SuttaCentral

Is social media itself a problem?


#1

Is social media itself a problem? Does it degrade health?

An article on a particular form of social isolation which discusses social media as a factor.

Is face to face communication intrinsically better or even necessary for human health?

Do the EBTs have anything relevant on this topic? Certainly, going to see someone face to face (whether the Buddha, an arhant, or even parents after ordaining) are described in the EBTs. Monastics are encouraged? required? to spend the Rains with peers. Does this have significance to human life and the path to liberation?

Edit: I hope this thread can avoid sweeping generalizations but allow for compassionate exploration of this topic. There’s nothing to prove or definitively label.


#2

“45. If one should find a judicious companion,
a fellow wanderer, of good behavior, resolute,
having overcome all obstacles, one should
live with him, satisfied and mindful.

  1. But if one does not find a judicious companion,
    a fellow wanderer, of good behavior, resolute,
    like a king who has abandoned a conquered realm,
    one should live alone like a rhinoceros horn.

  2. Surely, we praise the excellence of companionship:
    one should resort to companions one’s equal or better.
    Not obtaining these, as one who eats blamelessly
    one should live alone like a rhinoceros horn.”

Excerpt From
The Suttanipāta
Bhikkhu Bodhi
This material may be protected by copyright.


#3

Some considerations.

Psychologists have identified different needs. One of them is the need to belong. Lack of belonging is linked to negative health outcomes (Baumeister & Leary 1995).

How different social media platforms connect to the needs of different people in different contexts is an active research area. According to Primack et al. (2017), young adults with high social media use (SMU) “seem to feel more socially isolated than their counterparts with low SMU.”

Tangentially related: Venerable Migajāla asked the Buddha how one lives alone, and how with a partner.

References
  • Baumeister, Roy & Leary, Mark. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological bulletin. 117. 497-529. 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497.

  • Primack, Brian & Shensa, Ariel & Sidani, Jaime & O. Whaite, Erin & yi Lin, Liu & Rosen, Daniel & B. Colditz, Jason & Radovic, Ana & Miller, Elizabeth. (2017). Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 53. 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.01.010.


#4

In the bbc article it says:

In multiple studies his lab has found face-to-face contact either in person or on video-chat corresponds to lower risk of depression, compared with contact by phone, email and social media.

I think we may need to be careful and suggest that maybe correlation does not imply causation here. It could be that if one is depressed then one won’t want to indulge oneself in much real world or virtual facetime for example.

I note that in the Primack et al. (2017) abstract conclusion, immediately after it says "Young adults with high SMU seem to feel more socially isolated than their counterparts with lower SMU. " it then suggests that: “Future research should focus on determining directionality and elucidating reasons for these associations.” which sounds very wise to me.

Personally I’m not sure how one can be considered ‘socially isolated’ if one is a high user of social media? When I wish to isolate myself socially for a period of time, the first thing to go is social media.


#5

I think there’s a difference between social isolation and social connectedness. You can be highly socially connected on social media, but still perceive yourself to be socially isolated (eg, due to a lack of offline connections), or vice versa.


#6

Yes, this makes sense. Social isolation is then a feeling. I guess I have had times in my life where I have felt socially isolated (or at least it’s younger sibling loneliness) despite having at that time the outward appearance of many friends.


#7

The ‘Buddhist’ answer is ‘if it increases cravings, aversions and delusion avoid it’.

Is Mr. Xander himself a problem?

The ‘Buddhist’ answer is ‘if it increases cravings, aversions and delusion avoid him’.

Is Suttas itself a problem

No. Some cravings help overcome cravings!


