Why I Will Only Post Positive Things On Facebook Ever Again
By Peter Kremidas
I. Bipedal Nomads Who Can Send Thoughts Worldwide At The Speed of Light
Historically speaking, we have only just started playing around with the internet in general and with social media in particular. I think we have done this, or at least I have done this, without much thought as to how powerful these tools truly are or how to use them responsibly.
I think that we have a responsibility to really think about, to have an honest conversation about, how we use it. And then I think we need to hold ourselves accountable to whatever conclusions we reach in that conversation. Because this is potentially a very dangerous tool we have here. People get hurt on social media all the time. I know people who are changed, and not in a good way, for the way they were treated online. People can get broken by this stuff. It’s happened to me. I’ve done it to others. And it’s horrible. Kids are killing themselves over this stuff. And that’s just the stuff we are reckoning with right now. We have no idea what it’s doing to our brains.
However on the other side of that, 2017 and 2018 and beyond are the dawning of a new and normalized increase in freedom for women. And it’s because of the internet. People could immediately share their stories to hundreds of their friends, see that they are not alone, and pull the lid off something that has been happening for centuries. The internet did that.
The power of the internet, just one of them, is that we can create such a fuss that traditional news media is forced to look. And boy, they don’t want to look. But they know that if they don’t look they’ll look stupid. Because so many people already know about it without their influence, and mass media are supposed to be the greatest influencers of all. There’s a lot of power to protect there, and now we have some of that. And that is incredibly cool. So obviously there’s a lot of power for good here.
And I’ve been thinking about this for while, but instead of preaching to people I have no control over about what they should or shouldn’t do I started looking at myself. In 2018, I guess my new year’s resolution was to be more honest in my writing, and with myself. And that means calling myself out on my own bullshit, even when it hurts. It's been several bitter pills to swallow.
A few months ago, I was in some stupid facebook debate I don’t even remember what. But it was the billionth time I was impatiently just impolitely and obnoxiously being contrarian on social media. Nothing to gain from it. It was probably me quibbling as usual over some useless irrelevant minutiae that alienated me from someone I actually agreed with. I think it’s called ‘I almost see your point but you’re kinda being a dick so I don’t care.’ Or, more accurately, ‘Just being a dick.’
Someone commented, I don’t remember her name, and told me that there was another time on social media when I did this and it really hurt her. She asked me to stop. She said ‘please’. Caught up in an obsession with being right, I reacted predictably with more condescension and ‘fuck you’ subtext. She told me that was mean, and again could I please stop. I’d already thought of what to say next and was about to throw it at her.
But instead I just felt bad. And I knew she was right. And I hated that.
I stopped. I said that’s fair. I apologized. I haven’t been engaging in any debate online ever since.
Because when when I actually listened, not to just words, but giving actual thought to what this person speaking to me must feel like that makes them want to say what they're saying to me, something so obvious occurred to me that I was embarrassed it hadn't before. I hated that it did. I denied it and was angry for awhile. But it stuck. And at some point it got real quiet. Quiet enough to hear myself say, “Shit…”
“...I have an issue.”
She was right. And that’s why she was being polite, because she didn’t want to incite me more. That’s how smart she is. While I shoot my mouth off and make an ass of myself, she’s the adult in the room. It’s fuckin’ embarassing being such a broken guy sometimes.
What occurred to me was this: It is far more important to be kind than to be right.
II. The Medium
Ever since the election I’ve been reading about human psychology and neurology, because I had to understand, you know, how the fuck. And one of the things I’ve found is that humans, well we aren’t all that smart. A full 98 percent of our thinking is unconscious. We get caught into different long term habits just by doing them a lot because the behaviors are rewarded somehow. And we just keep doing them without thinking. Rationality has very little to do with most of our decisions.
That's why if you see a video of someone at 7 years old you can see exactly where their personality traits have come from. They worked for them in some way, so they just kept doing them. It’s why there is addiction. It’s why you have to spend 10,000 hours doing something before you’re a master at it. It’s why when you’ve had a belief for so long it’s hard to change it. It's why bad habits are so incredibly hard to break. Most of our behavior is pretty much automatic, based on some reward system we’ve set up for ourselves or to prevent us from feeling something bad.
The human brain is full of little cognitive weaknesses that would make you a very disappointing robot. For example, imagine if a self driving car slowed down and created unnecessary traffic every time there was a car accident to look at. You would likely find that to be an annoying feature. But you aren’t a robot, you’re a human. Flaws are a feature, not a bug.
