It becomes involuntary for Farcebook addicts.
In a post that combines Facebook utility, another post here on D&D on Rape Gangs in Burma (reprehensible horror for the Rohingya ), violence, empowerment of women, Buddhism,and other themes, I stumbled upon this video this morning on Facebook, to share:
People seem unwilling to accept the strong likelihood that it’s Game Over for humanity.
Climate change gets anemic attention, and many doubt it. But that’s only one prong of the trident here, the others being overpopulation and unequal living standards.
Such amazing communication about these issues is possible, but it’s too late to matter in any substantive way, I think.
Some of the complaints above about the harmful effects of the internet or information technology hardware do not appear to have much to do with Facebook. If someone is addicted to their phone, for example, it is very possible that they are just addicted to their ongoing text message gossip among their peer group - or to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, a favorite blog, porn, or something else.
I want to mention a few reasons why my own experiences with Facebook seem, on the whole, much more wholesome than the experiences I have had with most other locations on the internet.
Much of the internet is anonymous, but Facebook is generally not. Anonymity gives people the opportunity to express themselves licentiously, without putting the reputation of their public identity at risk. The results are not always salubrious. Several blogs I once visited have been ruined because the conversation is dominated by a handful of toxic, angry lunatics, identified only by a nickname or a first name, with an open invitation to disgorge all of the hateful misery they are experiencing on the heads of everyone who happens to be available. Anonymity also provides more opportunities for marketers, public relations professionals, and various kinds of propagandists to ply their trades deceptively, while adopting an appearance of neutrality.
Many people on Facebook, I suspect most, have large collections of Facebook friends, and these collections are a much more diverse group than the groups they will interact with elsewhere on the internet, or in private life. On Facebook my friends include my close and extended families, friends of my family members, and their spouses and relatives, my co-workers, my former-co-workers, my academic and scholarly friends and associates, and all sorts of political and internet-based friends and associates. I experience a much wider range of opinions and attitudes than I do on any other internet site. Also, the presence of all of these people exerts a continuous pressure on me to be my most “responsible self” - a self I don’t mind exposing to almost everyone I know. If I behave badly on Facebook, my son sees it, my mom sees it, my business associates see it, my intellectual friends see it. If I express snobbish and disdainful attitudes among my intellectual friends, my less educationally advantaged friends see that, and would be hurt. If I express anti-intellectual attitudes among the latter, my more intellectual friends will view my words negatively. All of this pushes in the direction of maintaining an integrated, single identity, responsible to many people and interests at once.
My news feed is filled with many media stories from a diverse group of global sources, much more than if I was narrowing my news content by getting all my news from some online news tunnel filled with like-thinking people thematically self-selected by political orientation or some other ideological similarity, and which often seem to thrive by becoming a kind of support group for fearful people, who huddle together to feed themselves comfortable, prejudice-reinforcing vanities and propaganda, and who rapidly gang up on, and exile, trolls - who are in some cases merely people who disagree with the dominant opinions on the site.
If a site like Sutta Central does not descend into the most all-to-frequently common internet insanity, that is because it is heavily moderated. If that moderation were removed, I suspect that within less than two weeks SC would become the standard blogospheric rage-fest , overrun by angry political commentary, routine misogyny, verbal violence, and daily indecent exposures of the kind of unhinged hatred that comes out when social inhibitions are removed and people feel free to become online warriors of “political incorrectness” or some other self-dramatizing species of what they see as heroic truth-telling.
Also, we should remember that many people suffer from extreme loneliness, or are cut off geographically from their close friends and loved ones, or are so old that they are not very mobile any more. So the ability to make use of an online social network is invaluable for them. They can see videos and pictures of their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with the college and high school graduations, the prom dates, the first day on the job, etc.
All that said, I feel almost certain that if the Buddha were around, he would institute rules prohibiting his monks from all online social networking altogether, just as he forbade them from hanging out in markets, family homes and brothels.
By the way, my son has been traveling around the world with his girlfriend for six months. When he posts pictures on Facebook, they are mostly of the places he is visiting. But sometimes he posts a selfie. And we are darn happy he does, because we miss him and love seeing his face!
Now what is bad about face book?
Mat, that’s no apples-to-apples comparison, that’s like an apples-to-Terminator comparison.
