Quick Updates on the NASA Diwali Image Phenomenon : Socially Constructed Thruths and the Persistence of Popularity

October 26th ( 2:40 Pm Chicago Time Less than 48 hrs on) ;66, 248 Shares  ( three times over 22,000 before)

October 25th ( 14 hrs on)

Remember in my original post I had speculated that as India would wake up , we would see an exponential rate of increase in the alternate truth. Yes the 1000 odd shares on that thread have grown to 23,000 ( in 12 -13 hrs) in that thread ( potential audience of 7-8 million just from this source).

Interestingly, there were many counter-voices in some of the threads that circulated who argued with similar logic as to why the image was not one of Diwali.Some of these even pointed out to the original website of the image confirming that it wasn’t a Diwali image.  Yet the Euphoria continues to persist.

To me it reflects that on Social Media, once certain facts get socially constructed, it is very hard to let alternate facts percolate. In other words, their popularity will continue to persist, even though they have been proven wrong! There seems little room for course correction.

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Author: harshT

Assistant Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

7 thoughts on “Quick Updates on the NASA Diwali Image Phenomenon : Socially Constructed Thruths and the Persistence of Popularity”

  1. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it
    was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  2. Nishant, Of course, “The idea of The Winner Takes it All” has always been a key feature in competitive markets. Yet contagions and crowd created wisdom had to overcome certain barriers. As the speed of information diffusion was slower – the size of our networks smaller ( which means we talked more with those only we trusted, perhaps lesser interaction with weak ties), there were opportunities for course correction.
    And media, which functioned as crucial nodes acted somewhat more responsibly. Think a newspaper won’t print this without making sure they were right even if 1000 sources informed them of this picture. But today we don’t need them for we are doing the jobs of the newspapers, the TV news through these social media.
    Even if a newspaper got it wrong, a backlash by 5 people would make them check and correct it.
    The issues you talk about have one key difference – They are norms not facts, so the diffusion is more complex!

  3. Very nice juxtaposition of sample experiment and conclusion Harsh… Whereas, I was excited about reading your curiosity-born example of Diwali picture etc., I don’t see the conclusion as an eye-opener or even in direct co-relation. For one, it is quite established an axiom in my mind – not just for social media, but for a less involved (by default or by choice – when stakes are considered low and hence effort to be correct isn’t required) mob. For example, election speeches in Indian villages or progression of a harmless image on social media. Well, I am sure that if you give it some time (let this wave of “I know it all” subside), and post the same image with caption – Myth Vs Truth: This is not Diwali night and then try contradicting that after a day saying this is Diwali night image – the results of the experiment won’t really be different than what you see now. Don’t you think so? 🙂

    What I mean to say is that to me it reflects that it is not really the fault of wrongness of an information, but the reward of an early bird catching the worm. Most (if not all) forwarded posts and shares on social media are fads. You can ideally never try to overpower the peak of a fad once it has lived its glory – in any fad situation. You may play smart by creating another fad.

    To take this forward, I also feel there is a subtle learning in the way Online Reputation
    Management is handled these days. It really does not make much sense to go and correct each of the wrong facts. It is not a Salman Khan movie that people have paid for and will watch till the end, no matter what. The strategy should ideally be to always outnumber the negative sentiments by logical NEW positive sentiments which are attacking stories.

    Anyhow, maybe I am wrong since you have chosen your profile description good enough to make me nervous but its awesome getting the feel of my good old jhola boy senior doing things his own way 🙂

    Do write if you think it does/nt make sense to you.

    1. Varun,
      What you say is all correct and my idea of posting this is not to invent a new theory or to discuss an experiment. As a social scientist I like to explain. Sometimes I explain the obvious, for that is what is most oblivious-
      I don’t dispute the axiomatic nature of these findings. My motivation is to caution the many people who celebrate the democratic potential of social media, their egalitarian nature and so on – aka the consumer has power, public opinion is transparent – compared to the days of hegemonic media ( or village election species). I feel social media has further collapsed many mechanisms that could curtail fads, overturn them earlier, even when they had first mover advantage.
      See my response to nishant, and you will find some of your concerns mitigated.

  4. Interestingly… isn’t that totally applicable to all our communities, outside the digital world. I am thinking of the bases for religion, monogamy, heterosexuality, etc….once established by someone as the preferred/chosen/better path, other options seem to not matter…which, in time, can very perceivable change to “other options being wrong/incorrect.” No?

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