SMSD Disorder

Curious to know what exactly is SMSD Disorder? You will not find the definition in an electronic software manual today nor will you find it in the DSM-5 or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At least, not yet. However, after almost 28-years, the last ten being the most disturbing illuminating, there will probably soon be a SMSD Disorder officially entered in the psychiatric DSM-5. I will answer your curiosity later. Meanwhile, allow first a preamble.

I watched a provocative, telling interview segment earlier this week on PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown. Brown was asking author Jia Tolentino to introduce and summarize her new published book entitled Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion.

The book and interview caught my interest primarily because of my under-grad studies and work background in psychology, particularly my previous work-experience at an inpatient Psych/A&D hospital. Self-delusion in psychology is a mental-illness I am familiar with firsthand while employed at the hospital. But the NewsHour segment also caught my attention because of its now greater relevance with the deplorable events surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack by domestic insurrectionist on our U.S. Capitol building and Congressmembers. The insurrection was undeniably incited by the former President and planned on a host of social websites days/weeks prior.

Jia Tolentino is a staff writer for The New Yorker as well as a contributing editor to several popular acclaimed publications. Jia’s newest book is a collection of nine essays addressing our nation’s critical problems with and our reckless consumption-digestion of mass social-media platforms. The specific topics Tolentino examines in those essays are the “scammer culture,” and our intellectually gullible internet culture over the past decade. It also examines one of Jia’s personally resonating subjects: modern feminism. Here is the PBS NewsHour 5-minute Now Read This segment with Jeffrey Brown and Jia Tolentino:

Yes, the internet’s magic Jia states. Due to the relentless, now one year lasting COVID pandemic kept alive by hundreds of thousands of Americans defiant and indifferent to masks, to public health and safety, to the safety of coworkers, and to their own family members, the pandemic has been continually given steroid shots to remain here taking more American lives for the foreseeable future. Those rebels have fueled this killer virus by spreading it and feeding it non-stop with their social contempt.

Besides surpassing the death-toll of all modern U.S wars combined, excluding at the moment the Civil War, another consequence has been the unprecedented number of confined Americans pushed online and onto social-media platforms for much, much longer timespans. Tolentino says this current internet’s virtual world and its …weird currents of aggression and loneliness [are] evidence of the way that the Internet is, at best, kind of a poor simulacrum of real life.

I have to say, “a poor simulacrum” is a soft benign way of describing the sheer potency and addictiveness the online social-media platforms hold on us. Their software algorithm-machinery’s ability to move us, incite en masse thousands of naïve, internet addicts, many of whom possess poor critical-thinking skills—let alone a modest legal understanding of our Constitutional (elected) democracy operating within a tri-equal branched government—and possess an inability to distinguish what is reliable, factually-based, verified data, news, or knowledge versus what is not. This politicized condition of scientific biological ignorance has reached alarming, lethal manifestations made glaringly visible Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

The vicious jargon was apparent the 9-weeks following the Nov. 3rd elections. The former fake President vomited daily unfounded, unproven claims/Tweets (and over 60 lawsuits) of widespread election fraud, all of them empty. The days following the Georgia state Senate runoffs in which their legal, multiply-verified results injected continued insane, inflammatory conspiracy theories spewed from the White House and echoed on extreme Right social-media platforms. The Twitter fiasco reached unparalleled volume and frequency not seen from any POTUS in American history. Trump and his ardent vassals supporters suffer from SMSD Disorder.

Attention moderate, sane, middle America, you… the vast and sensible majority of this country, it is past time to wake-up to the Coup-sirens! This disturbing, domestic, self-deluded thinking and behavior is no longer sporadic. No longer is it a tiny, trifling gecko lizard. It is a full-blown Godzilla and he is obscenely pissed and hungry. What is distressing though, is that the symptoms of the cyber-disorder in a shark’s tank with many shark’s teeth has been observable and rogue for several internet years. The once captivating Information Age is now The Disinformation Age.

