11.10.19 – A Review of Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is an interesting read about how certain items and ideas reach a tipping point. Gladwell describes this tipping point as, “The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once” (Gladwell, 7) This is in effect what leads to viral sensations, trends and ideas. As a person who has previously helped cover viral stories, interning for a national news network, I particularly found this book to be a fascinating look into how our society functions and what leads to the emergence of popular concepts and fads.
Malcolm describes these trends and ideas as social epidemics which can be understood in three different ways, corresponding with one of three different laws. He describes the epidemics in terms of the people, content and context of the ideas. Looking at who helped create it, what he or she created and the environment it was created in or for who all can help explain the epidemic’s tipping point.
The first law is the Law of the Few. These are the people who hold the special characteristics capable of starting a social epidemic. Gladwell names these people, “connectors, mavens, and salesmen” (Gladwell, 34). He uses the example of Paul Revere successfully relaying the message about the British troops, over William Dawes. It is the person who knows an abundance of people, and is interconnected in a variety of different groups that is successful. He or she also is very knowledgeable and or is very manipulative, in terms of influencing other people.
The second law is Stickiness. This is the content of the idea or concept that allows what is being presented to become a social epidemic. Gladwell describes the stickiness factor of an epidemic as something that is memorable. “Is it so memorable, in fact, that it can create change, that it can spur someone to action?” (Gladwell, 90). Small, significant changes in how something is presented can deter an audience very easily. Gladwell uses the example of Sesame Street’s popularity on television to describe this.
The third law is the Power of Context. This focuses around our inner feelings and thoughts being influenced by out outer environment. Gladwell says these circumstances can be as simple as time and day or factors that we can change. “It says that behavior is a function of social context,” (Gladwell, 150). Additionally, it the number of people being influenced in an environment that affects context.
Gladwell concludes by explaining how we think about world and what we focus us is how a tipping point is successful. Through minor adjustments to follow all three laws, an idea can become trending. “It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped” (Gladwell, 259).
There is little to disagree with considering Gladwell’s social epidemic teaching. The book uses numerous examples and research to support his three essential laws to the tipping point. However, I do believe it would be interesting in applying these laws to our current society in a time of social media and technology. While it is still popular social media users who create a social epidemic and the content needs to be memorable, it is not so much outside physical environments. It the process of likes, comments, hashtags, shares and other technological aspects that influence a digital tipping point.