People have always been influenced by the people around them, and this has been true throughout history. Since the beginning of human civilization, we have been social creatures who look for ways to connect with others and form communities with those who have similar worldviews, priorities, and passions as ourselves. What takes place, however, when these beliefs, values, and interests become contagious and spread from one person to the next like a virus? This phenomenon of social contagion, which has had a significant impact on human psychology and culture throughout history.
The primary characteristic of social contagion is the dissemination of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings across social networks. This can take place in a variety of ways, including the propagation of rumors and gossip as well as the adoption of emerging fashions, trends, and cultural practices. There are circumstances in which social contagion can have a beneficial impact, such as when it leads to the dissemination of ideas that advocate for social change and human rights. In other circumstances, it may have unintended consequences, such as the proliferation of ideologies that foster bigotry and discrimination.
The Protestant Reformation is arguably one of the most well-known cases of social contagion that ever occurred in human history. Martin Luther, a German monk, was disillusioned with the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church in the early 16th century. This led to the Protestant Reformation. He started speaking out against the corruption that was taking place within the Church and began advocating for a faith that was more personal and individualized. His writings were able to be published more quickly as a result of the invention of the printing press, which contributed to the rapid dissemination of his ideas throughout Europe.
Within a few decades, Luther's ideas had sparked a massive movement that had the effect of completely altering the religious landscape of Europe. The dominance of the Catholic Church was challenged by the emergence of new Protestant denominations, which in turn sparked religious conflict and wars that lasted for centuries. The Protestant Reformation is a prime example of how the ideas of a single person can rapidly spread through a social network, which can ultimately result in significant social and cultural shifts.
The spread of fascism across Europe in the early 20th century is yet another instance of social contagion that can be found in historical records. Following World War I, a large number of Europeans experienced a profound sense of disillusionment with democracy as well as the political establishment. These discontents were exploited by fascist leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who promoted a vision of a strong, authoritarian state that promised to restore order and national pride.
Their message was quickly disseminated across social networks at the same time that fascist movements were gaining traction all over Europe. The end result was disastrous, with fascist regimes being responsible for some of the worst atrocities in human history, including both World War II and the Holocaust. The
rise of fascism is a prime example of how the propagation of destructive ideas and feelings can have extremely negative repercussions.
Another illustration of this can be seen in the propagation of socialism and communism at the turn of the 20th century. These concepts quickly rose to prominence all over the world, including in China and the Soviet Union, among other places. In 1917, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was led at the time by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the existing government and established the world's first communist state. After a protracted period of internal conflict, 1949 saw the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party, which was led by Mao Zedong.
A socially contagious disease was responsible for the propagation of both socialism and communism in these countries. These concepts were disseminated throughout society via various social networks, such as educational institutions, labor unions, and political organizations. People were drawn to the concept of a society devoid of social classes, in which everyone would have access to the same opportunities and resources. Many people, particularly those who were having trouble making ends meet, found that the promises made by socialism and communism were appealing.
The actualization of these concepts, on the other hand, resulted in extremely undesirable outcomes. In the former Soviet Union, the implementation of communism was ultimately responsible for the deaths of millions of people as it led to widespread starvation, purges, and other forms of political repression. The policies of collectivization that were implemented in the Soviet Union resulted in widespread starvation, and the use of the secret police by the government to hunt down political dissidents resulted in the deaths of millions of people.
In a similar vein, the adoption of communism in China resulted in the Great Leap Forward, a disastrous economic and social campaign that led to a famine that claimed the lives of tens of millions of people. The Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong was responsible for the deaths of millions of people, as well as widespread acts of violence and persecution.
An example of how social contagion can have devastating effects is seen in the spread of communism and socialism in China and the Soviet Union. It is essential to acknowledge that the propagation of ideas and beliefs can have far-reaching effects, and that we need to give careful consideration to the ideas that we adopt and promote in order to avoid unintended consequences.
In recent years, the widely used social media platform TikTok has evolved into a center for the spread of social contagion, which has had repercussions for the current state of the culture. Because it is driven by an algorithm, the app's content recommendation system has made it much simpler than ever before for users to become aware of new patterns, behaviors, and challenges. This has resulted in a rapid spread of specific ideas and behaviors among users, which can have both positive and negative consequences depending on the context.
On the bright side, TikTok has served as a platform for the formation of a community during the quarantine, and users are able to teach others new skills through the sharing of their own. Nevertheless, TikTok has also come under fire for the negative social contagion that it has made possible. Some of the challenges and trends that can be found on the app can be dangerous. One example of this is the "Skull Breaker Challenge," which resulted in participants suffering serious injuries. In addition, some users have reported feeling pressured to conform to particular beauty standards or engage in risky behaviors in order to gain popularity on the app. This feeling has been attributed to the competition that exists between users for popularity. In addition, certain false information and propaganda propagates very quickly throughout the app (because I don't want to get too political or controversial here, I won't give specific examples).
Concerns have been raised by both parents and teachers regarding the influence that TikTok has had on today's youth. The algorithm of the app has the potential to produce an echo chamber effect, in which users are only shown content that is consistent with the beliefs and behaviors they already hold. This can lead to the reinforcement of harmful attitudes or behaviors, such as eating disorders or self-harm, both of which can lead to further health complications.
A recent article published in Psychology Today investigates the potential role that TikTok plays in social contagion. It highlights the case of a group of teenage girls who developed tics and other symptoms associated with Tourette's syndrome after watching videos on TikTok of other people doing the same thing as them. This serves as an illustration of how the actions of other people can inadvertently be imitated and spread through the use of social media. It brings up important questions about the role that social media platforms play in influencing behavior and about how individuals can protect themselves against the potential risks of social contagion.
Social contagion is a powerful force that can mold societies and drive them towards both positive and negative outcomes. It can spread from person to person and from group to group. An example of how social contagion can have catastrophic effects is seen in the spread of communism and socialism in China and the Soviet Union. Notwithstanding, the second Great Awakening was responsible for the rise of abolitionists in regard to the institution of slavery, despite the fact that it was marred by a number of challenges. It is essential that we conduct an objective analysis of the concepts that we embrace and advance, as well as be aware of the potential implications of social contagions. The only way to combat social contagions is by becoming Critical Thinkers and analyzing society’s behavior with a logical mind.
Keywords: Social contagion, influence, psychology, Culture