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Gravity is a Bad Filter

image by eric skiff, flikr / used under creative commons 2.0 license

image by eric skiff, flikr / used under creative commons 2.0 license

(NOTE: I originally wrote this in August of 2009. I found it while looking through content on this site in preparation for another online move, to crossroads-team.com. I made only a few edits and have re-posted it. A decade later, still very, very true. — Mandy)

Social media allows good ideas to quickly surface. It also allows – encourages, even – idiocy to surface & spread. Launch a bad idea in a meeting and it will hang out there for a moment and then fall to the floor, with the other chaff, due to lack of support.

No one asks you about it, talks to the boss about it, tells their buddies about it… You hear crickets.

In social media, so often it is the bad ideas that get talked about the most. They are shared & discussed… The opposite of what happens in the real world.

Some people attribute the spread of bad ideas to the anonymity offered by the Internet. While I think anonymity contributes to the speed of disdain, of thoughtlessness and the abundance of simple idiocy easily findable online, I think the reason bad ideas spread quickly is different.  

Essentially, in offline sharing (our meeting example), gravity works as a filter… Good stuff rises, usually, because it takes effort to raise and support it. No one invests the effort of speaking in support, challenging those who disagree — in person — into things, people, or ideas they think are doomed to failure. Or, at least, they don’t invest that kind of effort for very long.

But online, gravity isn’t a good filter for ideas… It’s nearly effortless to retweet a link to something bad with a (LOL) or (what were they thinking?) addition. Since online gravity doesn’t pull at us with the same weight, we are more willing to fight it to spread, defend, etc. bad ideas. 

The dangers of living too long in a low-gravity environment has been proven by astronauts… Muscles atrophy, bones weaken. Don’t let the weak gravity of an online environment atrophy your mental muscle or your support system. 

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One Response to “Gravity is a Bad Filter”

  1. alvin August 21, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    Good point. My wife works for cafemom.com and tells me stories everyday that backs up the points you make in this blog entry.

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