Are Popular Bloggers Extroverts?A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. In it, Blackmore elaborates an interesting thesis: what if memetics was a greater driving force than was previously thought to be? Would it explain certain phenomena of our social life such as why do we love to talk so much, why do certain ideas develop at the expense of others, why we have such large brains and how s3x and even altruism flourish only to spread memes.
[A meme, of course, is (still) a vague concept: a sort of unit of an idea, one that cannot be quantified easily, nor its carriers clearly identified & demarcated. Usually analogous to the concept of a gene, it is used to express the idea of well, an idea, that spreads from human to human.]
Now, what Blackmore does is to attempt to de-hyphenate memetics from genetics and push her theories of what may result thus to the extremes. She proposes the growth in power of memetics, of the potency of ideas emanating from the brain that initially were subordinate to genes and merely present to further genetic evolution. The growth is such that later memes become powerful enough to take charge of their own destinies (in a manner of speaking) and start modifying their environment to further their own short-term goals of spreading high-quality copies of themselves. Independence, then from the yoke of the genes.
Blackmore uses this parallel replicator to conjecture why the human brain could have developed into such a large and energy-hungry organ beyond the initial benefits of tool-making or overpowering the environment that early man would have required. From there to modern-day traffic jams or continuously "on" cell-phone users is a big leap indeed with no overt genetic survival needs. On the other hand, if you consider memes as compelling forces of replication with a fundamental need to copy without any regards to larger goals of "progress", then a lot of these human states could be explained.
[I've still not got to my central theme :-)]
Ok, now Susan Blackmore attributes the success of memes among humans to the power of "imitation". That is, if I caveman make sharp stone spear and slay bear, I'm more likely to survive winter & disease compared to if you waited for the bear to die of old age. Since I'm smart enough to fashion the object, my genes are more likely to survive, meaning that the chances of cavegirls taking a fancy to also me shoot up. [Note: the last statement obviously makes it fictional.] Now, if you're smart enough to imitate my tool-making capabilities, you catch up with me. So if there is a gene for smart-imitation, it spreads more through us than otherwise.
Fast-forward a few thousand years and you find people imitating rock-stars, actors, cricketers - their fashion statements, their throwaway ad lines and their attitudes. One day everyone's wearing bell-bottoms, another day they have little goatees under their chins. Now, obviously, the bell-bottom has no role in human survival, but over the years, certain people have become more worthy of imitation than others. They are "successful" to different degrees. I started blogging probably because in part I was imitating someone whose actions I found worth aping. Or I'm in computers partly because its a profession that many others are in i.e. peer pressure. Or Chotaa Paav is a gangster because he saw Satya. Of course, reasons for imitation may differ in some small groups, but some figures are obviously more influential for a large section of the population.
Now I won't delve into why Susan Blackmore thinks these people became worth imitating, but I can see a pattern here - most of these people are "public" figures. They demonstrate their actions and we ape them. Blackmore theorizes why humans talk so much - because the memes in their brains are competing for survival, and can spread by transmission. Till today, probably the most potent means of influencing someone is by speech. There is writing of course, but talk, orate, expound, communicate verbally and that meme will be passed on.
If you were shy and incapable of making your point, you would be at a disadvantage passing on the revolutionary new idea that you had. Your "influence" would be much lesser if you were Greta Garbo and had a new hairstyle that hardly anyone saw. Publicity matters and demonstrativeness matters. Since I assume (with a little simplistic generalisation here) that extroverted people are more likely to talk and hence spread their memes than introverts, obviously those influential ideas that require pushing them to the masses would benefit from residing in the brains of extroverts.
What I'm conjecturing is this: take the "popular" bloggers. I think the large majority of these would tend to be extroverted rather than introverted. This despite the fact that writing levels the field somewhat between extroverts & introverts for the writer is solitary and on the web is guaranteed a fair bit of anonymoity. However, I would think that extroverted writers (and here I'm talking of topical, almost-everyday bloggers, not the dreamy-diary kind) are much more demonstrative, more provocative and just that much more keen to spew their thoughts & share their ideas/notions/theories. They would probably also be less uncertain or apologetic (for instance they would possibly not use words like "possibly" or "probably" leaving out the possibility of them being incorrect), and would be more assertive in their prose. As a result, they would provoke more reactions and comments from readers, and hence increase chances of their visitors returning. They would be more likely to want to "communicate" stuff, having been used to it and in most cases, blogs being cyber-projections of a person, that attitude would spill over.
Now, I have no way to test this over a large sample, but applying this to people I know, I would say this theory is fairly true i.e. the more popular & influential bloggers would tend to be (perhaps even highly) extroverted.