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Unconventional Ideas Gain Popularity on Social Media, Binghamton University Study Shows

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A recent study from Binghamton University in New York has discovered that on social media, the more unusual an idea is, the more likes it tends to get. This study looks at a variety of topics, not just the typical issues like politics or religion.

It even included everyday choices like food or lifestyle, showing that any subject can become polarizing online.

The research team used two main methods to gather their data. First, they set up online experiments at a U.S. university with students. These students participated in tasks designed to mimic activities on social media platforms similar to Twitter. They worked on creative projects like writing marketing taglines for laptops and crafting short stories, both of which required different levels of collaboration. This controlled setting allowed the researchers to observe how ideas were shared and received within a specific group.

The second method involved analyzing posts from GAB, a social media site known for its far-right user base, using data from 2016 to 2021. This part of the study looked at around 147,000 posts from about 3,000 users. The researchers cleaned up the text from these posts and used a technique called Doc2Vec to study the content in depth. They were looking for ideas that stood out as different from the norm within that community.

In both the university experiments and the GAB analysis, the results were consistent: the more an idea strayed from what was common in that group, the more engagement it received. On GAB, this was particularly evident, where the most liked posts were those that were farthest from the average discussions on the platform.

The study’s findings indicate that on social media, sharing more distinctive or radical opinions can make a person more popular. This trend could lead people to gradually shift their views to become more extreme over time. As these views get more attention and likes, they begin to seem more normal to the community, potentially leading to a cycle of increasingly extreme content.

This research highlights the need for more studies on how these dynamics develop and what might be done to address the negative effects they could have on society. The study was a comprehensive effort to understand how the desire for social acceptance and influence could drive people to adopt and express more radical opinions online.

Image: DIW-Aigen

Read next: Most AI Systems Have Become Experts At Deceiving Humans, New Research Proves
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