Social media has undoubtedly made a huge impact on society at large, weaving into the fabric of our interactions and cultural norms. What was once an unassuming means to connect with friends, family, and work colleagues has quickly become a tool for the political and journalistic elite to control not only political discourse but also how we perceive other people in comparison to our worldview. Social media is engineered to alter your perception of reality. Politicians and journalists often leave people feeling hollow and disconnected from their peers.
Is it possible that the entities behind these platforms benefit from framing political and cultural ideas in particular ways? More importantly, do these same entities benefit from the long-term psychological effects that social media has on an individual?
Up until recently, the idea of mass mind control would normally find itself nestled within the pages of a dystopian, sci-fi novel. However, the Podesta e-mails revealed how some of our most powerful officials go to great lengths to create “an unaware and compliant citizenry”. Edward Bernays, known as the Father of Modern Propaganda, is one of the greatest public manipulators in history. His work was so impressive that the U.S. Government often sought his counsel. He has stated:
“We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of. In almost every act of our lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.”
Some of the most successful social media tools incorporate “likes” to validate one’s subconscious need for social acceptance. Repeated validation triggers a brief, but powerful need; a smartphone, for example, is often responsible for providing an immediate solution to that need. Your brain releases endorphins when you check your phone, similar to what drugs do to an addict albeit on a smaller scale. Companies utilizing these tactics are exploiting a need for us to feel included within a community, or (FOMO).
Further, passive browsing of profiles and pictures elicit a sense of envy, loneliness, and anxiety. Studies have shown that those that spend more time browsing Facebook often report to exhibit increased social anxiety. They are also prone to feelings of inadequacy.
Just some food for thought to consider when you go to check your notifications.