Have you ever stopped to wonder what our phones are doing to our psychology?
Before we dive deeper, I have to admit I find this topic very intriguing, since much of what I have learned and now teach over at Superhero Academy uses social media as a primary vehicle for empowerment.
Growing a social following has, without a doubt, enabled me to make remarkable projects happen, but is there a cost?
As an example, recently I have been learning from an amazing online course that has empowered me and the movements I help craft greatly, but I did start to question… Why?
What is this all for? Why am I truly doing this and is this important?
Today, attention is the new currency.
Like counts and followings are also a status symbol of power.
It’s just the truth.
Before solving this existential crisis of whether or not what we all engage in regularly is having a positive impact, let’s gain a little bit of perspective on both sides of the coin.
The Upside of Social Media
Access to Everyone and Anyone
Being able to reach and connect as well as be influenced by people around the world is no small miracle.
It is important and humbling to remember that, for thousands of years, knowledge was always transmitted directly from person to person. Technology has afforded us much in this regard, and social media has allowed us to be more aware of happenings all over the globe. Everyone from the college student studying upstate to two entrepreneurs working together from different sides of the world can stay connected through the internet.
Instant Access to Information
Information is the fundamental element behind our technological world. Being able to share things at lightning speed across the globe has made the world and its knowledge much more accessible.
Just think about the beautiful symphony of technology working together to make this very moment of you reading this article a reality. It’s mind-blowing stuff.
It also makes news travel quickly, and that opens up a whole new possibility for large scale global action — protests and movements can now form with unprecedented speed and strength in a way that can truly shake up the status quo.
Empowering Alternative Media
As news travels quickly via the social networks, this opens up the doors to alternative news and gives them a bigger voice and broader reach.
Mainstream media is a form of mind control in the sense that it influences general opinion in one direction or the next depending on how they spin and cover the story (and well, it’s no secret that the mainstream has become an oligopoly).
Without some kind of freedom of the press and alternative grassroots networks like Collective Evolution to keep the truth in check, what would our world descend into?
There is a constant struggle between the mainstream outlets and the up and comers, and a dose of healthy competition gets us all a bit closer to the truth on any subject — hence the emergence of Anonymous and Wikileaks, as examples.
Feelings of Connection and Discovery of Our Tribe
But more than anything, social media connects like-minded individuals who may have otherwise been isolated.
The number of people who meet via online dating or apps clearly signals where people are finding connection these days.
When growing up, my friends were the kids who lived within a few blocks from my house and went to my school. The choices were limited, and although I wouldn’t change anything about my personal past, as I truly did have it all, what I can say is that people become influenced by their environment.
The likelihood of someone who grew up in a tough neighbourhood not being influenced to join a gang or commit a crime, when all those around him or her are doing such, is much higher if that same kid can find a more constructive, creative outlet for them to connect with others with similar passions.
Simply put, social media empowers movements and it empowers people. The Valhalla Movement, which I was lucky enough to kick off, is only a reality because I was able to rally friends and strangers to the project immediately through just a few simple posts.
This power is not to be understated and I truly believe it enables far more collaboration and discovery to happen than ever before.
The Downside of Social Media
Internet Addiction is Serious
Internet addiction is no laughing matter.
I personally use things like Rescue Time to track my efficiency online but also to log how many hours I’m spending on different websites or on my computer at all, and well, the numbers are STAGGERING, to say the least…
When was the last time you were more than a few feet away from your phone without feeling slightly uncomfortable or disconnected? Our charge percentage on our phone has become an unintentional signal for our own comfort levels and acts as a technological security blanket for us to deal with “awkward” social situations or any form of “free time” or waiting whatsoever.
It is said that that anywhere between 5 to 10% of internet users would be considered addicts to the internet, showing signs of irritation and discomfort if disconnected involuntarily or for extend periods of time.
I definitely qualify within that range, and I think the truth is that a higher and higher percentage of us are slowly falling victim to this addiction.
It’s no secret that the media — and nowadays the internet — creates unrealistic expectations and pressures people to be something they are not.
Whether it’s women being targeted to be skinnier and sexier or pornography affecting men’s confidence and sexual desires, social media dictates how we feel about ourselves.
It also shades our world with rose coloured glasses.
We absorb people’s highlight reel moments and the best “perfect” angle of their 72nd selfie and we end up in a world where showing off what can often just be genuine content is still affecting how we feel about ourselves.
Sharing a beautiful moment, a comedic thought, or an intriguing video is in no way malicious and is exactly what social media was created for. However, all of this information compiled together really does weigh upon our personal psychology and opens up the door to being “in character” on social media in the same way an actor is on set.
As much as I love storytelling and believe it is a powerful tool for good, it can set up unrealistic beliefs that damage society through what I would consider a culture war.
Social media has done a number on our attention spans, too.
With the emergence of auto play videos — Snapchat, Vine, etc. — there is no doubt that our ability to stay engaged has drastically reduced. This means that people’s ability to stand up against tyranny or to care for any particular event, whether enraging or not, has also decreased.
What this begins to do is desensitize us to the very nature of our humanity, worsening a major issue we face today: Short Term thinking, which is the antonym to sustainability, if you ask me.
This issue of focus has left many people less committed and less happy, and truly furthered our addiction to short-term gratification.
Noise and Muddied Waters
What scares me the most about social media is the way it has replaced the traditional newspaper.
With the amount of “noise” that is on our newsfeeds, it is quite terrifying to think that it’s almost impossible to know what is truth anymore — so much so that things like the Onion’s satirical comedy headlines actually get shared as though they were truth, and many never realize it isn’t.
Although the internet can help us find information, it also makes us skeptical about everything, which serves only to muddy the waters and keep us from the truth.
All this being said, I truly do believe the internet is empowering us more than it is harming us. We can always find excuses for how technology disrupted the status quo and “might be scary,” but that is the exact role of technology.
Innovation and our ability to apply previously learned skills and ideas continues to empower us as humans and has brought us to a phenomenal moment in time. Although there are many things that are concerning about the state of the world and the grips that the status quo does have on so many cornerstones of our existence, I think it’s also important to note that fast transmission of information is the single most important technology that will allow us to fight back.
And so I guess my verdict is, it depends what you use it for!
If you use this technology to spread an empowering and positive message that tells a story and inspires others to chase their dreams, live in harmony with the planet, or do something selflessly, then, in my books, you are fighting the good fight.
I won’t judge anyone for their own personal use of these technologies, but I do want to hold myself to a high standard of quality, inspiration, and reflective content.
The internet is at the front line of justice, abundance, and human potential, and it will go down as one of the biggest leaps and accelerators of collective evolution ever.
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