Theresa Byrne says we are engaging in the biggest global social experiment the world has ever seen: Social Media.
Anyone who has ever taken Sociology 101 or Psychology 101 remembers the experiments we studied: ones where people were paid to “shock” strangers sitting in another room, or the one where a neurosurgeon pressed on an area in a woman’s brain and she began singing opera or speaking Portuguese (why am I the only one who ever remembers that one? I swear it happened!). Or the one where college students were paid to become “guards” in an experiment and others “prisoners;” (which is set to become a movie, I believe).
Welcome to the Matrix.
We are actively participating in the largest, most far-reaching global social experiment ever conducted. Social media has become such a constant backdrop these days that many of us don’t give it a second thought. And most of us don’t realize we are subjects in an experiment. We are being analyzed, our behaviors are being categorized, and our activities are being noted. All that’s fine, as long as we’re conscious about what we’re doing and know it’s being done.
Remember, social media is still relatively new on the scene of our collective landscape. Most teens have grown up with it, so they simply consider it a way of life. It’s a way of communication.
Wonderful things have come about as a result of social media—entire industries created and new jobs with them (example: I love writing articles in online publications). I buy and sell things online. You’re reading this article—thank you.
Communities have formed around causes that matter, and the ALS Foundation (as just one example) raised over $11M with the seemingly silly but poignant Ice Bucket Challenge. And there are specific groups created within social media that offer support and hope to people that are going through struggles.
Awareness is power, ignorance is not bliss.
My mantle is power, and I encourage people to be in their power. Awareness is power. Choice is power. And social media entails risks of which you may not be aware. Here are a few things I’d like to bring to your attention. How you CHOOSE to use social media is up to you. When we approach anything in life without intention we can become a target for unwanted consequences.
As a defense teacher I would be remiss if I didn’t at least attempt to show you awareness. I am real-life friends with social media best-selling author and speaker, Joel Comm, who takes intentionally planned breaks from social media, and that’s his livelihood.
After being put on mandatory medical brain breaks from all screens, I started to see how social media impacted my day to day connections. Feeling lost not being able to communicate with people I’d developed relationships with, and I had to recreate a relationship with my real life and it’s surroundings.
I started realizing how hooked I was to social media. I noticed myself actually feeling a sense of withdrawal at first. What were people doing? What were they posting? Was there an impactful meme I’d miss? Was there a post of great value that I’d never see? WHAT WAS I MISSING????
With part of my educational background in psychology, I examined social media in society. Knowing the need or desire for outside affirmation can become unhealthy; I understand the construct of “likes,” comments, hearts, and props are their own set up for issues. But what about other aspects? If, for example, you know your brain is activated by the “ding” of Facebook notifications like Pavlov’s dogs hearing the sound of the bell for dinner, then you have a choice whether to keep those notifications on or shut them off.
You don’t need more stimulus to hook you, social media is already created with our brains pleasure centers in mind. As if it’s one big giant connected party and you don’t want to miss out on a minute.
Things to be aware of:
1. Internet Addiction is now listed in the DSM-VI as a disorder. How does something become categorized as a disorder? When it gets in the way of life, is used as a coping or escape mechanism, creates difficulty in the “normal” or day-to-day scope of living, or causes issues for people in their jobs, relationships, or lives. If someone gets “phone nervous” without their phone nearby, how is this different than any other compulsive activity? And I’m the same way. “Where’s my phone? Did I lose my phone? How will people contact me? How will I know what’s going on? ARGH!”
2. Blackberries used to be called “Crackberries” when they were first released. For a reason. The users were often called “addicts” because they would be on their blackberries checking email, texting, surfing the inter webs, etc. Now it’s not uncommon to see people out and about and on their phones together. I will admit that I have to set limits for myself on the time I spend on social media. I leave my phone off at night (no blue screens past 9-9:30pm) and it’s not the first thing I grab in the morning. I set my own day up. In the past I have lost time just scrolling, watching videos (yes, I love cat videos), enjoying people’s stories, and then BAM hours have passed.
