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Unsocial Media

DagobahZenDagobahZen Ireland Veteran

Hi all,
I've reached a point where I've become quite concerned with the state, influence and effect of social media on people in the world. Rates of anxiety and depression in our young population are rising. The engineers behind designing these social media sites have admitted they are designed to be addictive. The combination of social media with the development of the smartphone seems to have accelerated the problem. I'm not anti technology or anti progress but I've reached a point where I wonder if social media sites (we all know the main sites involved) do more harm than good. Has the balance tipped to their destructive properties outweighing the benefits? I'd love to hear people's take on their social media experience and outlook (whatever that take or view is - I'd love to hear it). As a Buddhist do you find it easier not to get trapped into the addictive pull of social media? Have you developed a level of mindfulness that protects you from being sucked into it? Anyone social media free entirely and how does that feel?
Love to hear people's experience with this. Thank you all.
P.S. I'm on the cusp of giving up social media myself.

marcitkoJeroenpersonShoshin1

Comments

  • DagobahZenDagobahZen Ireland Veteran

    Also it's hard to separate the two, but is smartphone overuse and addiction which we see so much of today a seperate issue to social media overuse? Smartphones now are being given to children at younger ages than ever and they are overusing them from a much earlier age. I really feel it's a huge issue that humanity is literally sleepwalking around on smartphones and social media. The engineers of SM really tapped into the human brain in terms of the psychology of FOMO. I don't think I'm addicted to social media but I use both it and my smartphone more than I would like.
    A seperate Buddhist question arises for me. The whole idea of the middle path. If I get rid of my social media accounts (which I really feel is the right move for me) have I abandoned the middle road?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited March 18

    I never actually got involved in social media in the first place. Back when I worked in the UK, it was a useful way to keep in touch with colleagues, via LinkedIn and Facebook, but I was never very active on there. So I have accounts on which those old contacts are maintained but I’m very rarely on there.

    I also keep a minimum of personal information on there, these places tend to get hacked every so often and so you can count on what you put on a social media site eventually ending up on the dark web. I’ve had highly personalised phishing emails being sent to an email account that I use for very few things. I’ve also noticed that Facebook has absorbed a lot of interest that used to go out to forums.

    So yes, I would kind of agree that social media has largely become harmful. I use YouTube and WhatsApp quite a lot, and stay away from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and so on.

    My take on it is, as long as it is a useful communications device, smartphones and texting have a place, but I don’t think maintaining a social media profile is beneficial or necessary.

    DagobahZenShoshin1
  • marcitkomarcitko Veteran
    edited March 18

    A timely topic for me, since I've been thinking about this same issue as of late.

    Yesterday, I listened to a very interesting Freakonomics podcast. The guest-economist claims that there are goods - which we buy - but would prefer did not exist at all. His examples are luxury goods ("keeping up with the Joneses") and social media ("staying connected to friends and family").

    According to his research, most people would PAY to have social media taken off-line for a month, where the main point is that it would be taken off-line for everyone. But most people would require to be PAID to have their own social media taken offline for a month ("blocked"). Hence, we have a case of FOMO, where most people would prefer social media did not exist, but they do not feel capable of quitting on their own. If the research holds true, that's a really interesting phenomenon.

    Some additional thoughts:

    • I certainly fall within the category of the above experiment. I would prefer social-media did not exist, but do not quit (for now) since it's a way of staying connected to friends.
    • I highly dislike the fact that social-media does not allow easy customization of the algorithm or restricting usage. For instance, Youtube keeps reccomending videos of a speaker I highly do not want to see, and have actively told the algorithm over 50 times that I am not interested in those videos plus I have never watched videos by this speaker, yet they keep coming.
    • Apparently there is a phenomenon where social media has moved away from the way it was, where we predominantly saw posts by friends, and is now a feed of random groups, influencers, pages, etc. People-to-people communication has moved to WhatsApp and similar places in private groups.
    • I am very concerned about the "brainwashing" aspects of social media - where the things we consume highly shape our thinking. Here, I am most concerned about the aspect in which we do not even chose what we consume, or where it is very difficult to do so. For instance the Youtube example I provided above, where it takes great effort to stay away from a speaker I consider - and most would consider - harmful.

    That's it from me for now. I'll be very interested in what others have to say, especially about the ways&means in which we can overcome the negative aspects of social media, including the experiences of those who have maybe quit totally.

    personDagobahZenShoshin1
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    To me the most destructive thing about social media isn't purely the addictive quality, though that is bad, its the way that it incentivizes and brings out our more destructive and anti social emotions. In order to keep us engaged anger and disgust are more powerful drivers.

