The Tipping Point

7 Apr

Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is a very interesting book. I like it for two main reasons. First of all, he brings up many points that I have never specifically thought of, that I have seen to be true in many situations and relationships in my life. I also enjoy reading the book because I disagree with some of his points and reasoning. Maybe I have not researched and lived and experienced to his level of understanding, but I find it refreshing to read his well-written opinion of social epidemics without blindly agreeing with every point.

Honestly, the whole idea of having one main tipping point doesn’t sit well with me. One point that turns the snowball into an avalanche? It starts with the momentum. Even a racecar takes some percentage of a second to get from zero to 60. It can’t happen in literally one point. Although this is the whole premise of the book, there are many phenomenons he writes about, that I agree with.

On Thursday, February 10th, a YouTube video was uploaded of a 13-year-old singing a song lacking strong lyrics, acting, and substance in general. Seven weeks later, the music video “Friday” had more than 75 million views and young Rebecca Black was being talked about in Time magazine and hosted on Good Morning America and the Jay Leno Show. It seems almost physically impossible that a video of an unknown artist could circulate that quickly, with that kind of response based on how bad it is.

Gawker’s Adrian Chen has followed the Rebecca Black story and is pretty much an expert on how people become Internet-famous. She writes, “Basically the content doesn’t matter at all. Only the fact that other people are sharing it.” The majority of viewers rate “dislike”. Yet it still spreads like an epidemic.  

On a more serious, yet equally applicable, note is the issue of human trafficking. Gladwell writes that a tiny percentage of the people do the majority of the work. While a very small percentage of the people in the world are trafficking human beings to be slaves, it is still the fastest growing crime in the world. How could so few people be running such a powerful and profitable business that defiles human beings, no less? These traffickers are exceptionally motivated to keep this operation running- they make an incredible amount of money in this business and once they are in, their lives are at stake if they want to get out. And just like the Queens woman Gladwell writes about who was killed while 38 people stood by, the same happens daily with the issue of human trafficking. And people do not realize that they are bystanders actually hurting the problem, not “innocently” not helping. It is certainly easier to spread an epidemic than stop one.

An observation I made while reading Gladwell’s many examples and thinking about my own experiences is that most of these epidemics are negative: syphilis, AIDS, suicide, bad music.  To be sure, there are positive epidemics, such as underprivileged children’s literacy through Sesame Street and the spread of delicious restaurant recommendations. But why is it that “bad” spreads so much more quickly than “good”? Why are we fixated on these things? I did not pose that question to lead up to a sophisticated answer. It is just an observation and I will be interested to observe after reading this book.


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