Arab Spring vs American Winter and Free-Speech

Between 2010–2012 social-media was a catalyst for The Arab Spring throughout North Africa and the Middle East. It was widely held that the anti-authoritarian, anti-government protests were in large part the result of “free speech” over social networking platforms. The armed rebellions promoting free elections, regime-dynasty changes, democracy, and a number of other sociopolitical virtues were jubilantly celebrated in the U.S. Many in the West characterized these fights for freedom as evidence of global change for human rights and self-determination. The Arab Awakenings were praised in the West as reflections of the free world with free-enterprise producing technology for an imagined better, more informed, autonomous life as we live in the United States.

In the end and as a whole, only modest changes occurred in the regions at the estimated cost of 61,080 people dead. To this day, countries affected by the Arab Spring are greatly divided between those preferring the status quo and those who seek democratic transformations. Violence and hate-speech actually weakened and undermined the hope most ordinary Arabs envisioned for their country.

What took place in America November 2020 and leading up to Jan. 6th, 2021, an American Winter if you will, cannot be compared to The Arab Spring, not in an already democratic context. An Authoritarian regime fighting for its preservation is not an American Winter fighting for civic virtues and sovereignty it already possesses and was established almost 245-years previous. What is arguably identical between the two “people’s protests” was the violence, hate-speech, and the unrewarded loss of lives to murderers. And finally, all the erroneous screaming about censorship, Second Amendment rights and free-speech are only an individual’s right as an American when it is on outdoor public squares or on public property. It does not, nor has it ever applied to the private sector or privately owned social-media companies. The radical Right is sorely lacking in its comprehension of Constitutional Law. They have slipped into nothing other than very perilous, poisonous Populism disguised as the Republican Party.

Monetize the FUCK Out of Personal Internet Identities

As Tolentino was saying, the internet is magic.” But it has become more. It is now as much white-magic as it is black-magic. Both are exploited by hungry internet consumers. Social-media has become a dopamine addiction for people craving human connection. It was further amplified by COVID-19’s necessary constrainments for public safety and health.

Image credit: Research Hubs

The evolution of the internet from Web 1.0 (1999) to the currently operating Web 3.0 we engorge today provide almost unlimited avenues of profit/revenue for the corporate tech-industry because they monetize the bejesus out of your personal data and tracking your browsing activity and GPS movement. The consequence for many American internet addicts and gullible consumers is what is now emerging. I would like to coin it as SMSD Disorder: Social-Media Self-Delusion Disorder.

The Web can give something back that was not previously known. Web 3.0 learns and understands who you are and gives you something back.

Gian Gonzaga, Ph.D. and Senior Director of Research and Development at the dating site eHarmony

Like Tolentino, Dr. Gonzaga also gives another soft benign description of the dopamine fix of the social-media drugs for consumers with SMSD Disorder. However, when does too much liability and criminal accessory, let alone the loss of moral and democratic principles, outweigh or justify excessive monetizing greed? When is too much, too much? Did Twitter, Facebook, and the other social-media companies wait too long to ban the former President? Did he have special, profit-generating privileges for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube subscribers that thousands of other banned members did not have and could not generate?

Internet social networking is in some ways a marketplace of Human Futures for Corporate drug-dealers. In other words, the cyber history and personal tracking database are the commodity and consumer attention spans are the revenues and products targeted by the social-media companies. The gullibility of the American internet consumers with unbeknownst, undiagnosed addictive personality risks have been exceptionally depicted in the Netflix tech-opic/documentary The Social Dilemma.

One of the computer scientist interviewed and consulted for The Social Dilemma tech-opic documentary was Stanford University grad Tristan Harris. He is a former Google employee who pioneered Google Inbox that quickly rocketed the tech-Giant into the stratosphere. But while Harris was at Google from 2011–2015 he felt all the American social-media tech-Giants should “feel an enormous responsibility to make sure humanity doesn’t spend its days buried in a smartphone.” They listened, but did nothing. If you can spare a brief 17-minutes, watch this online Collision Conference presented by his cofounded and present non-profit organization the Center for Humane Technology, a progressive group addressing the ethics of consumer technology, governance, and the fate of society as we now have it:

Has history taught us nothing? America is losing many Gen X’s, Millennials, and now Generation Z’s to a plethora of phone apps and addictive cyber-networking algorithms. The mental-disorders growing among these three generations—not surprisingly a timespan covering the internet and tech-boom from Web 2.0 to 3.0—are proportionally associated with social-networking platforms. This is our history ignored for the sake of hyper-monetization.