    I've also more recently become aware of the impact superficial wealth influencers are having on kids and what they aspire to in life. Something like 1 in 5 children's answer to what they want to be when they grow up is just rich. Maybe this is a passing phase, the 80s was pretty materialistic too.

    There is also this effect where since people can cultivate exactly what they want to see, seeing or hearing things outside that world becomes increasingly unpleasant.

    Shoshin1marcitkoDagobahZenGavin_R
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 19


    Dear Friends who don't know what Instagram is,

    As we may know I use Mastodon social media - badly. I don't know how to use it well ... yet.
    https://fediverse.party/

    I was on Instagram for a while but the Fediverse has an alternative, just as it has friendly, advert free wonders for wonderful critters (for example sentient cats)

    I can not tell you where I am or what my handle is because I am on a new computer/server somewhere in the clouds ... with a new group deprogramming to get us off legacy centralised social media. All I can say is expect the unexpected

    I have an account here but as I say, am trying to be a social media bodhi ...
    https://fediverse.party/en/peertube/

    Mastodon is run by elephants

    DagobahZen
  • DagobahZenDagobahZen Ireland Veteran

    Thank you for the responses so far. Much appreciated. 👍👍

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Using my super Unsocial Media powers and my acquired today, 'Mantis' microphone ... I was able to perhaps:

    1. Use my free account from free software 'Audacity' at audio.com
    2. Make use of their inbuilt generative AI to create a text summary of my rambling (see below)
    3. Provide a free rant/podcast of aprox. five minutes

    To put it another way:
    Nothing is inherently incapable of something to further our path to awakening. It is why sometimes the time off The Middle Way, brings us to a centring.

    People have posted a variety of helpful approaches AND temp staying away from social media or moderating its addictive nature are all valid.

    My approach is Use Everything for good ... <3

    https://audio.com/lobster/audio/audiomantis1b

    The speaker discusses Bhakti yoga, the yoga of the elements and chakras. They explain how opening different chakras affects one's inner journey. Bhakti yoga involves having a devotional relationship with a teacher. They compare it to the Kagyu system in Tibetan Buddhism and the Sufi tradition, which also emphasize devotion and opening the heart. They mention that most people are familiar with Hatha yoga, which focuses on the earth chakra and stabilizing oneself. They emphasize the importance of fluidity and movement in yoga practice. They mention that different systems may have different terminology, but what matters is finding what works for each individual. They mention that epiphanies can occur in various forms, such as mental, physical, or related to interconnectedness. They highlight the importance of personal exploration and experimentation. The speaker concludes by mentioning their new microphone and computer server.

    DagobahZen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I thought this was an interesting perspective. They talked about how our evolutionary wirings make us vulnerable to what they're calling a "scarcity loop". They talk about it in terms of gambling (the professor teaches in Las Vegas), dieting, social media as well as other areas of life this impacts us. Regarding social media they talk about how these companies are intentionally high-jacking these systems to keep us engaged in their products.

    DagobahZenShoshin1
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    Just saw an Interview with Jonathan Haidt, one of my favorite public intellectuals, on his new book "The Anxious Generation". I think he makes a compelling case and offers good solutions.

    DagobahZen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    A longer interview with PBS.

    DagobahZenVastmind
  • Steve_BSteve_B Veteran

    I have a few websites, like this one, that I find interesting and occasionally contribute to discussions.

    I have never had a facebook account. Same for instagram or any of the others. A full rich life is quite possible, and probably enhanced, by such avoidance.

    lobsterDagobahZenJeroenVastmind
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Well said @Steve_B

    Riches through less. It is a sing-song-sangha. All together now ...

    oh wait ... I have forgotten the words.

    Where is the Buddhist Mahayana Karoake machine when you need it ...

    DagobahZen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I am glad you’ve decided that Buddhist forums are among the wise uses of social media.

    DagobahZen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    I am glad you’ve decided that Buddhist forums are among the wise uses of social media.

    Jonathan Haidt who's doing the rounds at the moment with his book makes a distinction between social media and the internet generally. I'm not totally sure what he thinks about forums and discussion groups but I think his main focus are the algorithmically boosted areas that are warping people's minds.

    lobsterVastmindDagobahZen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    I'm not totally sure what he thinks about forums and discussion groups but I think his main focus are the algorithmically boosted areas that are warping people's minds.

