genuinely loves, there is a lesson to be learned, and it’s one we’ve learned long ago:

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”   – George S. Patton


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