Is it past the time to regulate, monitor, and hold accountable the social-media megabots before they turn into a repackaged Nazi propaganda machine for megalomaniac Authoritarians? Has our collective memory suddenly taken a nose-dive off the cliff of reason and rationale thought? Can we not, or at least the vast majority of us, no longer recognize and stop a treacherous direction, a cult, its Cult of Personality, and their utilization of any and all mass media platforms to pervade gullible brains. History’s deadliest, most sinister, covert, power-hungry cults of personalities are littered across our world continents within historical records of all cultures, including numerous dark times in our own U.S. history.

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?

Marcus Tullius Cicero

When will we learn? When human symbols, alphabets, and writing were invented 5,500 years ago, news, political propaganda, sales and marketing, bookkeeping, fine arts, along with lies and half-truths among social groups began. When Gutenberg’s printing press was invented in 1440, mass publishing, at least on a quicker wider scale, more information began reaching individuals, not just kings, queens, and nobility. When the telegraph then AM/FM radio was invented in the 19th and 20th centuries, all of the above was magnified exponentially to the world, to nations, to any group, company, or family home that could afford such technology, including more political propaganda, sales and marketing, lies and half-truths. By 1933 Joseph Goebbels and Hitler’s Nazi Germany seized total control of all German radio stations in order to censor and hide their atrocities, genocide, and war crimes from the ordinary non-Jewish German citizens. Instead, Goebbels fed the people daily with blatant lies and half-truths for over a decade. The German people believed every fanatical, inspiring false word, to their demise in May 1945.

When the computer and world-wide-web (internet) were invented in 1989, everything aforementioned above was further disseminated, amplified, and exponentially multiplied, limited only by the number of homes which could not afford a computer and modem, later to become cable-internet or satellite WiFi/internet. The once unfettered Wild Wild West frontier of lawlessness in the early and mid-19th century America was reborn in the Wild Wild West of unstoppable, lightening-speed, mass information and insatiable consumption never before imagined. Like alcoholism or drug addiction, its moral-ethical consequences and impact could not have ever predicted or reeled in the speeding uncontrollable train train-wreck we have today. And yet:

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

George Bernard Shaw

When we do not pause, take a moment to think rationally after hearing or reading shocking information or news before speaking, acting/reacting, or writing, we risk and possibly deface or sacrifice our own integrity and dignity. When we impulsively blurt-out vocally an idea, thought, or reaction without first verifying or confirming its validity or without doing the required legwork/homework before speaking, acting/reacting, or writing, we risk and possibly deface or sacrifice our own integrity and dignity. Case and point:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., condemned “mob” violence after a day of protests at the Capitol building. McCarthy said, “It is clear this Congress will not be the same after today.” — NBC News

That was in the late hours of January 6, 2021. Today Rep. McCarthy has done a complete 180-degree reversal of his moral integrity and once again is an ardent Trump vassal. This is a symptom of SMSD Disorder of not only online conspiracy theories, but also of being enslaved associated, in bed with a Cult of Personality. Both are dangerous simpatico concoctions. Unfortunately, the same gullible American internet consumers forgive and forget repeatedly political offenders or criminals as long as they make a public apology, no matter how many apologies they’ve made in the past. Too many apparently suffer from chronic dementia when it comes to repeating offenders by public figures and government officials. What sort of precedent does that behavior set? Did Nixon or Reagan set it? Do American voters even know who Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan were?

The “Sexual Free-for-All” Promoted by Social-Media Platforms

In 1997 while inside an electronics store for televisions, stereos, etc., and crude computers by today’s standards, a salesman who was apparently a subcontractor by the store, approached me with a brand new, cutting-edge service called the world-wide-web. After his 3-4 minute sales-pitch, I told him it sounded fascinating, but no thanks. Why did I turndown his “ground floor bargain price“? I couldn’t honestly tell him what I thought at the time about his offer and the earliest concepts promoted of the world-wide-web, or internet, and its networking potential and perceived promises. However, I can say it here.