    Certainly a lot of Meta’s social media products are built using ‘engagement metrics’ in order to maximise time spent in them, ie make them as addictive as possible. YouTube is another one of these, which I just find too useful to free myself from entirely.

    But really all the algorithm is doing is pointing out your own weaknesses. It’s another form of dukkha being the best teacher, if you are aware enough to respond to what disturbs your peace.

    DagobahZen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    But really all the algorithm is doing is pointing out your own weaknesses. It’s another form of dukkha being the best teacher, if you are aware enough to respond to what disturbs your peace.

    I think this is a good lesson for those of us following an inner path. For the rest of the world, its causing lots of problems. There has been a cultural response to social media, many people are realizing the toxic effects and are abandoning them. The young respond pretty strongly to how much they dislike it. For them though there is a collective action problem. Many realize the harmful effects but if they alone step away they are the weird one missing out on what all their peers are doing.

    In some of Haidt's previous work on this he's made a point that time interacting with others acts as an antidote to social media. My niblings are in their teens, but their parents have limited the time they can spend on their phones and make sure they are spending time with other people. They seem to be getting on pretty healthily. That isn't the case for everyone though.

    VastmindDagobahZen
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    marcitkoJeroenlobsterDagobahZen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I thought this was interesting. An ad for Snapchat popped up, it simply said

    Less social media. MORE SNAPCHAT.

    Seems an obvious lie to me that Snapchat isn't social media. The important point though is that the message seems to be getting through that social media is an ill to be avoided.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    It’s something usually targeted at younger people… I don’t know anyone my age who uses Snapchat or TikTok.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited April 12

    @Jeroen said:
    It’s something usually targeted at younger people… I don’t know anyone my age who uses Snapchat or TikTok.

    I don't use it at all. I did for a while to connect with my niblings. My concern is a broader social one regarding the implications for the collective mental health and especially that of the younger generation.

    Maybe that's more to the point, though. In the recent stuff Jonathan Haidt has been talking about, he mentions that the young generation dislike social media on par with the olds. They're kind of trapped by it because all their peers are too.

    lobsterJeroen
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran

    P.S. I'm on the cusp of giving up social media myself.

    Thus have I heard
    Don't desire to give up more social media than you can and if you find that a problem, then don't desire to be successful in giving up more social media than you can

    Everything in moderation...including moderation...

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    In the recent stuff Jonathan Haidt has been talking about, he mentions that the young generation dislike social media on par with the olds. They're kind of trapped by it because all their peers are too.

    It really depends on how you choose to share things and maintain contact. My family and friends don’t use Facebook or Instagram, let alone Snapchat or TikTok. We all just use WhatsApp, where we have a family group, and we all share contact details for private chatlines.

    That means that when we want to catch up with someone we drop them a text and have a conversation. Sometimes photos or videos are shared on the group chat, so that everyone knows about them, but that’s all.

    If you use Facebook to maintain contact, you put your photos and posts on there, on your timeline. It’s a different, less private model of handling how you disseminate information. And it also exposes you to Facebook’s algorithms and spew of advertising.

    Really the trade-off is less privacy versus more convenience and a less personal approach to sharing. If you teach young people to spend more time on their contacts in personal communication then it is easier to leave social media behind.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited April 13

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    In the recent stuff Jonathan Haidt has been talking about, he mentions that the young generation dislike social media on par with the olds. They're kind of trapped by it because all their peers are too.

    It really depends on how you choose to share things and maintain contact. My family and friends don’t use Facebook or Instagram, let alone Snapchat or TikTok. We all just use WhatsApp, where we have a family group, and we all share contact details for private chatlines.

    That means that when we want to catch up with someone we drop them a text and have a conversation. Sometimes photos or videos are shared on the group chat, so that everyone knows about them, but that’s all.

    If you use Facebook to maintain contact, you put your photos and posts on there, on your timeline. It’s a different, less private model of handling how you disseminate information. And it also exposes you to Facebook’s algorithms and spew of advertising.

    Really the trade-off is less privacy versus more convenience and a less personal approach to sharing. If you teach young people to spend more time on their contacts in personal communication then it is easier to leave social media behind.

    If you haven't watched an interview with Haidt about his new book, I'd recommend you do. It goes deeper than responsible use. The mental health of the young generation is taking a nose dive, not just in terms of self report, which may have something to do with better mental health awareness, but also in terms of documented self harm and suicide.

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