3. *Facebook did a covert study to see what would happen if people were shown only negative posts in their feed. Would they start posting negatively? Anyone who has studied energy can tell you that “emotional contagion” is a real thing and that both positive and negative emotions are real. Facebook found that yes, those who were only shown negative posts seemed to become much more negative. (And here’s what I wonder about: who had the job of culling the negative-only feeds? There was someone at Facebook who had to pull out anything positive from these people’s feeds. Did they end up a tad blue? A bit snippy? I’m guessing they did! NOTE: turns out it was an algorithm. Not people. Math.)
4. Neuroscience shows us that the pleasure centers of the brain light up when we feel loved, connected, or powerful. Allowing these connections to form using social media can indeed light up those centers. But problems can occur when people use social media to self-medicate: to relieve the pain or discomfort in life (see “real life” as opposed to online) a person goes to social media to calm themselves down, feel connected, distracted, engaged, emotional, or important.
5. People are applauded for authenticity, vulnerability, and sharing their pain on social media. What we may forget are the others who are affected by those shares. For example: a family member may not be comfortable with you sharing your upset and painful emotional state around their recent diagnosis of cancer. Or your side of a painful breakup, divorce, or fight. And yes, that does happen. Just as there are two sides to every story, a person may have 347 likes for their story, but since Facebook doesn’t yet have a dislike button, those who don’t wish to comment can only register their dislike through silence. And sometimes silence IS golden. This isn’t a judgment, just something else of which to take notice—how others are affected.
6. Once you put it out there, it’s out there. You cannot take it back. There are now instances where people are being held legally liable (in medical cases and on the job) for the status updates and posts they put on social media (also for jobs and scholarships). I teach teens never to post anything that could ever conceivably be held against you. A good rule of thumb is, “if you wouldn’t say it in front of your parents then don’t say it.” And of course, there are safety issues as well for young people, women, and people in abusive relationships. I’ve lost friends over beautiful teen pictures they’ve posted publicly, being called judgmental because I knew the pictures weren’t safe for the teen.
7. Marketing. The knowledge of how and when the general public uses social media is known by marketing professionals and you are being marketed through social media. This is just to make you aware, you are being marketed. What was once considered a tool for connection is now a way to reach clients. Personally I love it. What better way to connect with like-minded aware clients that need what you can do? I can’t think of a better way, it’s like an electronic referral. The note is that we can use social media to support the awareness of causes, charities, organizations, companies, businesses, and people that we find stand above the rest.
What is “Emotional Contagion” and can I catch it?
Yes, yes you can. Emotional contagion is “and it means that you will be effected by the moods or environment of those around you either positively or negatively.
Since I write for The Good Men Project, I did a bit of digging on the emotional energetics and contagion of what our readers were viewing. I used analytics to search for the top 25 most read articles on the site and what I found was fascinating.
The top 25 articles were what most professionals in the health, wellness, and mental health fields would consider “healthy”. No one put down, marginalized, dismissed, or negated in any of the top articles. They were all about acceptance, real life, and having more ease, and the one about birds flying in an amazing pattern as if orchestrated by something divine.
I am not telling you to take a social media detox, but I am asking you to consider how you use it, why you use it, and to be conscious about it. That’s my job. That’s my mission. That way you stay aware and powerful. Thanks for reading!
*What did the paper on the Facebook study itself find? TheAtlantic.com article
“The study found that by manipulating the News Feeds displayed to 689,003 Facebook users users, it could affect the content which those users posted to Facebook. More negative News Feeds led to more negative status messages, as more positive News Feeds led to positive statuses.
As far as the study was concerned, this meant that it had shown “that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.” It touts that this emotional contagion can be achieved without “direct interaction between people” (because the unwitting subjects were only seeing each others’ News Feeds).”