ASK FRANK! (read)

Vol-20 Ask Frank, is social media a glitch in our society…

Q. With rapid technological advancement, many have questioned the benefits and side effects of social media on a user’s psychological health. I believe we definitely have a problem in our society without a doubt but it’s effect on us is deeper than what most people have imagined, good or bad. What are your thoughts?

Frank

We celebrate on social media and talk about ourselves, our friends, cultural icons like pop singers, actors, athletes, politicians, and the like. Social media does allow a wider connectivity to those we love and know and helps people stay up with events in our lives we want them to be aware of.

Social media is also a money-making enterprise for the owners of the platforms, influencers who post reviews and how-to articles and of course advertisers. There is also a dark side that includes targeted propaganda of one type or another that is not factually vetted by anyone or any organization. It can be aimed at anyone from perverts sharing harmful information about small children to seniors who may have limited critical thinking skills when it to a being scammed with some urgent request to avert a catastrophe or a get rich scheme.

Untruthful information has entered our lives in a big way in the politics of our nation and has divided the country like no other event since the civil war. It is quite amazing that our most recent former president had told over 30,000 fact checked lies in his presidency that many came to believe, accepted, and continue to believe now that he has left office. Twitter was a preferred vehicle for much of this information.

The question is really our individual fitness relative to critical thinking that is at work here. If you look at the political parties, you will see that about 30-40% of the people are staunch supporters of one party or the other and about 20% or so are independents. People accept their party line without doing any independent investigation of the facts believing that misinformation cannot be on social media, or they are willing to accept any information that may advance their philosophy. 

We are at a crossroads in the way we distribute information that is not factual, how we consume that information, how we evaluate that information and the impact it has on us. There is no longer any acceptance on the facts for things of great importance which has led to this polarization. Social media has certainly expedited and been a major force in the spread of that relatively new term that has entered our lexicon “fake news.”

The effects on us are staggering relative to stress, anxiety, anger and even hate causing those deeply rooted ego driven tribal instincts of thinking, that exist at the ego level in each of us. We think of ourselves as different from those others. Social media is not to blame but it could certainly use some regulation and oversight. Shakespeare points out in a line in his play Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.

This place we find ourselves in is bigger than misinformation. Each of us are being asked to engage in taking a position on one thing or another every day, under the threat of one kind of manufactured fear or another, bringing life as we know it to an end. 

The last time this came to pass we fought a civil war. Blacks who were the “others”  were not entitled to the constitutional rights accorded to them because they were not created equal according to slave holders and supported by the states that seceded from the union. It was OK to treat them as property and owned by human beings who convinced themselves this was their right. Seems hard to believe today, doesn’t it?

I am a life and meditation coach and concerned about how all this affects everyone, and I have seen a big uptick in stress levels in the last few years. The best things we can do is take a break and as the Timothy Leary slogan of the 60’s advised about LSD Tune in, Turn on , Drop out. To be clear I am not supportive of drugs to accomplish a separation from what is becoming a clear and present danger to our society. 

Tune In: I am not talking about tuning in by using any substance I am talking about tuning into your emotions and meditation. Examine your thoughts with some frequency both during and outside of mediation. Pay particular attention to fear and anger.

Turn on: Turn on your skepticism about anything you hear until you can factually trust it before believing anything. Our critical thinking is the most important thing we have. If we give it away, we give away the power of who we are. Even if you come to believe something only accept it as a temporary place holder and be prepared to change your mind if good facts come along to obviate it. 

Drop Out: Step away from your social media and news consumption habits. Reduce or just stop for a while and observe changes within yourself at the being level. Being quiet in meditation is one thing that offers peace and serenity but filtering out the input that is creating a lot of unnecessary disturbance is a positive course of action.

As citizens we need to do our part, but we cannot bring the best of ourselves to this huge problem by being hamstrung with fear. As spiritual beings we need to maintain an awareness that will bring us to our truth.


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