Groupthink or the hive mind is a well-known psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people. The inherent desire for conformity and harmony, all of us carry within ourselves, results in irrational decision making. It spreads over the collective consciousness of any given group, like cancer, and divorces it from any and all critical evaluation, while suppressing alternative viewpoints.

Internet groupthink

#internet forums, social media and similar discussion websites are the perfect platforms for the development of group think. Business researchers, led by Lev Muchnik at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted an experiment, titled: "Social Influence Bias: A Randomized Experiment" the results of which were published in the scientific journal Science.

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Conclusion? Groupthink plays a surprisingly significant role in #Online Communities.

The researchers used a website "very similar to Reddit" and made a deal with its owners to allow them to slightly manipulate the voting system. As Popular Mechanics reports, 4% of the comments were given a single upvote and 2% of them were given a single downvote. This is what happened: the upvoted comments would receive a significant boost of up to 25% in its final score.

Co-author of the paper, researcher Sinan Aral said: "It was quite dramatic. I was surprised to find that a single positive vote could create such a huge snowball effect."

Keep in mind, we are talking about a single upvote. A single click of the mouse.

Abusing the hive mind

Governments and corporations are hiring people skilled in psychological manipulation to abuse the hive mind - this is called astroturfing and governments spend millions on what they call cyber warfare. Reddit is an easy target and it has been heavily manipulated and toyed around with.

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The hive mind can be abused quite easily and you don't even have to be a skilled government shill. Reddit upvotes can be bought in countless places all over the web - just put the right keywords into Google's search bar and see for yourself. If a single upvote can influence the collective consciousness of an online community, imagine what a few hundred of them could do?

A small boost is all that it takes. Leave the rest to the hive mind. We do not spread, upvote, repost and retweet what we think is valuable, we share what's already been shared and upvote what's already been upvoted. Quality doesn't matter. Conformity does.