Rampant Extremism In Communities

May 1, 2014Comments Off on Rampant Extremism In Communities

Robin Hanson makes an observation we can easily extrapolate to communities:

"I see these tendencies in opinions:

    • Those with more opinions on some topic categories have more on other categories.
    • Those with more opinions overall have more extreme opinions on each topic.
    • Those with more extreme opinions on some topics have more extreme opinions on others.
    • Those with more extreme opinions are more eager to express their opinions, and vice versa.
    • Those with more extreme opinions are more eager to join groups and attend their meetings."

This reflects what many of us see in communities.

  • The people that participate the most are also those most passionate about the topic.
  • The people that are most passionate about the topic are also those that hold the most extreme opinions (divergent from the distributed middle).
  • To embrace the group identity, new members adopt more extreme views than those they held when they joined the community.
  • This pushes the most vocal to be more extreme to retain their unique status.
  • The community becomes increasingly divergent from norms and (often) distanced from reality. 

If you had asked me in 1999, I would've told you eSports (playing video games competitively) would be more popular than traditional sports by now.

That's quite an extreme opinion.

Many social professionals will tell you every company must be social, join the conversation, interact with their audience online…or they will die. 

This is quite an extreme opinion. 

The same is true for opinions on mobile, wearable technology, or almost any topic when a group of like-minded people get together in a community. They see the opinions most people hold and begin to adopt those opinions. 

Sometimes extreme opinions show remarkable foresight. In practice, this is rare. It's more likely that the opinions become too extreme that prospective members reject the group identity. 

You need to be the objective voice of reason. You need to be the anchor of reality in this group. You need to highlight potential reasons why extreme opinions might not be valid. Once you provide contrary opinions, others are likely to follow. This helps keeps the community grounded.

I think we can all agree that would be a good thing. 

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