#8

Sutta’s themselves are a good thing. It’s another matter to consider our relationship to sacred literature. Ajahn Brahm was once asked: what would he do if a Buddhist holy book was flushed down the toilet? He answered: I’d call a plumber!

dogmatism

  1. the tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

“a culture of dogmatism and fanaticism”

synonyms: opinionatedness, peremptoriness, assertiveness, imperativeness, doctrinairism, authoritarianism, imperiousness, high-handedness, arrogance, dictatorialness; More

inflexibility, rigidity, entrenchment, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, small-mindedness, bigotry

“he avoided dogmatism and presented his subject as one open to debate” - internet definition

Ajahn Brahm also teaches (the way we read) Sutta’s is more important than what we read - our relationship to the text? He talks about attending to the space ‘between’ us and any thing or, situation we may encounter.

To fill that space with kindness!


#9

The EBTs aren’t ‘sacred’. They’re a manual of instruction. A prescription meant to be taken. Prescriptions are not meant to be tampered with.


#10

Yes, I didn’t suggest otherwise. I think the idea of a prescription might be a bit simplistic. I do understand the connection between the 4-truths and the traditional approach to healing.

In that ancient healing system they do use various herbs that are used in medicinal treatments. Knowing how to prepare these herbs in different combinations, at different stages in the treatment, how to combine other practices that compliment the use of herbs etc.

It’s not like going to the chemist and getting a prescription, taking something 3 times a day and, don’t stop till you run out.

The Dhamma-teachings are not like an instruction book in an IKEA-kit.


#11

This is the doctor’s decision not the patient’s. We could say it’s like making a soup. It doesn’t matter which vegetable goes in first. But the ingredients all need to go in at some point, else the taste will not be the same. But a good chef has the knowledge of what veges cook quicker and may use a sequence (like the ‘gradual path’ anupibbiya sikkha) and the Buddha is that chef.


#12

bon appétit


#13

Hi, I know it is not the best to just quote somebody else but it describes well what my own reflections are:

I saw social media naysayers as the first reviewers of Technicolor movies, who felt the colour distracted from the story, or were like the people who walked out on Bob Dylan at Newport folk festival for playing an electric guitar, or like those who warned that radio or TV or video games or miniskirts, or hip-hop or selfies or fidget spinners or whatever, would lead to the end of civilisation.

I too, can see many positive things about SM but have this uneasiness that this time it is more serious, more dangerous. On the other hand that is the world now, progress, technology… so just observe: it is like this.

A survey conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people to keep track of their moods while on the five most popular social media sites. Instagram and Snapchat came out worst, often inspiring feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and self-loathing.

I have been on Facebook four or five times. After some time I observed my addiction to it, it took my mind in so many different directions I didn’t want to go: childhood friends, ex-girlfriends, long no-seen distant family members and many other roads with all pressures and artificial illusions. There are reasons why we don’t keep in touch with some old friends in ‘‘real’’ life and it is better that way (often).

And according to another survey carried out by the youth charity Plan International UK, half of girls and two-fifths of boys have been the victims of online bullying.

Jonathan Taplin talks of social media’s “Colosseum culture” of throwing people to the lions. “Punishing strangers ought to be a risky endeavour,” he writes. “But the anonymity of the internet shields the person who punishes the stranger.”

That’s just wrong and scary.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.” This seems especially true now we have reached a new stage of marketing where we are not just consumers, but also the thing consumed. If you have friends you only ever talk to on Facebook, your entire relationship with them is framed by commerce. When we willingly choose to become unpaid content providers, we commercialise ourselves. And we are encouraged to be obsessed with numbers (of followers, messages, comments, retweets, favourites), as if operating in a kind of friend economy, an emotional stock market where the stock is ourselves and where we are encouraged to weigh our worth against others.

Hmm, emotional stock market - I don’t like it.

Of course, we won’t stop using it – I certainly won’t – but precisely for that reason we need to know more about what it is doing to us. To our politics, to our health, to the future generation, and to the world around us. We need to ensure we are still the ones using the technology – and that the technology isn’t using us.

