Being Mindful of Social Media

Being Mindful of Social Media

Have you watched Social Dilemma on Netflix yet? If not, go do that and come back to this. If you have, let’s discuss.

If you’ve been following along, you know I have had a love-hate relationship with social media, FaceBook in particular. My goal was to make 2020 a FaceBook-free year and I was succeeding nicely for three months when the pandemic drew me back. Being the last to find out about a former co-workers death made me feel disconnected (Week One: Bringing theCauseCoach back to Facebook).

In a post last December, I wrote about my issues with FaceBook (I’m leaving FaceBook – here’s why). Although realizing I was somewhat addicted, the issue at the time was more about the disinformation that was allowed to run rampant on the site. I often ignored the threat that social media “has your data” because I thought, “who cares.” So they’re using my data to market products to me – hasn’t advertising been manipulating me my entire life?

And of course there were lots of positives about connecting with old friends and staying in touch with friends and family far away, but at what cost? Sure advertisers have an easier time manipulating your purchasing decisions, but the issues with social media, as I learned from Social Dilemma, run so much deeper than that. Social media uses our need to connect with other humans against us.

“The documentary explains that technology manipulates our evolutionary need to connect with other people and to do that it gives us dopamine. Its goal is to optimize this and cause addiction. It creates a space with our self-worth and identity are tied to their products by dosing us with approval every five minutes that exceeds ten times the amount we’ve received historically.” – Wright, C. (2020 September) “The Social Dilemma”, Medium

Yes, I’m addicted to social media (I admitted to that problem a while ago). Social media is designed to be addicting. The reaction buttons? The photo tagging? – things that give us that dopamine and keep us engaged, checking in, and coming back for more. One of the best realizations from the documentary for me was when they noted only the social media industry and the drug industry refer to their customers as “users.” 

The bottom line on all this? We are becoming a depressed, anxious, divided and angry society. 

5 Key Takeaways From The Social Dilemma Documentary on Netflix

1. We have a social media problem.
2. Social media really is designed to be addictive.
3. Our children are at risk.
4. Our governments are doing little to solve the problem.
5. You can (and must) make the changes on your own.

N. Ugochukwu (2020 October) Echo Warrior Princess

Conspiracy theorists, and a whole of host of bad actors have been given a platform on social media and have taken advantage of those who aren’t at least being somewhat mindful about where the information is coming from. I called out a friend on FaceBook from sharing a Tweet from a right-wing voice featured on far right-leaning media which included a doctored video. 

I said, “Everyone is entitled to their political opinions. What I don’t tolerate is the spreading of false information from questionable sources. Before posting something check the source – who are they and what do they represent? Can I find the story in other media? Three sources minimum. Check against Snopes. I do it with stuff in support of Biden. If it’s from Huff Post, politico or other far left-leaning media, I pass and look to see what New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, etc. have to say. The thing that sucks about social media is that all this crap is flying around and no one is verifying sources. If we can agree on just one thing, can we agree on that? Let’s all be part of the solution.”

Election stress has certainly been amplified by social media. Because of the pandemic, we’re all probably using social media more under the guise of staying connected. I hope before this year is out, we begin to turn a corner on all of it. I agree with those take-aways though – especially #5. I think we may be on our own for a while.

Early voting. Chicago, Illinois. October 2020

If you’re trying to pull away from FaceBook, I wrote two pieces at the beginning of the year you may find helpful:

I’m worried

I’m worried

Christmas is three months away. We are finally heading into the last quarter of 2020 and I have some deep concerns about where we go from here. For perhaps the first time in my life, my superpower of being able to roll with the punches, is feeling greatly challenged by the antagonist’s evil forces.

Another day working from home. That, I don’t mind. There are valuable resources of time and money being saved by not having to commute and being able to eat lunch at home. I am no longer a working mom of a school aged-child, so there is some peace found in my current situation.

I think back to the challenges I had as a working parent – back in the days when parents went to work and children went to school. I can’t even begin to imagine where we’d be in this. Even if your child is given an opportunity to attend school in person, it’s still a challenging environment, and parents are still worried about contagion.

Although we are the lucky ones. We are healthy. So far, our families and friends have escaped the worse of the pandemic and its collateral damage. We are employed. We have roofs over our heads and the bills are getting paid. That is certainly not the case for everyone. There is also that nagging question of will it last?

Then there is the divisiveness that rules our country and has trickled down into the crevices of our small communities. Fueled in part by social media as angry white men and suburban soccer moms shout insults and death threats from the security of their keyboards.

Some question whether elected officials have our best interests in mind, whether police officers are truly committed to protecting all of our citizenry, whether our country’s president understands the constitution he swore to uphold, and whether the judiciary will side with the rule of the laws set forth by previous courts.

Some see it differently. They may feel disenfranchised; they may believe something is being taken away from them or that America took a wrong turn somewhere, and this current state is somehow on course to right that wrong. People, who it would seem, have a very narrow view of what it means to be responsible to others.

And here we all sit. Waiting for November 3 like a ticking bomb we are powerless to defuse. 

As if a global pandemic, ensuing financial downturn, and a combusting heightened intolerance for inequality wasn’t enough. On top of trying to imagine how we all come out from under this burden, we are still victims of our own lives. The day-to-day stuff we always worried about.

For me, this time of year especially, it’s some form of PTSD because of my own experiences (the anniversary of my husband’s suicide is October 6), and I know we all have our own challenges to bear, behind, and perhaps escalated by, the obvious universal social ills. From what I’ve witnessed and discussed with friends, it’s taking a huge toll on everyone’s mental health.

I don’t have a conclusion or a collection of steps we can take to feel better about any of this. This was all just an observation. I think all we can do at this moment is simply pause and acknowledge there’s a problem. Maybe next week we’ll be in the right frame of mind to talk about how we’re going to make it through what remains of the year.

Destination unknown. Vernon Hills, Illinois. September 2020.
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