Depiction of the Roman Floralis Ludi, but of homosexual orientations.

What I thought back then in 1997 and have repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseum to this day is this. The internet is like a wild, 24/7, 365-day world orgy where seemingly limitless pleasure (dopamine & connection) abounds for everyone online, but without condoms, IUD’s, spermicides, and other protections from unwanted pregnancy and STD’s. The internet is a modern Roman Floralis Ludi, if you will. Is it wise to ignore all the risks and promote only the benefits? Some large number of social-media users are absent-minded, wear rose-colored glasses, and are reckless with those they engage and sleep with at the risk of very serious infections. Very little has changed, I think, since 1997. I still hold firm to my 24-year old assessment of online social-media given the rise and growth in America of the psychological SMSD Disorder.


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32 thoughts on “SMSD Disorder

  1. Pingback: QAnon & Mass Digital Radicalization | The Professor's Convatorium

  2. It’s the same dopamine hit used by advertisers, religions, personalities. Truth is not a competitor; anger, outrage, sex, it’s ALL about arousal, about causing a dopamine release. It works to affect. So the trick is to understand how we are manipulated by our own biology, to accept the physiological response of arousal as legitimate and beyond our control to feel its effect but to have the skills and motivation to delay acting upon it.

    It takes discipline to respond to the arousal appropriately. This is a skill. It’s a form of self-denial and it’s difficult to impose on a chemical surge, to give the heightened sense that is arousal enough time to be metabolized, time to let the biology subside and the rationality come to the fore, to think after experiencing the emotional response.

    Many of us are trained to do this in order to function ably in situations that cause maximum arousal, things like cutting people open, causing necessary pain, enforcing the law with violence, passing life-altering judgements, killing people, and so on. There are all kinds of ways and means to teach people how to do this and then how to apply what has been learned successfully. This is what so much training is all about: self-control and mastery. But the very first step is learning to recognize arousal and automatically resist acting on first impulse. We have this skill already – called ‘socialization’ – which is why we don’t automatically resort to reproduction and deadly violence when aroused. We suppress these urges to to act on our arousals all the time. That’s how traffic flow works.

    People I know often admit they know they are being manipulated, recognize their own heightened state, but just as often then excuse and rationalize whatever follows as if they couldn’t help themselves. Not true. (Once can drive the speed limit. It’s possible. One can be yelling and screaming in some domestic dispute, yet answer the phone in the middle of a tirade with a calm and reasonable demeanor. I’ve seen it happen!) Well, this is true in one sense if they have no idea how (and here’s where it gets tricky).

    One cannot stop the arousal (it’s going to happen – to various degrees over time and experience) and there is absolutely nothing one can do to prevent it because… well, biology. But one CAN learn to delay an immediate action, to put it aside for a time, to first accept the arousal and recognize its affect. This is where we now stand with social media, arousal algorithms, and the screens that deliver them. How do we learn the skills necessary to participate in these new frontiers of human interaction and manipulation yet not be so susceptible to becoming the digital world’s real life directed automatons?

    Liked by 4 people

    • As usual Tildeb, you eloquently add much more significant detail that further enhances what I am attempting to write and convey. Thank you Sir. 🙂

      Your first two paragraphs are packed with great elaboration of our hormonal biology. Over time while maturing we hopefully learn, understand and apply that “discipline” or as you allude to the depravation of hastily acting upon dopamine releases and risking overly exaggerated or irrational reactions we sometimes (or should?) regret afterwards. Yep, “self-control and mastery” are noble virtues for sure. My father taught me a boat-load of U.S. Marine Corp discipline and its mastery. It served me very well as a teenager, young adult, and eventually father of two. However, over the last two or three decades of my life I have also had to learn how to FEEL more.

      After many hours and months of intense therapy for 2-3 major life-altering events in my life, I had to learn to balance an over abundance of self-control. It entrapped me into this fortress of little compassion, little empathy, and at times… little sensitivity to being humane and human, a form of egocentricity and/or dishonesty (or self-delusion as Tolentino describes) if not self-aware within your fine description of “socialization.” We all must learn to be and master how to be good TEAM players in order to thrive on this planet.

