Part of me wishes I spent more time reading the great political philosophers, historians, and thinkers. I did not. One area where I have spent a lot of my time reading and working, is in social media. I have been in this game for a long time. And the changes have been profound. The most profound change, in my opinion, is how some people can influence the behavior of millions by simply spreading content online.
I have no doubt, no question in my mind, that there are groups of people out there, sketchy people, who wield a playbook that says “A Troll’s Guide To Creating Anger and Division.” Somewhere unknown, a man sits behind a screen. His life’s work is to get content that incites and divides in front of people. And when he succeeds, it spreads faster than Ricky Bobby in his prime, foot on the gas going 100+ MPH.
Share, share, share. Link, link, link.
It’s too easy for him.
Always ask why you are seeing a piece of content. No content is seen by accident. Whether it’s a newsfeed or an app, it has appeared there for a reason by a person or an algorithm unknown to you.
Always ask how wise the person or creator is of that piece of content. If you don’t sense any real wisdom or experience, it’s probably best to ignore.
The one thing that no one can argue with, is experience. Real people who have worked their a** off for something are worth listening to. The opposite of that, not so much.
What does the person sharing content stand to lose or benefit? Do they have skin in the game? If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably not worth taking too seriously.
Angry reactions are exactly what they want. Peace is what they don’t want. One of these processes is a higher form of thinking.
My friend sent a photo the other day, and I was almost taken back by it. Two US Presidents, totally different parties, totally different decisions and cabinets, putting everything aside for a common cause of peace and equality:
This photo was taken just five years ago.
Five years ago.
Whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, I keep coming back to social media and its virality. Five years ago, the average person spent about 90 minutes per day browsing social networks. Today, it’s more like 180 minutes. It’s doubled. And there is 10x the amount of content and 100x the amount of notifications.
Consume, consume, consume.
There are no classes or courses on social media, no philosophers, and we do very little to actually talk about what it does to our emotional states and how to better control it. I write this post, and it may sound like I know what I am talking about, but even I am still susceptible to the sway and pull of the madness online. I have shared the craziest things on Twitter. Sometimes I look back and think: “wtf was that?” but at least I can say I am learning and trying my best to get better.
My hope is that as we learn together, and better understand how it’s exploited, that we will eventually remember the last few years as a dark time. And how easily we got played. How little control of our emotions or reactions. The man behind the screen is laughing. It’s been too easy for him. Let’s change that.
Thanks for reading. If you want more theory and thoughts from me on this subject, I actually wrote something else not long ago called Don’t Do Dumb Things in 7 Seconds.