Opinion / Technology / The Wedge

Devices and Facebook likened to Opioids : Depression, Suicide, Opting Out

By MAGGIE M, Wedgee-in-Chief, Editor, theWedge.LIVE ❤️ TO SHARE click icons at story’s end

The studies are piling up and it’s not good.

Increasingly, they report screen-time is an addiction. Depression and suicide are increasing among the millennials and youths who spend most of their time on their devices. No age group is untouched further reports reveal.

This study just out from the University of Surrey conducted by Dr. Bridget Dibb is reported in the opening words of this article:

“Facebook use linked to perceptions of worsening physical health, new research from the University of Surrey, reports.

In the first study of its kind, published today in the journal Heliyon, researchers led by Dr Bridget Dibb investigated the relationship between Facebook and perceptions of physical health. One hundred and sixty five participants, all Facebook users, were surveyed to identify levels of comparison with others on the social networking site, self-esteem rates, perceived physical health and life satisfaction. Read More  Here is actual study with abstract.

“I hate her and I love her,” a 30 year-old entrepreneur said to me yesterday. “I envy her.” This gentle soul, an accomplished young woman, spoke of a competitor that featured herself without cease on Facebook, her travels, her amours with intimate moments–mixed in with her business affairs.

“She has so many followers,” she added perplexed. “I long for the days when social media did not exist. I’m staying off social media–it just affects me physically.”

This real-life conversation bears witness to Dr. Bridget’s study.

Addressing the business aspect, if a business’s success is ostensibly synthetic, what are the externalities? Words like “paper tiger” and “the emperor has not clothes” come to mind. Will social psychology rule? What is the real cost of a virtual world–personally and collectively? I digress.

This was a real conversation held yesterday. It was not my first. It corroborates the reports and disclosures from former social media executives pouring in. I have felt an urgency to write on this matter for some time. This conversation lit a match under my fingers.

Connectivity with the internet is about to multiply. The CES show in Las Vegas last week has been host to an unprecedented number of visitors. The latest technologies were on parade. Internet of clothing, vehicles, appliances–you name it. Life will be on parade for anyone to see from your vehicle and your bathroom mirror.

The movie, The Truman Show, was prophetic. The world is watching the world–not just “Truman.” It has not escaped me to note Tru-Man’s compound meaning–the only man living truthfully (in a fabricated world–a beautiful blue pill). I think about the cast of viewers who watched him without cease enjoying his life, getting lost in its artificiality, escaping their wretched realities. It is an allegory to today’s social media. Truman’s life was false. His watchers deferred living to him–watching rather than being. This tale of a social experiment ended with Truman’s awakening and escape.

World renown Canadian philosopher and author, Marshall McLuhan, predicted the world wide web thirty years before it was invented. He made a primordial statement in his seminal work’s title, The medium is the message. Words and symbols have the power to alter the quality of life, transforming it irrevocably. In his estimation, the content is the problem.

Truman’s ennui is manifesting worldwide and here on our doorstep.

Silicon seers assume everyone desires to be augmented–or should. We are organic and complex creations. Every single one of us is unique by design and by our cumulative life experiences. Each of us brings something unique to the world, something no one else can reproduce or clone.

But if we are organized by clicks, synthetic rewards, words–a Pavlovian experiment–will we lose our individuality? Can we be assimilated into an artificial hive? Are we too complex and needy of our mutual complexity? On this last question, I hope the answer is yes.

I can comfort someone with the tone in my voice, the look in my eyes, the use of colloquial words and a physical embrace. Typographical characters, vanity selfies, emoticons and “likes” are hollow. Our sub-conscious knows.

We need each other.

We are told our brains’s synaptic transmissions are slower than the latest chip. The siliconists never speak of semantics vs. syntax. Nor do they speak of consciousness. These divine places in the brain, the seat of the human soul, cannot be reproduced–and are yet to be understood. The psychologists simply cannot explain consciousness, nor the consciousness of consciousness.

Our semantic brains beat the pants of their syntax. You will not hear the words, “artificial emotion.” It is an oxymoron on par with jumbo-shrimp. They will remain stuck on “artificial intelligence.”

I had a few clarets years ago with two silicon players. I engaged them on this syntactic element of their works. The conversation continually degraded toward jokes and flirtations–not mine. The two-hour period ended with the iconoclastic nerd jumping out of his chair, admitting he had a wife and foisting the didactic, “IT’S INEVITABLE!”

He could not elucidate any argument toward the semantic.

Human behavior can be synthetically mimicked, but with great failures. Just listen to Siri or Alexa or Hey Google answer semantic, complex questions for evidence. The internet is nothing more than a Dewey system of data with a lot double-speak. “It” will not feel. “It” will not laugh or cry organically. “It” will not hug or kiss you. “It” will not replace human interaction for long–even if its producers can connive the Trumans among us. That synthetic large movie set was a metaphor for today’s internet, today’s artificial intelligence, today’s virtual reality.

Is artificial life augmenting or altering humanity? Our consciousness knows the answer even if our subconscious suppresses it for a time.

My young friend suffers the symptoms of “big data.” Her competitor had been unwittingly assimilated into a borg. It leverages narcissism, vanity, feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem among other human frailties. The social networks know these emotions are the engine to their networks.

Is it a crime to virtually manipulate, hypnotize, alter the masses in such a subtle manner? If it triggers depression and suicide? Have siliconists leveraged “plausible deniability”?

These are hard questions. I am willing to go there.

When users receive a “like” in their networks, they feel the good chemicals coursing through their veins–it’s called dopamine. When they learn of an unfollow or of no follow, bad chemicals called cortisol bathe their thoughts, their bloodstream and demeanor. It is a physical reaction as well as an emotional one.

Drilling down, these mechanisms are synthetic drivers of organic emotions. People usually experience them in isolation thereby increasing their isolation. This could be the linchpin to a society gone awry–or numbed in a Pavlovian experiment.

There is a revolt developing.

Whole communities in B.C. have sequestered themselves from the effects of technology and its various iterations. (I remain mum.) I read almost daily reports of people “abstaining” or “quitting” social media. I see the numbers falling, yet our own organic numbers climb.

The wedge is a safe place, encouraging and inspiring to all. This bodes well for positive content producers. The world needs it. This is why we are developing a second national version of the wedge.

My daughter is a faculty professor at a top university. She too is only 30 years of age. She reports to me that she has to deal with students’s mental health daily. She has become a consort to them privately and in meetings.

“Everyone is depressed,” she said to me this week. “It’s the pressure from technology, the volume and speed. They can’t keep up.”

The world is spinning too fast, “on the fly.” They say we now have the attention of a goldfish lasting eight seconds. I beg to differ. I think it digressed to that of a gnat.

What are we doing to ourselves? Or what has been done to us?

While you might think my writing here is a howl in the wilderness, you would be wrong. This topic, the negative effects of social media and time on devices, is growing–exponentially.

In 2019, turn off your devices for a little longer each day. Go out and press hands. Go to the theatre. An art gallery. A bistro. A nature walk. Go buy a pair of shoes you can actually try on. Make new friends. Talk to real people. Get real smiles. Real compliments. Real hugs. Get real, organic dopamine in your veins. This is the best resolution for this year.

As soon as I press “publish” I am on my way to the real world to feel its three-dimensionality.



One thought on “Devices and Facebook likened to Opioids : Depression, Suicide, Opting Out

  1. The overuse of technology is definitely becoming a real problem among millennial. I can definitely see it with all the dating apps. People become expendable and not human – just a profile on a screen. Thank you for sharing this post.


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