They’re actually beautiful, the imperfections. To me what they show is that survival and progress requires all of us, because one person alone is too flawed to take on that weight. But together we can take on any challenge because together we compensate for each other’s weaknesses with our own strengths. Flaws humble us and remind us how we are weak, and therefore how we are the same.
But some of those flaws also make us easy to manipulate.
The social media business model, the literal one they drew up upon its creation, is that someone giving you a ‘like’ will addict you to the platform. This draws attention to the platform, and therefore advertisers with money along with demographic data to sell. And studies show that ‘likes’ are very much are addictive. You can’t eat them or even exchange them for a coupon. Regardless they cause a little rush of endorphins when you get them. And anything that does that is addictive. This is fact.
In this environment very few will express unpopular opinions. I actually think that most of the time, that’s a good thing. There are a lot of people who need to just shut up and listen. Yes, including myself. People often forget that conformity can also be a good thing. But sometimes, not most of the time but every once in awhile, an unpopular opinion needs to be heard. A lot of important truths have started as controversial opinions. And I think that incentivizing human interaction with ‘likes’ can encourage the bad kind of conformity too.
This is why we’re all fake on Facebook. All of us. Admit it. As long as there is a way that you wish to be perceived, you’re faking it at least a little. And you do. We all do. None of us are above caring what other people think of us.
We all want to be cool. We all want to be accepted and loved. Our desire to be accepted in the tribe is one of the most deeply human qualities honed by billions of years of evolution. So naturally we all put ourselves out there in a way where we will be most accepted, with varying degrees of concern for authenticity.
Social media is our own personal PR campaign. We can hone how we are perceived. We have time to calculate every phrase and pose. This time to craft is something we don’t have in face to face in the moment interaction. We can tell people what we want them to know about us and what not. It’s a self reinforcing game of ego strokes as we are told how great we are, when it isn’t even our authentic selves being validated most of the time.
And the rush we’re subconsciously chasing the whole time is those delicious little likes and pieces of attention that shoot endorphins into our lizard brains. We really can’t help it, we’re human. And while this incentivizing structure may not always explain every single online behavior, over the course of time across all the billions of people using it most actions within the social media landscape will be primarily driven by that endorphin rush because that is the top reward baked into the system.
If you think it doesn’t apply to you, I promise you that as long as you have a human brain, it most certainly does apply to you. Studies actually show that the less you think you are able to be manipulated, the more you actually are because your guard is down. Also consider the truth that, in capitalism, if the product is free then you are the product. It’s no exaggeration to call social media both Orwellian and Huxleian. And I think social media’s ubiquity is a testament to some very serious human brain design flaws.
III. The Exploit
And here is where I almost just quit the whole system altogether. And I did disengage almost completely for a time. Almost right away I could feel my lizard brain sinking into loneliness in the absence of my usual stream of digital affirmations. Just like, and in point of fact exactly like, an addict in withdrawal. I wondered if there was a way to feed the addiction without all the harmful side effects. Because remember, it can also be a powerful tool for the positive. And unlike every advertisement, TV channel, magazine, movie, radio station, website, and so on fighting for my attention 24 hours a day every day, this is also the one medium wherein I have a some degree of control over the content.
What I’ve landed upon, at least for now, is just allowing addiction to be fed but with just a little more mindfulness. I have a line drawn now, I cannot allow the addiction to chase the endorphin rush with complaints, anger, to feed my ego. If my lizard brain is mostly in control of me, and it is, then I will only allow it to be incentivized by good things.
Sure, in person I’ll be happy to debate politics and what not, but I think there’s something about arguing online that can never work. And I think it has something to do with how only 7 percent of human communication is conveyed by just the words alone (38 percent is vocal elements, and 55 through facial expressions and body language).So there’s some fundamental disconnect involved in having a debate on the internet. When combined with what social media incentivizes,I think usually only serves to enrage and hurt people.
I'm done making complaint statuses. If I have complaints I will take them to someone who will hear them in person, someone I can vent to at least. If someone wants to have a disagreement, we can do that in person too. I will stop pretending to be someone I’m not. Because while a lot of that behavior is natural and fine, I just don’t want to be rewarded for it. I don't want my brain trained to do it. I will only allow the endorphin feedback to hit me for saying true and good things. And it has to be both. No bullshit.
Things like this:
Or, you know, jokes. Jokes work too.
It's not perfect but it's the best I can think of. If lizard brain wants to get that sweet hit, someone else better feel good first. I will be a better person, even if that means I have to manipulate myself into being it. I’m not particularly smart or wise, so maybe I just need this.