Three Steps Toward Reclaiming Our Life From the Algorithm
If you haven’t yet, watch The Social Dilemma. It is chilling.
The internal disruption it causes by poking questions at what you previously swallowed whole is similar to what The Giver as a book, and The Matrix as a movie birthed.
A jarring thought experiment.
But even though it has been an experiment, this is real life.
Humankind has become the most valuable commodity known in history. Not our skills, not our passions, but our allegiance.
This knowledge is not new. We’ve long been hearing allegations of movement tracking, data mining, large-scale watching. We’ve researched and concluded that screens are changing brain structure, and that social media has created a catastrophe of loneliness. We’ve observed this change of attention and social norms in schools.
That brains and patterns of interaction and acceptance have (d)evolved in the past decade is not new.
What is new, however, is that those who created Pinterest and the Facebook like button are confessing with retrospective alarm that they put into motion a machine that perfectly knows you better than you know yourself. A machine that is changing relationships and power as we know it.
Where The Hacking the American Mind, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL, lays the case that social media activates the same insatiable dopamine reward pathways as the hardest addicts, The Social Dilemma actually admits that this was the intentional psychological design.
Where a hard-fought 2017 case held that social media was purchased by governments to sway elections, The Social Dilemma holds that this potential of capital power purchasing democracy is chilling.
Where we’ve speculated from riot after riot that people’s opinions are becoming more polarized, The Social Dilemma resigns to the fact that the algorithms they wrote to predict and enforce opinions are ultimately the genesis of the intolerant division of a previously (quasi)-cooperative society.
A forest only holds value in a capitalistic market economy when it’s actively being cut down.
And we are being cut down.
Our social fabric is being torn.
And we are the willing partners who have sold our souls under the guise of connection and convenience.
Covid. Jesus. Mental health. The answer of regaining our integrity intersects with these three things.
We can claw back our character. We can un-become the wilfully blind herd we have become. We can refuse to be a commodity to be bought.
And it starts with Connection. Love. Boundaries.
If the Covid era has taught us anything, it’s that we need each other. We give each other life. Connection with each other is our soul food.
Social media is so good at connecting. It is a connection tool. However, we have made it so much more than a tool. Much like the morphine on the streets compared to the morphine in a surgical theater.
It’s time to take back the authority you relinquished social media so it again becomes a tool.
Our primary interpersonal fulfillment comes from eye-contact and time spent. Largely doing nothing in particular besides spending time.
Use the tool to invite others for dinner, and then turn it off while you eat.
Use the tool to know what small talk you can skip, and use their pictures as a launch into deeper conversation.
Use the tool the app is imbedded in, and dial the number instead.
Use the tool, but sit outside in your front yard while you hold it and say hi to everyone you see.
Make a point to connect in real life. Consistently. Regularly. Vulnerably.
Your soul will thank you for this.
Jesus was not an intolerant bigot. As the Son of God, nobody else on earth thought like him. He had no fortress of opinion cohort from which to launch hate and intolerance.
What did he not do?
Hide behind a screen that projected lofty moral and character statements with the ambition of defamation and division.
Rather, what did he do?
Walked around with people. Ate with people. Listened to people.
He had his big, opposing opinions, but he always shared them in love alongside an offer of freedom.
Use the tool to intentionally follow people from other fortresses. If you are Biden, follow Trump’s people. If you are Trump, follow Biden’s people.
And further, refuse to click on anything recommended for you. That’s just the machine building a more accurate avatar of your.
Algorithms don’t get to dictate what messages you hear. And as you scroll through the cacophony of humanity, exercise critical thinking.
Compare others’ experiences to your own. Solve for truth rather than your immoveable ‘y’. Be willing to hear. See people beyond their opinions and lifestyles.
And see you are all just people.
If after continuous, mindful reflection you hold the same opinions as you did before, know it isn’t your job to make people think like you. You be responsible for you. And you can be responsible to love through all the colors and shades of difference.
It would be boring if we all were the same, anyway.
A main tenant of sustaining mental health is boundaries. What I’m responsible for. What I’m not responsible for.
Putting my own oxygen mask on before helping others.
Ensuring you conduct yourself with integrity online. Being the same person you are in front of your boss, or your mother-in-law as you are behind a screen.
Perhaps our only responsibility online is to be a source of positivity. There’s enough evil out there without anything we could potentially add to it.
Allowing others to be responsible for themselves.
Not engaging with the internet trolls who are only seeking destruction. They aren’t your problem. Your friend’s outlandish opinion, or the picket sign your great aunt June made isn’t yours to correct either.
Aligning my daily activities with my goals.
Intentionally detox from the hours you spend on social media. Though the contrary can be argued, that is not where real life happens.
Put up boundaries on your time. Mindfully funnel where it goes.
I’m preaching to myself here too.
I think we could all benefit from more time being present in our neighborhood, with our families, around the dinner table. I’ll be the first to admit that.
We aren’t going to be wishing for more like or followers while we lay on our deathbed.
The Social Dilemma will only continue to be a dilemma if we allow it to be.
It highlighted the problem for us. It alarmed us.
Now let’s do something about it together to change the trajectory of our future. In fact, come over for coffee tomorrow and we can sit on the front porch to banter over what that better future might look like.