      Btw Tildeb, you would make a very good psych counselor/therapist, I think. You obviously understand the dynamics between our endocrine system, nervous system, and our brain and the hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, etc. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think it’s really important to understand a problem before one can find and support a workable solution. Too many time, people think the effect of a problem is the problem and so the solution only addresses that one aspect. In a medical analogy, if the problem is the source but we assume the symptom is the problem, then our solution can only address the symptom and the problem remains. I think the same is true about all these symptoms that go by various names and acronyms; I think they ARE symptoms and so no matter what we seem to do and say, the problem remains. And the problem, I think, is assuming our dopamine and cortisol responses are responsible for many of the bigger problems we face. But these are symptoms of arousal and can be inappropriately expressed a million different ways leading to the misdiagnosis of a million different problems. Good luck addressing all those successfully (“No more screen time!” seems to be the parenting tool of choice these days and just as effective as, “Don’t hit your brother or I won’t let you live in my basement in 20 years time!”).

        Being susceptible to media manipulation is a growing problem. The solution, therefore, is for individuals to learn to recognize and defang the attempt whenever they encounter media arousal. That’s the red flag moment right there and then. Someone else, some other authority, and even our own brains can’t control our arousals. Nor can they control your response unless you allow it. We can learn to allow our own minds to determine what if any response we initiate. And that’s a skill that pays for itself many times over. In an ideal world, the parents would teach their kids how to do this, how to exercise the skill to great social and personal benefit… including when to take risks, when safety is the worst, most harmful goal! I also know education would be acting against its own best interests to effectively teach these skills as part of the curriculum when so much of its overall goals is geared to manipulate students into thinking it’s a net benefit and worth a lot of tuition.

        Anyway, I think we’re going to have this problem long into the future but proper regulation of the web’s Wild West arena hinges on setting guidelines for data that can be used for manipulative purposes be controlled in a much stricter framework based on perhaps a new Bill of Rights amendment based on respecting and legally enforcing privacy rights to one’s personal data.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Professor Taboo and tildeb,

      Enjoying your conversations here aside, I would like to mention to you that SMSD is already used as an acronym for the following:

      Social Media Stress Disorder
      Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics
      State-Managed Small Disaster (emergency management)
      Stafford Municipal School District (Stafford, TX)
      Submarine Detector Ship’s Magnet (US Navy)
      Small Molecule Subgraph Detector (software)
      South Milwaukee School District (South Milwaukee, WI)
      Shawnee Mission School District (Kansas)
      Sekolah Menengah Sains Dungun (Malay: Secondary School Science Dungun; Dungun, Terengganu, Malaysia)

      Like

  3. I say that about personal data because many of the algorithms collect personal data and specifically target arousal. The extent of the data collection I think might shock people if they knew data was collected… for example, about how long a picture is kept on the screen, measured even in milliseconds, to figure out over time and use exactly what turns your crank. This can be as innocuous as predicting your favourite colour and combinations to what style and level of reading you are willing to tolerate and for how long (Okay, so I fail that test repeatedly. Oh well). With enough data from enough encounters, data can accurately predict just about everything we think is private about us. And then it’s used… to sell. Sell ideas. Sell advertising. Sell political influence. Sell all kinds of stuff. And not one bit about any of this has anything to do with respecting what’s true or respecting the individuals whose data and level of manipulation determines their value.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And this brings me back to an observation that I think isn’t considered strongly enough: HOW we think determines WHAT we think. With enough data, combined with targeted arousal, algorithms can accurately affect what you think. Arousal keeps you coming back for more. This is how people ‘fool’ themselves into believing they are masters of their own opinions and beliefs, that they are skeptical about batshit craziness but accept the batshit crazy as ‘insightful’, and enough people can be manipulated into buying whatever the Merchants want you buy into. That’s how Trumpism became a thing. That’s how today’s progressivism works. People have been fooled because they don’t realize their opinions and beliefs have been prepared and served to them by ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’. It’s those other people who are being fooled, those other people who believe batshit crazy, those other people who are the ‘enemy’. Yup, I’m one the Good Guys because I’ve swallowed all this hook, line, and sinker but think I’m the fisher and not the fish!