Maybe that is because I grew up without internet and mobile phones but I don’t like social media. When I watch my son using 3 screens at the same time, playing game, watching some video and texting friends on the i-phone, I feel sorry for him and his generation. Personal contacts and outdoor activities replaced by 24/7 instant technology, your private life becomes public life (1000 friends on FB). There is a DATA OVERLOAD with mostly rubbish in it, complicating verification of true/false information.
It must be different for younger people being ‘‘born’’ into it.

I really appreciate websites like this one and a few others. But still I can have a paper Pali Canon books at home and talk to you guys while visiting monastery.
So, personally: yes, please cancel social medias and switch off the internet:)

The full article:

Much metta


#14

I studied a little psychology at Uni and there was some coursework on Developmental Psychology. The text book for the course was called: Development through the Lifespan. It detailed behavioural changes from childhood, through adolescence, young-adulthood… through to old age. It didn’t have a lot of stuff about cross-cultural research but, it was informative. What it had to say about adolescent identity-formation and, young adult behaviour could be relevant to the problems that young people encounter in this digital age. It may not be social-media that is the source of the problems. It may be unavoidable that problems like this will arise whatever the era. Particularly, in societies where there are a lot of individual freedoms and, where young people are aloud to openly explore all the possibilities that their society has to offer. If it’s a relatively wealthy society then, the behavioural choices increase. There is probably not a lot that can be done to curb the chaos and disorder. Adolescents can be involved in a lot of experimental behaviour. To find out what they like and, who/what they wish to identify with. They may have a strong desire to find a sense of belonging, looking for a niche to occupy. I could happily live without digital-devices and the social-media circus. For those who grew up in this digitally saturated society and culture it may ‘appear’ more important than it ‘actually’ is. It’s sad really - our synthetic lives!


#15

@Jarek Thank you for a rich response. :slight_smile:

Increasingly, the only response which seems to fit my own life, to the hammerings of consumerism, ill will towards this or that group of persons, disregard for facts, abuse of rhetoric to generate instant reactions and illusionary status - is to stop reading and listening to those “voices” or media. That also means stopping trying to talk in those media!

Tldr Too long didn’t read? I am an old fuddy duddy. =D

But I have concern that mixed in the nutrients for social connection are poisons, the same ones as always: greed, ill will, delusion. The packaging can be quite sophisticated.

One example: Concern for animal welfare for example can be packaged with ill will: “american cops shoot dogs”. A polite offering of qualifiers on that statement (not all do, and many love dogs/animals, and in fact police arrest people for animal cruelty) triggered a swarm reaction… It is possible that for some people, branding cops as dog killers IS an agenda.

May all be happy, peaceful, ultimately liberated from suffering.

:slight_smile: It is possible to stop using it, for me, for some. Just as celibacy is possible for some. But difficult to function in some roles or work or communities without it, maybe almost impossible.

In my own life, scepticism towards any “I MUST have x” seems to have been beneficial.

But… SuttaCentral. A huge blessing.

Thank you for comments.


#16

I found this statistic interesting:

A meta-analysis of 80 studies analyzing bullying involvement rates (for both bullying others and being bullied) for 12-18 year old students reported a mean prevalence rate of 35% for traditional bullying involvement and 15% for cyberbullying involvement (Modecki, Minchin, Harbaugh, Guerra, & Runions, 2014).


#17

There are different numbers from different studies:

Bullying statistics:

  • About 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being verbally attacked more than once.
  • About 35 percent of kids have been threatened online.
  • About 58 percent of kids and teens have reported that something mean has been said about them or to them online.
  • Other bullying statistics show that about 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another.
  • The American Justice Department bullying statistics show that one out of ever 4 kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence.

But all sad and scary.

And another thing is:

Fake news has been linked to extremist politics, social division, mob violence and crime. Who’s to blame?
Old people, apparently.:)))

WhatsApp has a big fake news problem. For example, fake news about child abductions on WhatsApp in India has been blamed for driving mob lynchings.