The Internet Changed Chess Rules: Queen Is Equal to Pawn

How Social Media Influence Opinion Spreading


  • Tomasz Rak
  • Wojciech Kulesza
  • Nina Chrobot Orcid


Studies of social influence in large groups show that leaders are crucial in infecting followers with new ideas and that it requires time. This reflects social impact models based on Nowak, Szamrej, and Latané’s dynamic theory (1990), which are still being presented, modified and developed in the literature. However, recent mass events, e.g., the Arab Spring, 15-M Movement, protests in the Gezi Park in Turkey, Polish democratic movements (KOD, AkcjaDemokracja), do not seem to fit the aforementioned models: changes happened rapidly and without the presence of opinion leaders. In a series of simulation studies, we propose that global communication (Internet, mobiles, social media) is responsible for the difference between the theoretical model and recent mass events. Our results indicate that global communication dramatically decreases the role of leaders, increases the speed of spreading new ideas in the population, increases the influence of followers on the speed of social transformation, and that leaders who use the Internet can change their attitudes as quickly and as often as followers do.