Countless Americans spend hours each day interacting with others on various social media platforms. Photos are liked, memes are passed along, recipes are shared, all in seemingly innocent fun. Perhaps, though, there is a darker, more sinister element to social media that should be considered.
In fact, this perverse characteristic might threaten the health of Americans down to their very soul. Therefore, the question that begs to be asked isn’t can the soul thrive while using social media — but can it even survive?
According to author Jason Lanier, a Silicon Valley scientist and author of a book entitled “Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” everyone should be deleting their social media accounts. His reasoning goes beyond the typical list of negative elements like internet trolls and temptations, and looks at a particularly interesting idea. Lanier believes that the most dangerous aspect of social media is the fact that it changes the way humans behave from solitary to a frenzied pack mentality. In his book, he likens this to a wolf pack, and explains how wolves act when on their own verses when they are with their pack.
“When the solitary/pack switch is set to pack, we become obsessed with and controlled by a pecking order,” Lanier writes. “We pounce on those below us, lest we be demoted, and we do our best to flatter and snipe at those above us at the same time. Our peers flicker between ‘ally’ and ‘enemy’ so quickly that we perceive them as individuals. They become archetypes from a comic book. The only constant basis of friendship is shared antagonism toward other packs.”
Lanier says the proof of the pack mentality that he believes is switched into the on position when posting/using social media is proven when one considers the type of content that goes “viral.” According to Lanier, the more nonsensical and “memeable,” the better when it comes to content that goes viral. Forget truth — it has no place in viral or digital platforms. This doesn’t mean those on social media are stupid or unable to see through the ruse of the many things posted on social media. Instead, it simply indicates they want to belong, as they are willing to overlook the ridiculousness in order to do so. This in turn further validates Lanier’s theory of a pack mentality way of thinking.
Lanier explains that democracy and capitalism cannot survive when the switch is permanently switched to “pack” mode.
“Tribal voting, personality cults, and authoritarianism are the politics of the pack setting,” he said.
A person’s soul cannot thrive or even survive in this setting either as there is no rest, rejuvenation or peace. There is a constant state of fighting for survival.
Lanier is far from the only expert who has raised the alarm when it comes to the damage that can be done with social media overuse. Chamath Palihapitiya, who was a former vice president of user growth for Facebook said the following while speaking at an event at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” He went on to advise people take a “hard break,” and some much needed time away from social media.
Founding president of Facebook Sean Parker, also weighed in on the issue. He explained why social media is so powerful of a tool.
“Social validation feedback loop—a little dopamine hit—because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post. That’s exactly the thing a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he said.
The soul demands respite from the craziness of this world. Social media does nothing to help the soul or create the quiet it so obviously needs. The Bible talks about how to quench a thirsty or dry soul in Psalm 107:9, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”
A thirsty soul could be compared to one that is in need of peace, rejuvenation and wisdom. Each Christian must determine for themselves whether or not social media is healthy for their soul. Suffice to say, though, that a dry thirsty soul would certainly benefit from less social media, no matter the circumstances.
~ 1776 Christian