The Silent Majority
Dr. Malcom Grant posted an interesting piece on his Facebook Page SURVIVING OUR HARSH ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT titled The Silent Majority. Although the thesis of his article addresses the many members who chose NOT to contribute to discussion, the same can be said that there is a reluctance by the majority of Barbadians to actively participate in our democracy. The question to be asked is whether the apathy being shown by Barbadians is fuelled by ignorance or is it a flaw in how we manage our society.
– David Barbados Underground
1. The Silent Majority is an unspecified large majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. In the online context this means that there is no Digital Participation. Those in the Silent Majority are synonymously referred to as Lurkers.
2. Digital Participation is essentially making ones presence online in such a manner so others can see. This ranges from publishing online articles to simply clicking a Like button.
3. Participation Inequality consists of difference between the levels of participation of various individuals within any given group or activity.
SOHEE was founded on August 21, 2011. However, since our inception it has been noted that we only observed Digital Participation from a miniscule number (<5%) of our members. This fact at face value, was not only bewildering but also inexplicable and somewhat disturbing. I decided to research this phenomenon and was quite surprised with my finding which I shall share with you.
For this research the Internet was my exclusive source of information.
Global Rules Governing Digital Participation
There are essentially two well quoted and respected rules governing Digital Participation.
There is the 90-9-1 rule and there is the 1% rule.
The Jakob Nielsen 90-9-1 rule essentially found that user participation was more or less as follows::
• 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
• 9% of users only contribute from time to time.
• 1% account for most contributions
Interestingly a very recently published 2014 study which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (Trevor van Mierlo) more or less confirmed that the 90-9-1 rule also held true re Digital Health Support Groups for such conditions as depression, alcoholism, smoking cessation, etc.)
The 1% rule (Will Hill, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba) on the other hand found that in the Internet Culture, only 1% of the users of any given Internet Group actively do create new content, while the other 99% of the participants are Lurkers.
Some Listed Reasons Why Many Remain A Part Of The Silent Majority
1. A personal choice
2. Fear of victimization/ embarrassment
4. It has already been said
5. Just around for the learning
6. They do not feel called to action
7. Don’t let too much phase them
8. Don’t have the time or energy for exchanges
9. Already engaged otherwise
10. Technophobic issues
11. Communication skills issues
12. Critical thinking skills issues
13. Information/ Knowledge gap
14. Unequal access to technology
15. Inadequate digital/ media literacies
How Does One Eliminate Participatory Inequality?
Simple answer: You can’t. Self imposed participatory inequality seems to be a self engrained human social quirk which there is little anyone can do in order to change such a phenomenon. There is no online community that is randomly drawn from the surrounding community, which is immune to such.
The best one may ultimately hope to achieve is to reduce the number of Lurkers in any given online group. One much appreciate, at the end of the day, the Lurkers will constitute the vast majority of any online group. However, some of the suggested ways that we can reduce the size of the Silent Majority:
• Widen content
• Simplify points
• Zero tolerance for bullying
• Pin post that are of high quality
• Praise post that are of high quality
• Actively encourage more quality contributors to join SOHEE
• Encourage those who post to use powerful images as opposed to text only, when getting across their point
• Be as inclusive as possible re membership so that others may find someone that they can link with
• Personally engage Lurkers who you know are more than capable of contributing
We have to appreciate that in online communities such as SOHEE, the vast majority of its members, upwards of 90%, are not going to participate and often just simply lurk in the background.
In stark contrast, a tiny minority of users, approximately 1% of the membership, account for almost 100% of the content.
Such participation inequality is not structured or set in stone, for whenever the Lurkers rarely want to contribute there is nothing or no one stopping them from doing so.
Unfortunately some of those 1% contributing to the content of the site contribute to a disproportionately high signal to noise ratio, in that their copious postings are often of low quality, often drowning out high quality postings. Ultimately this can turn many away from the site, because they just simply do not have the time and cannot make the effort to distill out the gems. Therein often lies a major challenge.
It should also be noted that the Lurkers are not pigeonholed, for some of today’s Lurkers can become tomorrow’s 1%.
In the final analysis the Lurkers aka the Silent Majority, will ALWAYS constitute the majority of SOHEE’s members. It was a relief when it was found out that the Silent Majority was not something peculiar to SOHEE because of any unique or inherent idiosyncrasy. As a matter of fact, the silent majority seems to be the norm for all groups – online or otherwise – randomly drawn
from the population at hand.
BTW when you are looking through your list of facebook friends to add to SOHHE, by far and away the vast majority of those friends are going to eventually be part of SOHEE’s Silent Majority. Please don’t let this deter you from adding such persons. To actively and systematically marginalize this group or persons, will ultimately be tantamount to punishing persons for a characteristic that is often second nature to them. And who knows, you may be adding these friends to the first group that they have belonged to, which they can feel comfortable spreading their wings. For we at SOHEE now understand them better than most.