Acclaimed Journalist and Author Explains What Social Media is Doing to Society
Just a generation ago human communication was completely different from now, and as technology moves faster than we can keep pace, many of us are realizing that there are discreetly negative aspects to such immersion in social media.
Sebastian Junger is an American journalist and author, best-known for his coverage of the war on terror in which he spent a great deal of time ion the front lines of Afghanistan. His book War, was a scorching portrayal of life on the edge of the American empire and the conflux of brotherhood and futility. In 2010 he directed the acclaimed documentary, Restrepo, which captured life for the American grunt in Afghanistan.
As an antrhopolgist, Junger has a keen perspective on humanity and the forces which drive us, hold us together and tear us apart. Speaking in a recent podcast with Joe Rogan, Junger commented on the effects that social media and handheld technologies are having on society. His views are quite important as we swiftly approach the singularity, all the while never really getting around to asking the important questions about how technology may not be serving us well.
“I’m an anthropologist… and I look at the behavior, literally the physical behavior of people with smartphones and it looks anti-social, unhappy and anxious, and I don’t want to look like that, and I don’t want to feel like I think those people feel.” ~Sebastian Junger
Their talk began with a conversation about why Junger does not carry a smart phone, but rather an older style flip phone, then quickly jumped into the effects of social media on mental health and on society as a whole. Citing increases in mass shootings, depression, anxiety, suicide, and these types of negative events, Junger links this to the rise of the information age, in which people are actually less connected to human beings than ever before.
Rogan remarks that smartphones seem like a drug that doesn’t kill you but sucks up all your time, causing you to just stare blankly at your hand.
“There is a drug. It’s that, social media. I think the big lie of our generation is the phrase social media. It really isn’t, it’s anti-social media. And it has a lot of uses, and whatever, but it’s not social in any human sense, and if you look at suicide rates, depression rates, PTSD rates, anxiety rates, they’re doing nothing but going up in our society. Mass shootings…
All those things, they’re indicators of something and they’re all going up in our society despite the fact that we’re a very wealthy, powerful, relatively peaceful society. I can’t prove that it’s social media, the internet, obviously, but the fact that those things are happening at the same time does make me wonder that these new devices certainly don’t bring happiness.” ~Sebastian Junger
A big part of the issue, according to Junger, is that people are not actually no longer experiencing their lives in the way that we were meant to.
“I think the problem is when people want to be socially connected constantly, no matter what they’re doing. And that, I think, keeps people from actually fully experiencing whatever they’re actually doing.” ~Sebastian Junger
There is a great appeal to these technologies, to be sure, but something is amiss here, and we are overlooking something as the technologies advance and push themselves further into our lives.
“The thing about social media is that it sort of weoponizes blandness. It allows, it gives people a platform for the most mundane, uninteresting aspects of their lives, because they have to constantly, constantly be producing some kind of output, communication.” ~Sebastian Junger
Remarking on why teenagers are increasing in rates of anxiety, and he notes the need for constant validation that social media creates.
“Anxiety rates in teenagers have skyrocketed. Anxiety partly comes from a sort of a painful self-awareness, and of course, that’s amplified by because you can never escape the opinions of your peers. That’s crippling to people.” ~Sebastian Junger
Watch the first few minutes of this episode for Junger’s complete comments on this subject:
Of course, there is good reason to question the effects that social media is having on our minds. Even one of the founders of Facebook, Sean Parker, recently stated that these platforms exploit a vulnerability in the human psyche to create a feedback loop of self-validation. His comments were quite candid, and show how just how dangerous this is.
“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually.'”
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”
“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.” ~Sean Parker
Read more articles by Vic Bishop.
About the Author
Vic Bishop is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and OffgridOutpost.com Survival Tips blog. He is an observer of people, animals, nature, and he loves to ponder the connection and relationship between them all. A believer in always striving to becoming self-sufficient and free from the matrix, please track him down on Facebook.
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