Be Careful Of The Popularity Fallacy

Popularity Fallacy

How often are you presented with some message about how popular a product or service is, in order to make you feel as though you are missing out by not purchasing it or using it or taking part?  This is done all over the place, from in politics, to on sites, to on television, to anywhere where persuasion has a place, and some areas where it doesn’t.  Here I discuss what you want to watch for and how to protect yourself from getting manipulated:

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Blue Is Blue And Green Is Green

If I try to convince you that something that is blue is actually green, you will think I am a moron.  If I try to convince you that something that is green is actually blue, you will continue to think that about me.

This doesn’t change if I have 200000 people supporting my contradictions.  Yet, all over the place, an effort is made to do something like this.  I have also done this at times.

A politician who happens to not have a solid sense of economic policy, who presents a plan that is not sustainable or realistic, and who happens to have some hundreds of thousands supporting him, still has a plan that is not sustainable or realistic.

A writer who is providing information that is not useful or compelling or based on valid examples or past knowledge, but who has many readers, can use that readership to try to steamroll certain ideas through, or to try to confirm their presence.  You have to be watchful of this.  Also, quality tends to diminish with greater support because it is often the case that a big ego starts to build from that greater support, and so lower quality output is tested to see if it is good enough to keep the cycle going.

Look At What You Are Getting

Going from a sites example, if one site with 300000 subscribed readers has a piece that has a line saying to eat fish every 3 days for good health, and another site with 10 subscribed readers says the exact same thing, it’s not like you are getting more value from the more popular site.  Popularity only has an effect on those who allow themselves to be swayed by it.

This also relates to celebrities.  What are you getting when you are sitting next to a celebrity?  Any value is only residual value about telling your friends that you met them or showing a picture of the time.  They get large amounts of money for showing up at a nightclub or other location, and they leave just as quickly.

If you are getting a certain item from an interaction or purchase, make sure you know what it is.  You are not getting the 300000 subscribers when you read an article from a site with that many, and are not getting celebrity status by shaking hands with a celebrity of some type.  It is an ephemeral transaction and the value you get is rooted in the foundation components, like guidance you get, or enthusiasm that is passed on.  Look for what matters and disregard manipulative tactics.

If something is popular, it is more likely to go south than to increase in value and popularity.  The difficulty of maintaining popularity is that human nature is directed towards getting used to what has been acquired and starting to expect good to come on its own.