Who Said Ignorance is Bliss?

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Pluralistic ignorance, a phenomenon that Clive Thompson defines as occurring "whenever a group of people underestimate how much others around them share their attitudes and beliefs" (252-253), can be an obstacle to progress as we see in the examples given in Smarter Thank You Think. Oftentimes, people have misconceptions about what the stances of their fellow members of society on hot-button issues, such as racism or corrupt government. These misconceptions can cause people to keep their own (perceptibly controversial) beliefs to themselves, leaving the dominant social belief unexposed. It's a vicious cycle, but luckily in today's new age of technology, there seems to be a cure.

pluralistic ignorance

The Internet is wonderful because it allows society to become connected in ways it never could before. While in some countries it may still be closely monitored by the government, users are still able to make waves and incite revolutions simply by voicing their opinions online. Clive Thompson offers the example of the death of Khaled Said that was the catalyst for social change in Egypt, sparking a surge of online activity by those who were tired of being bystanders in the struggle for justice. This shows how the Internet is able to defeat pluralistic ignorance by offering a forum for change and bringing back together a disconnected society.

Egypt Protests

Pluralistic ignorance is the result of ordinary people being afraid to voice their opinions. But the rise of technology and interconnectivity is slowly but surely ridding the world of this social issue. Like Thompson says, "To make social change begin to snowball, we need to make our thoughts visible." (254) All it takes is a little sharing with the world, a little confidence in our own thoughts - they might not be as different as we think.


mkozma's picture

Hey Lauren!

I think you gave a really great insight into pluralistic ignorance in this reading that truthfully I had a hard time understanding. But I think I get what you mean here about how "To make social change begin to snowball, we need to make our thoughts visible." (254). (This is actually the same quote that I pulled).

I think what Thompson is getting at here is that we can definitely learn something from this mentality. We need to share, but not too much.

Great post!

ckozma's picture

Time actually a few years ago

Time actually a few years ago named their #1 person of the year as the revolutionaries and wrote an article about the use of social media and the world wide web to bring awareness about human rights and corrupted governments to the public's attention. This social media awareness ended up sparking huge revolts all over the world that year. It's a really cool article with really awesome artwork if you get a chance to read it.