How do you manage the influence of minorities on social networks?

How do you manage the influence of minorities on social networks?

And he asked her, “What’s your name?

And he said unto him, My name is Legion, for we are many.

-Mark 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, minorities now have a new factor: they have no spatial or temporal limits. Previously, minorities suffered from limits of visibility; without the Internet it was strange to see people with different values and even less so, that they gathered as a solid group. But today, the high connectivity in which we live allows us to contemplate different value models . Thus, animalist, ecological and independence movements are inextinguishable voices of the social networks.

But how are these minority groups formed? One day you raise your voice and a minority is formed, and how does a minority impose itself on the regime of the majority? These questions have been the focus of attention in Group Psychology for decades, but now a new one is added: how does one manage a minority in social networks?

How are minorities formed?

We will start by answering the first of the questions: how they are 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 presents itself in society. Due to the low number of members that define it, a minority group must maintain the unity and coherence of the acts of its members. Likewise, it is also necessary to persist in its acts, in its manifestation to society. It could be summed up as “going all together”, maintaining two key consistencies:

    • Diachronic consistency : between the members.
    • Synchronous consistency : in time.
  • Heterogeneity . This factor is often not respected, but it is key to being accepted and validated by the majority. The fact of being constituted as a group that includes people with very different characteristics sends a clear message to society: “we are not motivated by the interest of a few”. It is crucial to show this message in order to avoid the disqualifications of the majority who, out of inertia, insist on maintaining their position. Referring to the movement of 15M , many of the arguments against it focused on transmitting that it was a particular movement of a sector of society.
  • Distinctiveness and appropriateness to context . These two variables mark a tension due to 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 extremes is delicate, but necessary to present the proposal as innovative but feasible, without posing impossible utopias.
  • Resistance to group pressure . Being a minority implies a deviation from the social norm. Like any element that goes beyond the established boundaries, 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 objective is to initiate a process of influence, the group must prepare itself for external group pressure.

How does the minority influence?

To understand how the minority influences it is necessary to understand that its 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: regulatory influence . The advantage of the majority is part of its own disadvantage: having a large number of members makes it difficult to achieve unanimity in the group, since it does not rain to everyone’s liking. Therefore, the functioning of the majority focuses on interpersonal treatment. It initiates processes of social comparison, observing what each one of its members values positively in order to promote proposals with which everyone feels identified. In this way, they try to avoid losing members, maintaining a positive public image, so they need to pay attention to what their members consider “positive”.
  • Minority: informative influence . By the very fact of being a minority, there are not many people who support the proposal. Therefore, the process of influence cannot be focused on interpersonal relationships, since if we go for numbers, the minority would lose out. In this case, the important thing is the treatment of information. The majority has to control what each of its members values positively, so what would happen if the minority’s alternative starts to be considered positive? That is the core, to manage the proposal so that it is true and possible; that it is evident to people without posing impossibilities.
  • Conversion process . It is characterized by indirect and latent changes. But on the street, the conversion is manifested in the gain of support, gaining members who accept the proposal. From this, the first consequence derives, a break in the unanimity of the majority. This fact develops in the form of a snowball effect, gradually increasing as 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. Members are beginning to question more and more the veracity of the proposal, because “those who think like me are beginning to accept it”.

In this way the minority progressively chooses to become a necessity in society. As 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 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 feeling of harmony and well-being .

How is this influence on social networks managed?

So far, we can understand how they work, but in the cyber age, we are constantly looking at different minorities. However, very few of the readers have been live in Tordesillas, or are inhabitants of Catalonia, to know the anti-bullfighting or independence movement in first person. However, they have not posed any barriers for minorities to try to exercise their influence; why?

  • Social stratification . In social networks the messages are distinguished by sources that vary in their degree of formality and legitimacy, with “majority” and “minority” corresponding to different social strata. A message published by a neighbour is not received in the same way as that of the president of the government. This is due to the fact that majorities, as the origin of social norms, are translated into legislation and laws; the voice of the majority is normalized and legitimized. This leaves minorities as the voice of ordinary people as a counterpart. Therefore, representing oneself as a minority implies presenting oneself as the voice of the people. I understand your proposal as a need that current politics -the majority- does not satisfy. It is appropriate to take into account both the level of content and the form of the messages: to mediate between formality/informality, since depending on which initiatives it will be convenient for them to be promoted by people with different technical/professional levels, depending on whether it is to support objectivity or to promote empathy. In this sense, the minority has objectives corresponding to the “voice of the people” and expresses itself in the “language of the people”. It must be taken into account that the thinking of the minority is “we are not them, but we want to reach them”.
  • Objectivity . The above premise conflicts with the informative treatment of minorities. Let us bear in mind that in social networks there is no spatial-temporal context, that is, messages can be sent/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 in their skin, and what is more, the aim is to make them participants in that reality. Because of this, presenting oneself as “the voice of the people” can be a source of one’s own disqualification, as it can be very subjective. In other words, if it is implied that the proposal is given by the neighbour, we all know that the neighbour can be wrong and that this is his opinion, one of many. That is why it is necessary to provide objective evidence, to show that what the minority believes is not a fact that is being invented, but that its opinion has a true basis. It must be established 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. For this reason, it is important to stress how to manage information and how to transmit ideals. With regard to temporality, the publication of several messages in a short period of time causes a noise and overload effect: the information overlaps one on top of the other and collapses people, like a murmur from which nothing clear is taken. The same happens with quantity, an excess can serve to emphasize specific premises, but one can also fall into the impression of not contributing anything new and being repetitive. Concise information, clear premises, objectifiable data and goal-oriented messages, being constant and consistent with the alternative ideals of the minority.

Some conclusions

With the above description of the process, we can understand how, little by little, minorities strive to gain social legitimacy, make the majority see the need to include them in their discourse and thus open up avenues for negotiation. It is then when it will be necessary to modulate the forces and pressures of both sides, to reach a common agreement that tunes both extremes.

  • Social stratification . In social networks the messages are distinguished by sources that vary in their degree of formality and legitimacy, with “majority” and “minority” corresponding to different social strata. A message published by a neighbour is not received in the same way as that of the president of the government. This is due to the fact that majorities, as the origin of social norms, are translated into legislation and laws; the voice of the majority is normalized and legitimized.
    This leaves minorities as the voice of ordinary people as a counterpart.
    Therefore, representing oneself as a minority implies presenting oneself as the voice of the people. I understand your proposal as a need that current politics -the majority- does not satisfy. It is appropriate to take into account both the level of content and the form of the messages: to mediate between formality/informality, since depending on which initiatives it will be convenient for them to be promoted by people with different technical/professional levels, depending on whether it is to support objectivity or to promote empathy.
    In this sense, the minority has objectives corresponding to the “voice of the people” and expresses itself in the “language of the people”.
    It must be taken into account that the thinking of the minority is “we are not them, but we want to reach them”.
    • Objectivity .
      The above premise conflicts with the informative treatment of minorities.
      Let us bear in mind that in social networks there is no spatial-temporal context, that is, messages can be sent/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 in their skin, and what is more, the aim is to make them participants in that reality. Because of this, presenting oneself as “the voice of the people” can be a source of one’s own disqualification, as it can be very subjective.
      In other words, if it is implied that the proposal is given by the neighbour, we all know that the neighbour can be wrong and that this is his opinion, one of many.
      That is why it is necessary to provide objective evidence, to show that what the minority believes is not a fact that is being invented, but that its opinion has a true basis. It must be established that the proposal is not an opinion, but its background reality.

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