The Dangers of Social Media

The Internet has been an invaluable tool to me, especially in the last two years.  I do not use Facebook or LinkedIn, but I am–just recently–on Twitter for professional reasons.  I must say, some internet media and blogging, are activities with great potential for informing, organizing, finding like-minded friends, political allies or business opportunities.  Wikipedia  and even more serious sites, like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or technical journals and videos on a wide variety of serious topics are all invaluable adjuncts to traditional modes and methods of scholarly work.  Some of the dynamic visuals of mathematical functions make readily accessible and imaginable understanding that would otherwise remain remote.

The video below presents, finally by former insiders, some of the untoward consequences and dangers that social media represents.

I am a biologist with training in neuroscience and behavior.  I grew concerned as early as the 1990s of the nefarious data gathering and espionage potential of the internet.  I was also alarmed by its utilization, by entities unknown and unreachable by the user, in shaping the behavior of the user.  Further, with some understanding of the reward systems of the brain, it was obvious to me how these programs were being set up and how the consumers were being manipulated.  I would say that ‘sinister’ was not even too big of a word to apply here.

I was a teacher and a professor familiar with high school, community colleges, private colleges and university settings.  I have an intense interest and concern about how minds develop.  Intellectual development is important not only for the young, but for all adults as well.  Please see my article Education as Conversation .

Problematic for anyone, but especially so for the young, is the potential for the cell phone-based social media platforms to become an intrusive and disruptive aspect of their lives.  Young people are in a phase when they generally need a lot of social feedback for shaping their own self-identity.  Normally, this is done in person-to-person ways, unmediated by electronic devices.  In-person discussion open the young person’s brain to learning facial expressions, emotional tonality, subtleties of body gestures, and connection to physical needs like, “Hey, let’s get a soft drink, I’m thirsty–how about you?”

I can detect a genuine diminution of people’s capacity to be polite, engaging, interactive, communicative, forthright, expressive, gesturing appropriately, challenging, capable of withstanding challenges, analytic, synthetic, descriptive, magnanimous, emotionally transmissive and receptive and self-confident.

This coupled with the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), especially by women by two-fold, I believe has made the Western workplace an environment riddled with pitfalls for healthy individuals not drugged with anti-depressants.  Please see [to be published] UPCOMING: Emotional Ecology in a Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibited Society (1)

Use of social media, particularly instantiated on cell phones, can only exacerbate this milieu of cognitively, emotionally and socially detached individuals, again, especially if they are young, because these individuals have not yet had the neurophysiological development nor the behavioral experience to withstand the normal, healthy, productive conflicts and rewards of the world of business and work.

Thus, I submit, what we have is best called “electronic media.”  Whether that media is truly “social” or whether it proves to be anti-social as growing evidence shows, depends on the users and their environment of users.  Not surprisingly, the well-educated with substantial interpersonal experience in activities such as negotiating, scholarship & reading, work skills, family or vocational life–and well-trained skills speaking and listening–are best able to employ electronic media in ways that enhance sociality.    If you ae paying attention, you will notice that I am making and argument for traditional education—education with real, flesh & blood professors.

Now, do not be surprised if someone does not try to develop “apps” (I hate that kind of jargon) to help people become more social.  Needless to say, I do not hold out much hope for that to become widely successful, just as I do not hold out much promise for “apps” that help depressed people or enable others to meditate.  But that is my opinion.  Comment below if you disagree–it is fine if you disagree with me.  I would like to learn of your experience if it is different.

 

And on Friday, January 5, 2018, this small report appeared that Mark Zuckerberg has made it a 2018 New Year’s Resolution to “fix Facebook.” (2)  The expectation of this commenter at the Second Society Project is that this means–as is typical of all Silicon Valley “fixes”–to “make it worse.”

We can start by seeing the tension, as humans take it to be, between reason and emotion, we can provokes some thought by this particular analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s projection of an future relatively impoverished of emotions.  (The whole video is worth watching, but I will pick it up some 20 or so minutes into the video.)

 

Here is an instructive piece on the behavioral and cognitive damage, not to mention the societal effects, of handle-held technology:

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(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4790490/Women-twice-likely-use-antidepressants-men.html

(2) http://fortune.com/2018/01/04/mark-zuckerberg-new-years-resolution-2018/


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