Social media has become an undeniable force that both shapes and reflects our society. Once known as “social networking,” the technology that once existed for the purpose of connecting us, quickly earned its “media” moniker as it became the preferred destination for entertainment and news. For many, this duality is a gift and a curse.
On one hand, reaching others has never been easier. When we have something to say, we can make our message known and immediately engage in dialogue. On the other hand, however, social media is home to a lot of noise. Which voices are actually heard? More importantly, how is our reality shaped by those voices?
And therein lies the problem.
Today, only 1% of social media users generate 90% of the content on social media.
From viral clickbait posts to mainstream news headlines, the “vocal minority” is writing our reality. And the dominant narrative usually isn’t the most positive, honest, or even the most balanced; it’s the most sensational.
Because we never hear from the other 99%, a distorted reality presents- and this is the true danger of social media.
The good news is, we aren’t bystanders, limited to ongoing harmful consumption. We can take control of our feeds and edit what we consume. But more importantly- we can activate our voices and be heard amid the noise. We can initiate and join in dialogue that changes narratives through the development of our own positive content.
As social media firmly roots itself in our hybrid reality, alternative participation is emerging, and those of us willing to be part of the solution will be at the forefront of the next major shift in media: thought leadership. Here’s why.
There are a few great magnifiers in life: marriage, money, and fame, to name a few. These “magnifiers,” by virtue, do not fundamentally change us. They make us more of whatever we already are.
Social media has a similar effect. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make us worse, but it does reflect plenty of truths about us. It provides a stage for our authentic selves to be heard. Our real thoughts, ideas, and passions can be on display for the masses in just a few clicks. This kind of access can be empowering, but it also has a major pitfall.
Algorithms love attention. The most provocative and polarizing posts are pushed the most because they get users engaged. As long as sensational content continues driving user behavior, the algorithm will continue prioritizing accordingly. This is how those voices with extreme views, commonly referred to as the “vocal minority,” are amplified. These folks might be unhinged or just plain loud, but they sure know how to grab attention- giving them an outsized influence on public discourse.
This is where things get complicated. Traditional media outlets often rely on social media trends and high-engagement pieces for their reporting. They may present this information as if it represents the majority opinion, or even the objective truth. Left unchecked, this can lead to a distorted perception of reality.
As the vocal minority continues adding fuel to the fire, news headlines look less and less like the world outside our windows. Fear-mongering reports of outrage and impending chaos keep the level-headed majority on edge. By the time we realize the dominant narrative isn’t quite aligned with the truth, the media is riding a new wave of turbulence.
This phenomenon erodes the credibility of traditional media and perpetuates a cycle of sensationalism. However, this doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and resign ourselves to skepticism; just the opposite. It’s a call to action.
Let’s face it: what you see on social media isn’t always an accurate reflection of the real world. For example, social media-- and, by extension, traditional media-- may depict a society deeply divided. (This is especially true during election cycles.) Real-life interactions, on the other hand, may reveal a far more nuanced and collaborative landscape than we have been led to believe.
We’ve been tasked with a responsibility- and a privilege- to leverage our voices for good. None of us asked for it, but here we are. By actively seeking diverse perspectives and engaging in meaningful conversations both online and offline, we can bridge the reality gap and gain a more accurate understanding of the world and the people in it.
With this clearer understanding, we’re equipped to navigate the modern rules of media-- and break them. A new era of media is emerging, and we have a unique opportunity to define it.
The decline of media credibility has paved the way for thought leadership to emerge as a powerful alternative. Thought leaders, with their authentic and nuanced voices, challenge prevailing narratives and offer fresh perspectives. They inspire us to think critically, engage in constructive dialogue, and question the status quo.
Thought leaders are more necessary than ever to counteract the sensationalism of the vocal minority. If you aspire to become a thought leader in your own right, there are several proactive steps you can take:
In a digitally connected world, we have an opportunity to reclaim the narrative and shape the discourse. By understanding the influence of the vocal minority and actively engaging in thought leadership, we can promote a culture of creativity, reasoned discussion, and inspiration. And this can have a positive impact on our mental health, increasing feelings of connectedness and happiness.
Our platform, The Daily Drip, is exclusively dedicated to this mission and Thought Leadership. Through the development of thought leaders within our community, from all walks of life, with various backgrounds and expertise, we are striving to disrupt the vocal minority.
If you want to develop these skills, activate your voice, and become the thought leader that you are, alongside a community of local businesswomen with shared values, join one of our next Info Sessions to learn more about The Daily Drip Thought Leadership Program!