By now it should be clear that I have a little project running with regard to this column. Instead of random topics, I’ve been sticking to one theme across these past few weeks. That theme just happens to be the dangers of social media.
I started with my experiences in shedding my social media accounts and the resulting mental freedom that the decision afforded me. Then I covered how some tech executives who were instrumental in the success of these social media companies were beginning to have serious second thoughts about what they had created. This was followed by the effects of overexposure to technology on children. I rounded it out with a piece on the physical effects of our gadgets and suggestions on how, based on my own experiences, to detoxify from social media.
So why this obsession with social media? Because I think it’s at the root of many of our social ills today, and of our extreme political ills as well. I’ve already likened social media to a drug, and that’s really how it acts. Social media lulls us into a narrow hyperactivity at the expense of shutting down our higher order reasoning functions. It lowers our inhibitions online and it changes our perception of the world. I’ve known people who in person used to be friendly and gentle, but in their social media persona were utterly vicious, practically frothing at the mouth.
Social media reminds me of Rohypnol, more popularly known as a ‘roofie’, the date rape drug. Originally a treatment for insomnia, its effects include sedation, muscle relaxation, and memory less. Surreptitiously placed in the drinks at clubs or bars, victims would have limited or no recollection of the assault. There are many things going on today that feel a lot like national rape. Just a few years ago, in the previous dispensation, would have had people in the streets. But now? Barely a peep. Drugged, that’s what.
In the encyclical “Laudato si”, published almost three years ago, Pope Francis already warned of the effects of social media:
“Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload…. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution.”
But more on this next week.