Byrony Gordon of the Telegraph wrote in frustration this week about how social media is turning us into idiots. She chronicles several tweets and trends across social media in the aftermath of the attacks on Paris as evidence that, “…social media hasn’t just turned people stupid – it has also turned whole organisations into unthinking idiots whose knee jerk reaction in such situations is not to uncover the truth but get hits.” Gordon’s proclamation flies directly in the face of James Surowiecki’s notion of the scientifically-based “wisdom of crowds.”

Surowiecki draws upon science-based analysis drawn from research on the Central Limits Theorem, which explains how large probability samples produce great estimates of phenomena in the real world. Gordon’s analysis draws conclusions from a far less systematically drawn sample. Her sample suggests that people feel less safe after the recent attacks in Paris, despite the reality that attacks like these have been happening around the world for a long time. Her analysis highlights specific examples of idiocy among the world of tweets and wall posts, such as the claim that the Eiffel Tower went dark for the first time since 1889 (a preposterous claim, for sure) and the massive number of “lemmings” who liked and retweeted the claim.

Read the remainder of Alan’s piece at Social Media Today.


Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. is Sr. VP of Digital Strategy at turner4D and a 20+ year veteran of digital politics.  He writes every other Tuesday for Social Media Today, where this post originally appeared.

Photo from