Once people come to see that they are up against AI’s that are much, much smarter than them, and much more sociologically and psychologically manipulative and devious than Mara himself (with his laughable vilvawood lute), how can anyone escape the eventual conclusion that the only defense is to avoid those media outlets completely?
I strongly recommend watching the following (and please pay particular attention to how the “machine learning” results in the generated database tables [which become the rules by which the AI operates] have THOUSANDS, maybe MILLIONS of rows and columns, being FAR more complex than any human could ever hope to understand. If that kind of unfathomable complexity doesn’t blow your mind, then please watch the video over again until you understand what was said):
Thus the apples-to-Terminator comparison. I strongly recommend “getting out of Dodge”, because the place has effectively become overrun with Terminators.
I think FB and the like OPTIMALLY screw with your mind (as the AI’s are programmed specifically to be that way). Not merely moderately screw with your mind, as would all the conventional vices Mara would employ: drinking, gambling, drugs, etc. Note in the following video how the Dopamine hits are actually algorithmically scheduled for the users (not to mention the use of sleep deprivation, a well-known brainwashing tactic):
Mara would be jealous to have programming skillz like that!
And when I say “Get out of Dodge”, I’m referring to all the big corporations (who are in a competitive “race to the bottom”), such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. BTW: in the Open Source world, you don’t see any such “race to the bottom” (mentioned in the above video), nor do they shove AI down anyone’s throats. Perhaps now you can see why I tend to align my trust there instead.
Dhamma doodles :grin:
Nextcloud is very helpful, do SC volunteers have need of a free, hosted account?
So, you think Buddha was very lucky?
I think Buddha would beat the Terminators all the same, owing to his excellent skillz in seclusion.
It’s not so bleak! It’s only that the whole world seem to be convulsing with fear and helplessness, and a lot of uncertainty, at the moment. Back in the 90s we were wondering about what is it that the generation of our parents found so amusing about TV! Even those amongst us who were not into computer stuff, we had naturally come to relate to the TV with much dispassion; and I don’t really know how or why. But this seems cyclic, just like saņsara:
Folk arts → theater and opera → The radio → TV → Computers and video games → the Internet → Social media → smart phones →
and then what? (AI and 3D virtual reality) &c.
So FB &co. are only on the peak at present, but one day they will surely grow old and dusty just like all their entertainment predecessors. Some young people are actually already beginning to show much dispassion toward social media, the problem is that you will not find those on social media and therefore, you might presume that they don’t exist. And that’s the real challenge here, at present we can only notice each other’s “activity” on social media, once you close your account, on any medium, you will cease to exist from the perspective and possibly even memory of others. This was what happened to me when I deleted my facebook account several years ago; I soon realised how many friends “I thought” I had, but actually didn’t. About 99% of FB contacts vanished from my actual life, and i’m sure I vanished from theirs as well. The psychology associated with the FB experience is “escape”; escape from a boring, self-same, and often punishing reality; if you go out of the bubble, no one is going to follow you back into this harsh real world! This is the exact same escape the Buddha refers to, which drives human horrified of suffering rather than curious about it.
I disagree! While we can’t control these addictive things, nor revert their influence; we can learn how to respond to them with pañña. Again it’s just like saņsara; once born, you cannot ‘undo’ bhava, you cannot undo kamma, you cannot escape or annihilate saņsara because you don’t like it or realise that it is harmful and terrible. But you can only “respond” to it with sila-samadhi-pañña.
That’s why the Buddha does not teach the destruction of saņsara, but only transcending it. And that is the only option you have got to be free. So too, those amongst us who develop wisdom and consideration, are able to respond not just to FB and social media, but all experience of “contact”, with clear awareness and sense of purpose, rather than just to satisfy the relentless desire for imaginative pleasure and self-stimulation. The snake is harmless if you are not trying to catch it! The problem is with hippos, though!!
So there is hope and there are ways out and there is much that communication can accomplish. And let’s not forget that communicating the Dhamma to us, was just the one thing that made the Buddha a Buddha.
It’s not FB which is addictive, it’s the algorithmically-meted Dopamine doses which are addictive. That’s what’s so freaky to me. I see this as a new, psychologically and sociologically optimized kind of threat unlike any of those previous long-running “fads” you mention.
Dopamine hits will never get old and dusty (unless you are a highly skilled meditator capable of Jhanas).
