Our world is divided. Feelings of anger and disgust are rampant in our society. This isn’t just a U.S. issue, but rather it seems to be a human issue. There is an us vs. them mentality. Something has to give. Either we need to moderate our thoughts and voices or we could face much more dire events.
I was having my weekly call with my Dad this morning and we discussed my blog “Pineapple Courage” and its relationship to the recently released Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I feel it is worth the watch. In summary, ex-employees from the largest social media and tech companies talk about social media and how much our feeds are influenced by all of the data that is collected about us through the internet. They also discuss and demonstrate the dangers to our children while using social media and share the fact that they do not let their own kids on it, but that is not the focus of this post. These realizations alone do not make me fear social media or even want to shut mine off. What really resonated with me is towards the end of documentary. They share how social media feeds and advertising can be used to create strong, diametrically opposed opinions. Essentially, lots of data is collected about us, including the things we like or respond to and things we scroll right past. An avatar is created for each of us and then we are targeted with specific advertisements and campaigns. Again, this doesn’t bother me for products and services. I actually kind of like it even though it is a bit creepy. Where it goes wrong in my opinion is how information is used when it comes to what we like and respond to for ideals, politics, religion and theory. Knowing this information, we are retargeted, again and again with advertisements, campaigns and propaganda that is in line with what we responded to in the past. Eventually, a person’s feed is only filled with one thought stream, whether that be political or religious or theoretical, and in turn their mind starts to only think that way. It becomes harder and harder to “hear” any other message when you are pummeled with the same message over and over again. Some of the time, the messages are negative, divisive and even attacking other ideals rather than just enforcing ones you believe in. One participant in the documentary went so far as to say he was concerned about civil war. This is where it gets dangerous and of concern to society.
An extreme example if this could explain why we have mass shootings in America. All of that data that is collected about us is compiled and others can buy that data and purchase a list of people with a specific set of ideals. Essentially, they are buying a recruitment list based on things that person has liked and responded to in the past. It may start out looking somewhat innocent but once a person is exposed to the same message again and again, it can become cult-like. They “buy in” to the overall ideal and in some cases, take extreme measures to carry out what in their mind they think is “right”, because everything they are consuming tells them that it is. Another contributing factor could be a person’s need to be relevant…especially if they feel no one else is listening to them.
This is an extreme example but it is no different than selecting one political party and riding that social media wave. Eventually people start to post very negative, attacking comments about the other side including name calling and up to threatening lives. I have even seen certain political candidates’ lives be threatened on my own feed, from people I am connected to. These are good people who have been brainwashed so much to think it is ok to threaten others with different ideals. It is very divisive and somewhat easy to fall into the trap.
Social media aren’t the only influences. Have you watched network TV? Back in the day reporters were told to just state the facts and nothing more…to guard against showing any personal bias, not to sway an audience. Have you noticed a tendency for networks to lean a certain way politically or socially?
I just recently launched Pineapple Courage and more specifically, a blog on having vital conversations. If you haven’t already read it for the basic framework, you can learn more here. A couple key things about having vital conversations is to have positive assumptions about people, eliminate negative feelings so you can clear your mind and utilizing active listening. I shared the information about The Social Dilemma not to turn you off to social media or to be political. What I’m suggesting is when you don’t understand another person’s point of view, use the vital conversations framework to try to better understand where they are coming from. Use the theory of Pineapple Courage – the thought that people may seem rough and spiky on the outside but that most people (about 95%) are really just good, sweet people on the inside, even if you differ on viewpoints. It is ok to be friends with people who don’t agree with you and in many ways, they make you a better person to understand different points of view. However, if you never open your mind up to other ideas, you are doomed to live a life of frustration, anger and divisiveness. If everyone could address their questions or problems with society and other view points by using these principles our world could be a more united place. No, we are not all going to agree with each other on everything but we could at least listen to understand and respect others opinions rather than lashing out against them and creating hate. I encourage to look at ourselves first and make sure we are proud of how we are behaving both in public and behind the screen of social media. Would we want our kids to say the same thing? Are we listening rather than judging as soon as we hear something? Do we truly understand the other side’s point of view?
Lastly, we are sitting in front of a major national election coming up soon. Before you go vote, please do your research. Don’t mindlessly vote along party lines. Take time to research the candidates and vote with your values. There are no perfect candidates so you’ll have to choose the ones that most align with your values.
It’s time to use Pineapple Courage to mend our divided society. Will you join us in being part of the solution? If you like what you read, please help to spread this message to others by sharing on social media to expand its reach. Thank you.
5 thoughts on “Our Dilemma”
Nailed it! Thank you!
We all need to listen more, investigate more, and empathize more in my opinion. I feel most people are basically good. Although you may not totally agree with another person’s views, that doesn’t make them a bad person. Alternately it doesn’t make you a bad person either. Instead of demonizing can’t we find some common ground and build upon that? What can it hurt to try “Pineapple Courage” and see where it takes us?
Thank you for another great post Natalie! Listening and having vital conversations are key. The social avatar piece is scary but can be helpful. Keeping people on a specific thought pattern is not beneficial on many levels, and I hope we find the courage to look for things outside of our realm and talk about them.
@KWS people as a whole could be so much kinder and empathetic towards each other if we really listened more!
There is a movement that some may not be aware of — It’s called Living Room Conversations. The mission is to accept that we have differences and that we can learn and relate better when we discuss these in a respectful way. There is a template for having these discussions and we are urged to join conversations on key issues to share our different views — again, in a listening and respectful way. Love Natalie’s post and will continue to follow. Check out Joan Blades’ Living Room Conversations for a specific action you can take to keep the dialogue going.
This is everything, Natalie! I started to truly grow within and flourish as a person when I removed the walls that separated me from people who had different perspectives. I watched Social Dilemma a few nights ago, and I wasn’t surprised by the data tracking, but more so the influences and biases generated from social media f. As Sue Bingham said ”Living Room Conversations”, the time is now. I tell my friends and fiancé, we don’t need to agree, but we need to understand why we feel a specific way and explain it intelligently.
Absolutely Natalie. Thank you for sharing this. It is absolutely worth watching. I believe it is even more powerful when you watch it with someone you care about. This documentary does a great job of explaining why I never established a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any of those popular social media programs. My very first impression of Facebook was that anyone could say anything, no matter how polarizing, with little to no emotional attachment to the words – thus no emotional attachment to what the words do to someone else. Those same messages are very difficult to deliver in person.
My opinion is that some social media platforms have contributed to an increase of critical followers as opposed to critical thinkers, and it’s not their fault when the technology we rely on for connectivity – especially during this pandemic – is designed to influence our thoughts and behaviors insidiously.
And to Sean’s point, not agreeing on something doesn’t excuse us from understanding why we disagree. I go back to Steven Covey’s habit # 5: seek first to understand, then to be understood. So hard to do (especially with how I’m wired), but so necessary and so powerful.