How is the influence of minorities managed in social networks?
And he asked: What's your name?
And he said: My name is Legion, because we are many.
-Marks 5: 9
In society there have always been different ways of understanding the world, despite the fact that the option of the majority imposes the social norm of the moment . However, there have been historical contexts in which these small movements have managed to influence and change the course, such as the feminist or sexual revolution. It is the process of influence of minorities .
However, currently minorities have a new factor: they have no space-time limits. Previously, minorities suffered limits of visibility; without internet, it was strange to see people with different values and even less, that they should come together in a solid group. But today, the high connectivity in which we live allows us to contemplate different value models . This is how animalist, environmentalist and pro-independence movements are inextinguishable voices of social networks.
But How are these minority groups formed? Does one day raise your voice and form a minority? And how does a minority impose itself on the majority regime? These issues have been the focus of attention in the Psychology of the Groups for decades, but now a new one is added: how is a minority managed in social networks?
How are minorities formed?
We will begin by answering the first of the questions: how are they formed . To start the process of influence, Every minority group must start from a base structure with specific characteristics, which we will summarize as (Doms and Moscovici, 1984, Levine and Russo, 1987):
- Consistency . One of the most relevant features is how the group is presented in society. Due to the low number of members that define it, a minority group must maintain the union and coherence of the acts of its members. Likewise, persistence in their acts, in their manifestation to society is also necessary. It could be summarized as "going all to one", maintaining two key consistencies:
- Diachronic consistency: between the members.
- Synchronous consistency: in the time.
- Heterogeneity . This factor is often not respected, but it is key to be accepted and validated by the majority. The fact of constituting itself as a group that includes people with very different traits sends a clear message to society: "the interest of a few does not motivate us". It is crucial to show this message to avoid the disqualifications of the majority who, by inertia, insist on maintaining their position. Referring to 15M movement, many of the arguments against him focused on transmitting that it was a particular movement of a sector of society.
- Distinction and adaptation to the context . These two variables mark a tension because of the duality they present. On the one hand, the minority group must represent an alternative to the model proposed by the majority, and on the other hand it must be a proposal that is coherent and appropriate to the conditions of the moment. Not getting lost between both ends is delicate, but necessary to present the proposal as innovative but feasible, without posing impossible utopian.
- Resistance to group pressure . Being a minority implies a deviation from the social norm. Like any element that goes beyond established borders, it will suffer from forces that try to return to the normativity of the moment as a movement of homeostasis, back to the initial equilibrium. Therefore, if the goal is to initiate a process of influence, the group must prepare for external group pressure.
How does the minority influence?
To understand how the minority influences it is necessary to understand that their functioning is different from that of the majority, developing different processes of influence (Moscovici and Personnaz, 1980). These different forms of management are those that initiate a process of influence by conversion (Pérez, 1994).
- Majority: normative influence . The advantage of the majority is part of its own disadvantage: having a large number of members hinders the unanimity of the group, since it does not rain to everyone's taste. Therefore, the operation of the majority focuses on interpersonal treatment. Initiates processes of social comparison, observing what each of its members positively values to promote proposals with which everyone feels identified. Try to avoid losing members, maintaining a positive public image, so they need to address what they consider "positive" its members.
- Minority: informative influence . For the very fact of being a minority, you do not have the support of many people who support the proposal.Therefore, the process of influence can not focus on interpersonal treatment, because if we go for numbers, the minority would lose. In this case, the important thing is the treatment of the information. The majority has to control what each of their members positively values, so what would happen if the minority's alternative begins to be considered positive? Here is the core, manage the proposal so that it is true and possible; Make it obvious to people without posing impossible.
- Conversion process . It is characterized by provoking indirect and latent changes. But at street level, the conversion is manifested in the gain of support, win members who accept the proposal. From this derives the first consequence, a rupture of the unanimity of the majority. This fact develops in the form of a snowball effect, gradually increasing since the loss of members of the majority shows deficits in its internal consistency. That is, as the minority receives more support, it becomes clear that the majority is not as consistent, and that part of it accepts and supports the alternative. The members begin to question more and more the veracity of the proposal, because "those who think like me begin to accept it".