Furthermore, once you honestly and humbly admit that you are merely a human with a human brain, and that AI’s will brutally kick your butt at whatever they are trained to perform, then you would logically take any and every step you could to avoid them, just like a naked, defenseless man carefully avoids a den of lions in a jungle.
Could any of you play Mario this well after only 24 hours of training?
No, I didn’t think so.
Let me re-iterate: will brutally kick your butts.
Sam Harris had many brilliant comments about AI along these same lines as well:
Avoid the lion’s den.
It’s useful to think of certain technologies as environment catalyzers, things that facilitate certain kinds of uses and certain ways of communicating, and make difficult other modes of expressions – either by their own interfaces or because of the nature of content that it may have a strong bias toward. This is what Marshall Mcluhan and others like Neil Postman talked about in the past when analyzing media and it’s effects on society.
In the case of TV, some people believed in the past that TV would make possible to have a huge amount of people being exposed to Shakespeare. Decades later, we know well that this doesn’t work: you can’t have a person reading a full book of shakespeare on TV non-stop and expect people to sit and watch. You can barely tell a dramatized story in 3h on TV (1h40min is pretty much standard).
But more than that, Neil Postman observed that political, religious and education discourses changed with the mass use of TV in the US. These discourses individually carried some rituals, attitudes, states of mind and some ways of conveying their content, but once translated to TV, they converged, all of them, to a language that emphasizes aspects like appearance and entertainment: the language of show business. One result of that is that political debate degraded sharply when moved to the TV. And we can see in many countries today that what we have now are entertainment shows disguised as debates.
One can argue that an analogous phenomenon is taking place on facebook and other social media networks, where the language of a lot of posts tends heavily to that of advertisement-- not necessarily advertisements themselves --, be it a post of a family picture or a short video about climate change. But likely the single best archetypal of that is the meme image. Short, aphoristic, to the point, and pixel perfect image – not selling a product, but… apparently, selling something.
So, in this perspective, the emphasis is not the technology per-se (the physical computer or cellphone) , it’s not the device. Rather, it’s the kind of social configuration, habits, and life that comes to be when a certain communication medium is introduced in society and what kind of environments it tends to create. Surely the content the medium replicates plays a substantial role on those things, but these people a few decades ago tried to point out that a given medium, itself, potentialize certain biases and it’s important to understand those, specially to foresee very undesirable outcomes.
Notably, McLuhan came up with this punch line in his books, “the medium is the message”, to give proper attention that the medium (it’s characteristics and biases) have strong role in the messages conveyed by them. He also published a book with that title. Funny enough, it was printed with a typo, and because a lot of people did not understood what he was trying to say at the time, it’s said that he kept the typo in the title to make that very point – so today you can find this book titled “The Medium is the Massage”, which is a classic in communication studies.
There’s a lot of authors pre-McLuhan that did some very interesting related studies on orality, literacy, and the role of a medium across history, with their bias in mind.
I deleted my Facebook account a year ago. Afterward, I started a Buddhism-related Tumblr page, that now has 2,725 followers:
My posts are regularly liked and shared on Tumblr. I have effectively used Tumblr to promote Buddhism and Eastern philosophy to audiences that otherwise perhaps wouldn’t be reading things related to Buddhism.
Five or so years ago he said we was working on a book on metta; more recently saying he hadn’t the time.
Meaning to boost sales?
I use diaspora and then link to my diaspora posts on facebook. That way i encourage my friends to switch. Also i’ve updated my fb banner to look like this:
Hope that more people will be inspired to do similar things. Kind Regards, Tord
I thought you said ’ see this as a new, psychologically and sociologically optimized kind of thread’
Oh dear, my cover has been blown! Yes, I’m a secret propaganda agent for Windhorse Publications, on a mission to boost Christmas sales of scholarly works in our Early Buddhism Studies division.
Actually, I was just responding to Mat’s post immediately preceding mine that Ven. Analayo had in fact written a book exploring the brahmaviharas and that I thought it was quite good.
…And it makes a great stocking-stuffer, folks!
Excellent recommendation! I’m making my way through it now. I can vouch most definitely that all EBT Buddhists should be reading it this Christmas!
Great plug, Mat. We’ll send you a check in 4-6 weeks.
4-5 weeks? Whssamatter? Havent you heard of on-line banking?