Twitter Groupthink .. and a few questions

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8558489_sA few months ago I had a conversation with someone and was dismayed when they said that nurses on Twitter are so agreeable that you never get a true representation of thoughts and that we had to beware of “groupthink”  Having not heard the term “groupthink” before I turned to my trusty social media platform Wikipedia (yes I know not remotely academic but accessibility makes it a great starting point) and had a read around – Wikipedia states Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.” It goes on to say Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking.” It certainly got me thinking and whilst I don’t deny that there are certainly times when the #NurseCommunity is in agreement I wonder if this is due to common interests, purpose and goals. There are also times when I have seen the #NurseCommunity disagree (although due to social media etiquette this is often done in the politest of ways) this leads me to wonder if the perceived anonymity that social media affords us (i.e. we are not face to face with those we are discussing issues with) has any counteract effect on the groupthink phenomenon?

With these questions and more running through my mind I thought I would ask the #NurseCommunity what they think and here are the conversations that ensued:

 GT 1

 GT 3

GT 4

GT 5

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It was an interesting discussion though really did not answer my questions and in fact raised more! In this dynamic and new space in which we exist and use in a professional do the old theories still apply? Do we need to consider new elements? Do we need to be cautious of collective agreement or should we embrace it and capitalise on the energy it creates? I have no psychological background but I have spent a long time observing and being part of this social media space and I can see the potential that social media offers us to improve and progress healthcare and it is because of this I feel we need to think a little on these issues and be mindful of our own behaviour.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on groupthink on Twitter and perhaps even evidence and answers to some of my questions – so please feel free add you comments (in fact I very much encourage you this week !!)

5 thoughts on “Twitter Groupthink .. and a few questions

  1. I’ve just fnished reading Quiet by Susan Cain which is about how introversion can work in today’s world and one of the things she discussed was groupthink. Discussions like this online can actually be more productive than a face to face convo. My Kindle is currently broken so I can’t find the exact quotes & research she used, but it has been researched extensively. It is actually more likely for people to agree with something they don’t really agree with in a face to face conversation than online.

    When leading #MHNurseChat there have always been a differing of opinions so I don’t think people just freely agree with each other. And I think you’re right, the disagreeing is a lot more polite as we are so wary of SoMe presence & the NMC code. But these all contribute to productive discussions.

  2. Thank you Natalie – I will certainly take a look at “Quiet” it sounds like some interesting reading. I did wonder if being online provides some sort of empowerment to the participant. I also agree with you that there are differing opinions but our code and the very public nature of twitter means that we express this in very polite ways

    Thank you so much for your comment and I will be downloading “Quiet” to read and digest.

  3. Hi there

    I feel fairly certain groupthink does exist here too. Its hard to be assertive sometimes when the pace is frantic. Aso i’m not sure everyone is a confident user yet. Its unaoidable is my belief so we need to learn how to assess and critique information from here in the same way we do from any source.

    I, too, like the Cain work – its in one of my blogs – e principle is that introverts may prefer asynchronous communication. If you want a taster of Susan Cain try this:

    Nice blog! good thinking! X

  4. Thank you Anne – This looks great and I will have a watch. I certainly take your point that it is hard to be assertive when the pace is fast, especially during chats … but I wonder if this leads us to keep quiet or agree with the consensus ? I think your point on learning to assess and critique information via this media as we would with any other is spot on

  5. Morning,
    Very interested in this critical conversation and particularly the observation about whether these traditional theories hold as much weight in the online world.
    I was reflecting with a friend and trusted colleague about facilitating tweet chats this week and how this role is significantly different from face to face facilitation that Heron espouses
    I can see myself needing to spend a couple of hours reflecting and reviewing my activity facilitating #ldnursechat and how it compares to the facilitation standards that are out there.
    In the same way, group think does have some application online, but there are some unique distictions which would be useful to be able to articulate. I would assume a review and reflection on the brilliant work that WeNurses does would provide some valuable insights into the professional online behaviour and I suspect some interesting links to @anniecoops ideas on digital professionalism.
    Will following this discussion with interest.

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