In this way, the minority opts progressively to become a necessity in society. While movements such as animalism or environmentalism are associated with positive traits, people tend to develop a need to include them in our daily lives. If the concern for animals or the ecosystem is well seen in society, each person wants to be accepted by society, so including these values is adaptive and causes a sense of harmony and well-being. .
How is this influence managed in social networks?
So far, we can understand how they work, but in the cybernetic era, we constantly observe different minorities. But nevertheless, very few of the readers have been live in Tordesillas, or are inhabitants of Catalonia, as if to know the anti-bullfighting or independence movement in first person. However, they have not created barriers for minorities to try to exert their influence; why?
- Social stratification . In social networks, messages are distinguished by sources that vary the degree of formality and legitimacy, with "majority" and minority "corresponding to different social strata. The message published by a neighbor is not received in the same way as that of the president of the government. This is because the majorities, because they are the origin of the social norm, are translated into laws and laws; the voice of the majority is normalized and legitimized. This fact leaves minorities as the voice of ordinary people as a counterpart. Therefore, to represent oneself as a minority implies presenting oneself as the voice of the people, I understand their proposal as a need that the current policy -majority- does not satisfy. It is appropriate to take into account both the level of content and the form of the messages: mediate between formality / informality since according to what initiatives it will be convenient for them to be promoted by people with different technical / professional levels, depending on whether it is in support of objectivity or promote empathy. In this sense, the minority has some objectives corresponding to the "vos del pueblo" and expresses itself in the "people's language". It must be kept in mind that the minority's thinking is "we are not them, but we want to reach them".
- Objectivity . The previous premise conflicts with the informative treatment of minorities. Bear in mind that in social networks there is no spatio-temporal context, that is, messages can be issued / received regardless of geography and time. Therefore, attention should be paid to the fact that a reality can be made known to people who do not live it on their skin, and what is more, the objective is to make them share in that reality. Because of this, presenting oneself as "the voice of the people" can be the source of one's own disqualification, since it can be very subjective. In other words, if it is understood that the proposal is given by the neighbor, we all know that the neighbor can be wrong and that this is his opinion, one of many. This is how it is necessary to give objective evidence, to show that what the minority believes is not a fact that is being invented, but that their opinion has a true foundation. Establish that the proposal is not an opinion, but its background reality.
- Management as Mass Media . Let's not forget that social networks are a means of communication. Therefore, it is relevant to influence how to manage information, how to retransmit ideals. On the temporality, the publication of several messages in a short period of time causes an effect of noise and overload: the information overlaps one another and collapses people, like a murmur from which nothing is clear. The same happens with the quantity, an excess can serve to highlight some concrete premises, but one can also fall into the impression of not contributing anything new and being repetitive.Concise information, clear premises, objective data and messages focused on the objectives, being constant and consistent with the alternative ideals of the minority.
With the above description of the process, we can understand how, little by little, minorities strive to gain social legitimacy, to make the majority see the need to include them in their discourse and thus open negotiation paths. It is then when it will be necessary to modulate the forces and pressures of both sides, to reach a common agreement and to tune in both extremes.
However, the networks mark a new framework in which these processes of influence must adapt . Not only to achieve their own goals, but to promote communicative health on the Internet and not promote it as a means of decomposition. The debate about the correct management in the networks is open; Is the Catalan independence movement a movement of the people or is it translated into a political proposal? Where are the reins of the independence movement, in the citizens or in politicians? In Tordesillas who were attacked, lancers or animalists? The thematic center was the aggression to the animal or to its defenders? To constitute itself as an attribute of social tribes favors the objectives of environmentalism and vegetarianism? Is the vegetable dish photographed by followers or by contribution to the ecosystem?
- Doms, M. and Moscovici, S. (1984). Innovation and influence of minorities, in S. Moscovici (ed.): Social Psychology I: Influence and change of attitudes. Individuals and groups Barcelona: Paidós, 1985.
- Levine, J. M. and Russo, E. M. (1987). Majority and minority influence, in C. Hendrick (ed.): Review of Personality and Social Psychology: Group Processes, Vol. 8, Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Mosovici, S. and Personnaz, B. (1980). Studies in social influence V: Minority influence and conversion behavior in a perceptual task, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 270-282.
- Pérez, J. A. (1994). The social influence, in J. F. Morales (coord.): Social Psychology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.