The Problem with Public Opinions

Everyone has one, and they all stink…
social media

Tuesday January 16, 2024

social media

If you become a public opinion person (author, speaker, podcaster), you’re inherently inviting publicity bias.

A message is like a product. If it’s not well received, either through attention, clicks, or books purchased, then most people may abandon the idea. Very few (those seeking truth), are staunch advocates of an opinion not popularly received.

Even unpopular opinion people try out their ideas. They may rise on social media as “they want to cancel me, so trust my opinion”. That sales pitch only lasts so long as you’re a minority.

Point is: if your opinion gets reception, you’re less likely to change your opinion. This is a problem in politics for people who espouse something for a long time.

Instead we should be like Galileo: show me the data.

So be cautious if people like your opinion because you may be at risk of not being able to change it, either through your own evolving greed or desire for social acceptance and popularity.

The reception of an idea doesn’t determine its truthfulness, but the ability of the idea to stand on its own.

Look for the evidence, not the popularity

I always try to think about this when listening to a popular author or podcaster: what about their idea has garnered popularity? Have they changed course in the face of evidence? I recall Amy Cuddy having one of the most popular Ted talks on Power Poses, only to have a Slate article come out that refused her research. She doubled down despite her research not being reproducible: the gold standard a scientist should seek.

Few people are like Amy Cuddy in that their ideas cannot be easily tested and so the world lazily believes them. This is the risk: when people stop thinking for themselves.

Things why Frank Herbert wrote Dune: to encourage people to think for themselves and not put too much trust in their leaders.

2024-01-17 update:

Chapter 14 of The Quest for Cosmic Justice discusses this way better than I do here.


Bryan lives somewhere at the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and futurism and writes about tech, books, Christianity, gratitude, and whatever’s on his mind. If you liked reading, perhaps you’ll also like subscribing: