People have asked me how my yearlong social media break went. Great and terrible. It was terrible because I failed in my goal to write every one who signed up for handwritten letters. On the upside of that failure, I wrote dozens and dozens of folks. I think I’m up to fifty or something, so like one a weekish. On the downside, an unexpected 300 people signed up and many wrote back. So it was nearly impossible for me to handwrite a letter a day on top of everything. I’m proud of what I did, but I still owe many handwritten letters and am working through it.
Other than that one caveat, I would recommend a yearlong social media break to all who dare. And then recommend you seriously — deeply — weigh any continued use afterwards.
Over the next week, I’m going to talk about making brave art and making art bravely and today that means talking about my yearlong social media break.
A few really wanted to to know what I learned this year. And I suppose I learned what I expected to learn — or learned deeper reasons for my initial motivations for taking a social media break that, essentially, turned into a permanent form of deleting social media for good. That’s right, I’m done. Twitter apparently permanently deletes after thirty days, which I didn’t know, so that helped start this journey towards permanence.
But here are the things I learned:
- High Effort Activism
- Free Will
- Delayed Gratification
Or stated in the negative, I learned how to be:
◦ Against Oversharing the Mundane with the Worldwide Public Marketplace
◦ Against Personal Vapidity
◦ Against Low Effort Activism
◦ Against Consumption
◦ Against Being Manipulated as a Tool of Someone’s Propaganda and Statecraft
◦ Against Addiction
(or Against Mundane Oversharing)
The Biggest contributor to the growth of any creature — especially any rational creature — is obscurity, anonymity, and reticence. And that’s doubly true of anything in its infancy. Babies need wombs and not the blinding light and sound of beachheads. Supernovas need the womb of worlds that is the void of space. Moss needs the shade of the northside of trees (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is — the sun shines mostly a different way in the South). To live a life, then, where we constantly photograph our food, quote conversations, and film our interactions is to slam the breaks on growth — particularly for the young. It’s a world in which we may never have a rehearsal, we may never even have a dress rehearsal, we must always perform and this alone (separate from many other reasons) is why I hate the regular holiday interruptions of family photos: I don’t want to act like a family, I want to be a family. If I wanted to act like a family, I’d go find a role on Actor’s Access and audition.
The idiocy of streaming the mundane to the masses can’t possibly be overstated. Not that there isn’t poetry in the mundane, but the poetry is in the intimate contact: I assure you, your baby’s poop is much higher def in real life. Imagine Churchill standing before all of Britain shouting, “Here is my breakfast on land! Here is my breakfast in the air! Here is my breakfast at sea!” Such a rendition sounds more like Green Eggs and Ham than the most riveting warspeech of the twentieth century. Imagine Abraham Lincoln standing before Congress saying, “Four score and seven years ago today, I took this video of my cat. Here it is again for your enjoyment.” What great words may have been lost if, instead of offering a rational defense of his life’s work on the day of his execution by means of hemlock’s leaves and hemlock’s oils, Socrates instead had said, “Men of Athens: I want to talk to you about an exciting opportunity, I just need thirty minutes of your time, but it has the potential to transform your life: I’m starting an essential oils business and I want you to start selling it with me. What say ye?”
Thank God the great rhetoricians of history did not say everything they ever thought in public. Thank God they saved some of it for practicing in their studies and bedrooms. Thank God singers have morning showers alone, dancers have vacant gymnasiums, and sculptors have abandoned quarries.
Thank God new engineers are not tested first with NASA’s next rocket, that writers get rejected in private, and that carpenters start with the studs.
All of this together made me want to share less of better work rather than share more of worse work. And because of it I read and wrote more and have sold more work. Note: this didn’t make me want to practice or create less, it made me want to create more and simply be more selective of what I shared with the world, editors, readers, etc.
As an aside, there’s the classic argument regarding the surveillance state (I refuse to call it the security state because cameras, body scans, and SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING culture has made us objectively less and not more secure). The argument in favor of the surveillance state says that if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about the invasion of privacy.
BUT privacy is a net good not only for sinners, scoundrels, and criminals. Privacy is a net good for anyone who wants to not be on freaking edge all the time, thinking they’re on stage or in an interrogation booth or with acquaintances rather than intimates. Privacy keeps paranoia as abnormal and not the norm. The beauty of being vulnerable with close friends and family is that you can let your guard down and tinker with thought, tinker with imagination, tinker with feelings. Families are the safe spaces that let us grow and change our minds — they are precisely the places where we may be most open-minded and liberated because these people are stuck with us so they’re likely to see us toying around with better and broader ideas before anyone else. We need privacy because we need to be able to experiment with life without the fear of retribution from all sides for all manner of perceived sins, shames, guilts.
If the Duchess does want to play leap frog, she must not start suddenly leaping in the manner of a frog across the ballroom of the Babylon Hotel, when it is crowded with the fifty best couples professionally practising the very latest dance, for the instruction of society. The Duchess will find it easier to practise leap frog to the admiration of her intimate friends in the old oak-panelled hall of Fitzdragon Castle…
If there is this impersonal routine in commercial and even in social things, it goes without saying that it exists and always must exist in political and legal things. For instance, the punishments of the State must be sweeping generalisations. It is only the punishments of the home that can possibly be adapted to the individual case; because it is only there that the judge can know anything of the individual. If Tommy takes a silver thimble out of a work-basket, his mother may act very differently according as she knows that he did it for fun or for spite or to sell to somebody, or to get somebody into trouble.
“But if Tomkins takes a silver thimble out of a shop, the law not only can but must punish him according to the rule made for all shoplifters or stealers of silver. It is only the domestic discipline that can show any sympathy or especially any humour. I do not say that the family always does do this; but I say that the State never ought to attempt it. So that even if we consider the parents alone as independent princes, and the children merely as subjects, the relative freedom of the family can and often does work to the advantage of those subjects. But so long as the children are children, they will always be the subjects of somebody. The question is whether they are to be distributed naturally under their natural princes, as the old phrase went, who normally feel for them what nobody else will feel, a natural affection. It seems to me clear that this normal distribution of a family gives the largest amount of liberty to the largest number of people.
(or against vapidity)
There’s a sort of reward for vapidity in the modern experiment that accelerated my desire to take a social media break. Though I will reference it later as well, I’d like to start this section now by pointing to the brilliant mathematician Vi Hart’s lucid post about social media systems. In it she says:
In the Vi Hart school of systems philosophy, it’s not about what’s good or bad, right or wrong. That is a job for moral philosophy. I care about what is inevitable. I care about understanding the consequences of the systems we create, so that we can’t claim ignorance when the inevitable happens.
So, first, to quote myself: “Rating, upvoting, sharing, commenting. A pale illusion of democracy where those who are quickest to judge get many more votes.”
There’s a sense in which the internet is quite democratic, possibly even more democratic than our current implementation of democracy in government (for viral content, money only goes so far). On the internet, content rises to the top if it wins the popular vote. But unlike modern implementations of democracy, you get as many votes as you have time to give, all day every day, and most of those votes are taken by web companies without asking. And unlike the popular vote in democracy, internet popularity votes do not imply endorsement.
Votes that come from gut reactions take less time than anything involving actual thought.
Those last three sentences, by the way, mean that the people who think the least and who create the least end up deciding what’s most important in a social media world. In other words, the things that get the most votes tend to rise by the people who give the most votes and consequently are the things typically involving or promoting the least amount of thought and true action or creation.
Gut reactions are very useful things and voting from gut reaction is not inherently good or bad. When we see a video of a cop killing an unarmed person I personally think it is good and right that we should, without hesitation, respond with a gut reaction of horror and injustice. Many people do, and so this kind of thing can spread on the internet quite virally, but because there are political connotations and you might want to fact check first or make sure the wording of your tweet is respectful and conveys the gravity of the situation, it takes longer to cast your internet vote for the importance of police killings than to internet vote on the color of a dress. If there were one election and one vote, the important issue would win. But on the internet, The Dress simply gets votes faster.
Meanwhile, complicated issues that are extremely important but subtle, issues that require hours of research before you even understand it well enough to want to vote on it, those things cannot compete. Economically speaking, shallow votes are significantly cheaper to make.
Which means, of course, that capitalism has finally jumped the shark, for it has given birth to a series of systems that values worthless things (economically, sociologically, in terms of human character, etc) and therefore will eventually eat its own tail, so to speak.
I think of fast gut-reaction votes as being in one of 4 categories, with the 4 being the combinatorics of controversial or not controversial, common experience or identity attack.
1. Common human experience: Votes that are easy because they’re completely uncontroversial and of little consequence. Examples include cats being adorable, puns being groan-worthy, and sunsets being pretty. Most people agree, and even if you disagree, you don’t really care, so anyone can feel safe participating on the internet in the delight of adorable kittens without fear of backlash.
2. Common mass media experience: controversial but unimportant arguments over media that many people are assumed to be familiar with. Which house is better, gryffindor or slytherin, stark or lannister? Is the dress blue and black or white and gold? The opinions are strong and discussion is fierce, with each camp having its stock set of answers. But everyone involved knows that it does not really matter; debate is easy and by-the-script without the barrier of caring. It is understood that when someone argues against your camp, it is not a personal attack.
3. Common criticism: Examples include shallow visual judgements and stereotyping. There is a common cultural script for stereotypes and so these judgements can be expressed immediately and automatically. They are faster than less-shallow responses. Criticism is asymmetric and uncontroversial in that, rather than there being an opposing party with an opposing criticism, there are only those who criticize and those who find it irrelevant or in bad taste. Also in this uncontroversial-but-critical category, I put criticisms of inaction. If you want to criticize someone, it is always possible and always easy to think of something they didn’t do or didn’t say, and then criticize them for not doing that thing. It borrows the form of a thoughtful calling out of a glaring omission, but it takes no effort and contains no content.
The criticism itself is not controversial, but the making of it often is, which can spiral into easy gut reaction type four:
4. True controversy on party lines. Votes that are easy because they follow party lines. Similar to the above, but symmetric. There’s a template, made by someone else, that you can follow, of how things should be and how to respond. There is more than one template, and so whenever two people with different templates collide, they each follow their template, instantly, and the debate carries on. This is differentiated from true intellectual debate because this is the case where response and internet-votes is easy and instant; whoever stops to think gets outvoted by those following the script written by their in-group. In order for thoughtful responses to win over instant reaction, thoughtful responders need to exist in numbers significantly greater than those following the scripts.
These four kinds of judgements are really easy to make and can drown out all other discussion if your system lets them.
If the goal of a web company is to maximize engagement, they must encourage engagement that is easy and cheap to produce. They must create and share content that is economical in that it solicits comments written with the ease of cultural scripts.
So where are these scripts created?
1. Reactions considered and tested on the internet
Reactions scripted by experience making angry, stereotypical, or hateful comments on the internet often miss their mark when attempted in their unamplified real-world form. There’s something to think about if you’re relying on internet systems to make your voice stronger than it is in the real world, if you feel safer expressing your opinions publicly on the internet than saying them to anyone you know in real life.
2. Reactions considered and tested in the real world, then brought to the internet
In contrast, reactions created out of slow real-world thoughts and personal experiences often do better in the real world than on the internet. In many cases they can be brought to the internet to in turn help amplify real world actions. Twitter has had a large role in organizing marches for social justice and climate change and organizing disaster relief. The reaction on twitter is fast because the script was decided by previous understanding gained in the real world, that can be brought back to the real world.
Now the feedback loops come into play. Almost every action you take on the web is recorded and used to shape the actions future users are directed to take, which is a recipe for feedback loops.
1: the keep-voting feedback loop
Crowd-sourced popularity guarantees the promotion of content that generates user actions, not real life actions; the internet thing that inspires you to get up and do something means only that you are no longer internet voting.
Many internet comment systems are optimized for engagement. It’s nearly inevitable that any company that is winning at capitalism cares less about whether you like their product and more about whether you use it.
Imagine an image search engine where every time you enter a search term, it searches for images near those keywords, and then gives preference to images that previous users clicked on. Every time you click on a search result, that is a vote for what that search term should give to future searchers. You might imagine that this helps them give users relevant results, as crowdsourced by other users.
Say I do a search for, let’s say, a conference, to get a general feel for what it looks like. There’s various logos and graphics for it, and a picture of someone in an amazing cosplay outfit. Which looks cool, so maybe I click on in. And then I go back and keep searching for just a regular photo of the conference. When I find that photo, I stop looking.
Of course, those who get distracted by every cosplayer and want to look at all the cosplay photos cast more votes. It’s up to the search engine to decide whether it’s good or bad that people searching for basically anything will see a page full of irrelevant sexy photos and clickbait; the point is not that it’s good or bad but that it’s not surprising when it happens and it’s not the fault of the users but of the system.
When I do an image search, don’t click on anything, and immediately leaves the search site, that is usually a sign of a successful search. When a web search results in a user immediately clicking a link to another site and never coming back, this is the sign of a successful search. But for google, for example, successful searches are not the product; the user searching is the product, sold to advertisers. It is important that you search, not that you find.
It’s a classic systems pitfall: you get what you optimize for, not what you pretend that thing represents. When you create a system to optimize for most user actions, it doesn’t matter whether you’re imagining user actions represent meaningful engagement. It’s hard to quantify and optimize for meaningful engagement, but a love for data-driven approaches doesn’t justify using a data-driven approach on the wrong data. It is better to use fallible human judgement and intuition on trying to solve the right problem than an algorithmic approach that is guaranteed to solve the wrong one. If you optimize for clicks, don’t be surprised if all you get is clicks.
For example, YouTube’s shift in the meaning of subscriptions. At some point, some manager or board member decided that increasing subscription numbers was an important goal for YouTube. A YouTuber with 10 million subscribers would look good for the economic health of the company. Successful megacreators make it appear as if investing in creating youtube content is a reasonable choice. And so it was no surprise when YouTube quickly reached the goal of having a youtuber with 10 million subscribers after making some optimizations. All they had to do was change what it meant to subscribe to someone, as well as automatically subscribe all new users to a list of heavily-subscribed youtubers in an opt-out system. The system prefers ten million people shallowly engaging with one shallow content creator than to have those same ten million divided up among a thousand niche creators that they feel a meaningful connection to. YouTube will reap all the short term benefits and face all the long term hazards of cultivating a monoculture.
In theory when you want to work but feel uninspired, browsing the web should lead you to a great many wonderful things that really make you want to create something. But if you are browsing in a part of the web that promotes things using internet votes, you are all but guaranteed to only find things that elicit a quick easy user action and then leave the user unsatisfied and looking for more. In practice, inspiring and satisfying pieces of content are dead ends for user actions. Thoughtful pieces of content that take twenty minutes to read get one vote in the time it takes for pretty pictures and amusing memes to get dozens.
(If you found that as helpful as I did, please consider backing Vi for $1 or more on her patreon — patreon.com/vihart )
The opposite of vapidity, of course, is reflection.
If the arts — manual and fine — and the crafts that word “art” imply all connect man’s imagination and literature, if imagination is the organ of meaning, if making everyday life — even cat photos — mean something is part of what it means to live up to our full humanity, then the best consumer response to that best kind of producer’s initiation is reflection. If the production side of imagination — which uses the organ of meaning — is the arts and the crafts, then the consumption side of imagination — which uses the same organ of meaning, in reverse (or perhaps to borrow a musical term in preverse) — is reflection. Think of the imagination like the heart with meaning being something like the blood. Consumption brings carbon-laden blood into the heart, the reflection of the reason infuses it with oxygen, and then reflective production puts things out into the world that bear the mark both of the things consumed and of the meaning extracted and imparted through reflection. Any act short of reflection in the face of any made thing will invoke meaningless into what has been made.
For this reason, Coleridge wrote Aids to Reflection in which he said,
“If you are not a thinking man, to what measure are you a man at all?”
Combined with HG Well’s claim that
It’s not worth thinking of a thing unless you think it through
— a clear picture emerges:
Imagine an world-class art museum in which tours of school children followed a tour guide through the exhibits. This particularly tour guide knows all that can be known about the various works — omnipotent in this category of life, you might say. But instead of answering questions or probing the children for deeper meaning, he simply walks by the pictures and shouts out the first word of the first object he sees;
“DOG!” Then rushes the children onto the next sculpture of:
“DIANA!” then rushes them on to a painting, in the background of which hides a:
“FOX!” kept at bay by the grooves of a nearby wood carving shaped like a:
“RIFLE!” and the whole crowd hurries to some stained glass depicting various orbs like the:
They leave the museum with a flurry of images in mind and without anyone ever pointing out how the old myths and ancient poems connected all of these. Yet this is precisely the point of the modern social media feed. Importance is assigned to what is most meaninglessly popular and meaning and imagination fall completely to the wayside for want of reflection and reason.
High Effort Activism
(against low effort activism)
I’ll quote Vi again and ask that you please go check out her whole post:
Now democracy. Voter turnout is terribly low, and everyone complains their vote doesn’t matter. And yet, people mostly vote in the big elections where their vote matters least, rather than the small local elections and primaries where their vote is extremely valuable. But no one knows their local officials, and learning enough to be firm in your vote is hard! A simple democrat/republican party line vote, once every four years, is ever so much easier. Not only can you easily choose a side, but you can easily defend it, by following the party script.
Often in democracy, people feel they are not voting for their candidate, but against the other one. I worry about the extent to which this might, beyond being true, actually be the opposite case: that people are voting for the opposite candidate. Not in the election, but for the election. For example, most republicans are just as reasonable as most democrats, and yet the republican leaders are often complete caricatures that the party only backs out of loyalty and lack of other options (and vice versa). It is fascinating to me, this process by which a party ends up with leaders that party members actively dislike. I think it is probably the case that democrats, wallowing in easy votes against the most ridiculous republicans and following the script for judgements against those easiest to judge, make those candidates extremely popular. Republicans are left defending and further popularizing these targeted caricatures, and while many would like to vote for better candidates, voting for lesser-known candidates is slow and hard and diffused.
In a system where we imagine each other as monsters, it’s no surprise when we get monsters.
(against being manipulated)
Before the report came out of Germany that Cambridge Analytica had used psychographics to manipulate the psychosphere of social media, I had noticed my behavior MASSIVELY shifting without my active involvement and consent. As this hasn’t happened since I was a child, I perked up and took notes. I noticed first and foremost because throughout my life I’m the kind of guy who has made large systemic changes to my body and mind in hopes to move further up and into the spirit of beauty and goodness and truth. I change often — but I do so willfully after building a firm foundation of appropriate conclusions and vows. This was massive change in myself without forethought, emotional residue, or volitional commitment. I was being manipulated.
And I don’t do well with that.
So naturally when I saw this video last month:
…I freaked out because it gave words to what I started feeling back in 2014, a feeling that was exacerbated near mid-2016 with the article from the German paper. You should read it in full, but here’s a sampling:
Psychometrics, sometimes also called psychographics, focuses on measuring psychological traits, such as personality. In the 1980s, two teams of psychologists developed a model that sought to assess human beings based on five personality traits, known as the “Big Five.” These are: openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are you easily upset?). Based on these dimensions—they are also known as OCEAN, an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism—we can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person in front of us. This includes their needs and fears, and how they are likely to behave. The “Big Five” has become the standard technique of psychometrics. But for a long time, the problem with this approach was data collection, because it involved filling out a complicated, highly personal questionnaire. Then came the Internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski.
Michal Kosinski was a student in Warsaw when his life took a new direction in 2008. He was accepted by Cambridge University to do his PhD at the Psychometrics Centre, one of the oldest institutions of this kind worldwide. Kosinski joined fellow student David Stillwell (now a lecturer at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge) about a year after Stillwell had launched a little Facebook application in the days when the platform had not yet become the behemoth it is today. Their MyPersonality app enabled users to fill out different psychometric questionnaires, including a handful of psychological questions from the Big Five personality questionnaire (“I panic easily,” “I contradict others”). Based on the evaluation, users received a “personality profile”—individual Big Five values—and could opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with the researchers.
Kosinski had expected a few dozen college friends to fill in the questionnaire, but before long, hundreds, thousands, then millions of people had revealed their innermost convictions. Suddenly, the two doctoral candidates owned the largest dataset combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected.
The approach that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the next few years was actually quite simple. First, they provided test subjects with a questionnaire in the form of an online quiz. From their responses, the psychologists calculated the personal Big Five values of respondents. Kosinski’s team then compared the results with all sorts of other online data from the subjects: what they “liked,” shared or posted on Facebook, or what gender, age, place of residence they specified, for example. This enabled the researchers to connect the dots and make correlations.
Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who “liked” the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was “liking” Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who “liked” philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.
Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook “likes” by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn’t stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced.
The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject’s answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook “likes.” Seventy “likes” were enough to outdo what a person’s friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 “likes” what their partner knew. More “likes” could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves. On the day that Kosinski published these findings, he received two phone calls. The threat of a lawsuit and a job offer. Both from Facebook.
Only weeks later Facebook “likes” became private by default. Before that, the default setting was that anyone on the internet could see your “likes.” But this was no obstacle to data collectors: while Kosinski always asked for the consent of Facebook users, many apps and online quizzes today require access to private data as a precondition for taking personality tests. (Anybody who wants to evaluate themselves based on their Facebook “likes” can do so on Kosinski’s website, and then compare their results to those of a classic Ocean questionnaire, like that of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center.)
Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.
But it was not just about “likes” or even Facebook: Kosinski and his team could now ascribe Big Five values based purely on how many profile pictures a person has on Facebook, or how many contacts they have (a good indicator of extraversion). But we also reveal something about ourselves even when we’re not online. For example, the motion sensor on our phone reveals how quickly we move and how far we travel (this correlates with emotional instability). Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.
Above all, however—and this is key—it also works in reverse: not only can psychological profiles be created from your data, but your data can also be used the other way round to search for specific profiles: all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats? Essentially, what Kosinski had invented was sort of a people search engine. He started to recognize the potential—but also the inherent danger—of his work.
To him, the internet had always seemed like a gift from heaven. What he really wanted was to give something back, to share. Data can be copied, so why shouldn’t everyone benefit from it? It was the spirit of a whole generation, the beginning of a new era that transcended the limitations of the physical world. But what would happen, wondered Kosinski, if someone abused his people search engine to manipulate people? He began to add warnings to most of his scientific work. His approach, he warned, “could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.” But no one seemed to grasp what he meant.
Suffice to say that the most human part of us is our own capacity to choose, to will, to act willingly, to vow. Without that, we have no mind and are not souls. Anyone trying willfully to take that capacity away from another person — let alone an entire civil society — I consider an enemy to humanity. They themselves have betrayed what it means to be human for the same reason the rapist takes away a woman’s right to choose sex or abstinence and the murderer takes away a man’s right to choose life or death.
But it’s not just Cambridge Analytica. As the video said:
“No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.
You are being programmed.”
My only option was to abscond.
“We need a hard break. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore.”
Briefly, I found the 90 – 9 – 1 rule in effect everywhere — that 90% of the internet is consumers and lurkers and watchers, 9% is made up of commenters and curators, 1% is made up of producers who made the substance that dictates everything else.
I learned this about myself in college, but it’s becoming more and more true of me: I’d rather make than destroy, order than sow chaos, produce than consume, build up than tear down, give than take.
That means less time looking at and talking about whatever everyone else makes and does and more time making and doing things consistent with my convictions while studying the great body of human thought in order to better shape those convictions. To think great thoughts, imagine how they might manifest, and then manifest them. In short, mine is a move away from idle talk and idle acts. It’s a move towards true meaning in word and deed.
Let’s just look at some scientific studies, shall we?
- Social media use is linked to social isolation — not connection.
- The more time a young adult uses social media, the more likely they are to feel socially isolated. Study suggests use of social media doesn’t present a panacea to reduce perceived social isolation. Past studies have shown that social isolation is associated with an increased risk for mortality.
- Fear of missing out predicts social media use and addiction better than personality traits & attachment style
- A study on social media has found that there is a two-step flow of information through which a minority of users accounts for the majority of influence
- Reports published in the Journal of Eating Disorders reveal images depicting emaciated looks are regularly shared on social media. Previous research has demonstrated that exposure to these groups of content is associated with increased body dissatisfaction and decreased self-esteem
- Teens are suffering from increased depression and suicidality, and it is linked to increases in social media usage
- In the first study on the effects of purpose in the online world, researchers have found that having a sense of purpose limits how reactive people are to positive feedback on social media.
- A Computational Experiment on the Emergence of Food Scares: Social media facilitate the formation of feedback loops through the emergence of multiple links, which can potentially lead to instances of market and social panic.
- People who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who use zero to two platforms, even after adjusting for the total time spent on social media overall.
- In a study of 1,787 adults between 19 and 32, new study finds a significant relationship between depression and social media usage. Specifically, the more social media someone uses the more likely it is that they suffer from depression even after controlling for relevant covariates.
- In a study of 364 college students, espousing an “alcohol identity” on social media was predictive of alcohol problems, and was even more predictive than alcohol consumption itself.
- High Internet, video game use linked to mental health issues.Teenagers who use the Internet, social media or electronic games excessively are more likely to experience mental health issues and engage in risk-taking behaviour, research suggests.
- Survey of 535 university students finds that vulnerability may be key predictor of problematic social media use among those with narcissistic traits
- There is a tendency to equate what we do on social media as if it is social interaction, but that does not reflect people’s actual experience using it. A study shows people are actually quite adept at discerning the difference between using social media and having real social interaction.
- Social media is damaging UK teenagers, study finds.
- Kids as young as 13 may be inundated with daily ads from the alcohol industry on social media, and while Twitter has an age-gate which blocks direct-to-phone updates for underage users, Instagram does not, according to a new study
- Here’s how scientific misinformation, such as climate doubt, spreads through social media – diffusion of content generally takes place within clusters of users known as “echo chambers” — polarized communities that tend to consume the same types of information.
They go on and on and on and on and truly they all connect back to this mass, society-wide dopamine addiction to low-effort voting affirmation and feedback loops.
As the former Facebook Executive in the video said—
“I feel tremendous guilt… in the back deep recesses of our minds, we all knew something bad could happen. But I think the way we defined it was not like this. It literally is at a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That’s truly where we are at.
“…The short term dopamine feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. It’s not an American problem. It’s not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.
“…My solution is that I just don’t use these tools anymore… We compound the problem. We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection. Hearts. Likes. Thumbs up. We conflate that with value and we conflate that with truth. What it is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short term and leaves us — and admit it — even more vacant and empty than before your did it. Because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you ask what’s the next thing I need to do because I need it back. Think about that compounded by two billion people and then think about how people react to perceptions of others. It’s really bad. It’s really, really bad.”
And he’s not the only one:
So how do we beat it?
We need communities of love to challenge one another, because that’s the only way you beat addiction:
Really this all comes down to a gross immaturity in our culture — on that is so obsessed with various short-term desires, they never stop to ask why they want to want so bad, why they desire to desire so deeply, why they desperately need to need.
The answer won’t be found in numbing our selves and feeding our depression by diving headlong into whatever comes our way.
It’ll be through steady yielding to that desire behind all desires and a noble waiting for our deeper gratification to finally come and fill us.
However that ends, it began for me in part last year with deleting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my non-blog Reddit account. For the large part, I will stay off of social media in perpetuity. I’d much rather act, practice reticence, reflect, produce, vow, and delay gratification for short-term desires in deference to my deepest desire.