      The solution, then, is to learn how to think differently, how to apply various kind of thinking to various issues and topics, how to spot manipulation from a mile away, how not to buy into what the Merchant is selling. And it all starts with lifting one’s head from the phone’s screen, pulling the buds out of one’s ears, reconnecting with what’s real and true and not packaged for our next fix. Reality suffices and these devices used or put aside by self-directed command.

      Now walk down a busy street or visit, say, a mall or even a scenic site: how many people are there physically but focused elsewhere, looking down at a screen. There’s the problem in a nutshell. Addicts.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Reading through your three further comments Tildeb, I started recognizing YOUR vernacular, semantics, phrases, and words were closely synonymous to what we used in my years employed at my Psych/A&D hospital. You put a smile on my face as I read and I must admit, you have a very good understanding of how our biology interacts with our cognitions. Above average for sure! 😉

        At my particular hospital we had one of the very first Dual-Diagnosis Units in Mississippi at the time (1987–1991). The public was completely unaware that chemical abuse is almost always linked with mental-health and illness. It was during those years and years following that the greater healthcare community, particularly the psych and chemical addiction fields and experts first realized and began identifying the early stages of progression into mental-illness, mental/behavioral disorders and expands into either acute mental disorders and/or chemical abuse and addiction.

        On a side note, this was the moment when I learned and saw how we primates, we Homo sapiens who seek daily—some personalities hourly!—hormonal reactions and rewards… much like present day chimpanzees. One prime example of this ‘pleasure seeking’ is our vice or addiction to sugar/sweets and the “jolt” it gives us. Caffeine is another.

        Anyway, as I kept reading your great comments I kept telling myself exactly what you ended with in your third/last comment: Addiction. If we don’t know what to look for Tildeb as these dueling or symbiotic systems are active, and identify them honestly with ourselves (vices?), then we are certainly in much LESS control of our minds and body/behavior than we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking we are… that we have total control, yes?

        What are some of the human body’s biology that interact with our mental and hormonal systems, those reactions, vices, or addictions? How have we been taught to manage them? And let’s not forget in some cases… what one considers vice, another considers virtue, and it is not so cut-n-dry sometimes as to which is which. It is fluid across a spectrum because after all, we are discussing hormonal fluids, right? 😉

        And so on many levels and standards it is society that “sets the bar” of behavior and that raises it or lowers it. In some instances even dictates human behavior with impossible standards. But all of these questions do at the very least suggest that there isn’t just one world out there, the external, the internet & social-media, the forces and influencers out there beyond our own. There is EQUALLY a world internally, intrinsically, hormonally and intuitively, as well as cognitively that every day, every minute interacts in healthy and unhealthy ways. It is up to each of us, and perhaps with assistance by others with healthy principles, to learn intimately every detail, function, condition of our inners, and the resulting feedback to determine our part/purpose, contribution within our immediate and extended Greater Good. Does that make sense?

        My main point is that the two arenas of life are of equal critical importance: the within and the without. Both must be working intimately and properly with each other. And we must be (should be) Masters/Maestros of BOTH worlds.

        In my near six decades of experience, much of which has been gained in the U.S., I see that balance out of whack, sometimes acutely out of whack. Why? Too many want to focus all their energy and attention on the external world and influencing it rather than giving equal investment to our within, our psychology, biology, and endocrinology (hormones) and how we manage the input/output. Hence, the social problems, or The Social Dilemma and Trick Mirrors of the internet and networking driven mostly by codes of algorithms. Why not know and predict yourself rather than let a remote machine, designed by total strangers only wanting your facetime and/or money? It seems a very simple answer to me what is most important and what we should be more skeptical about.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Dysfunction – either within or without, as you say – seems to me to be associated with attempting to not accept whatever. I say, ‘not accept’ rather than deny because acceptance of anything – feelings, thoughts, states, whatever – I think is a necessary first step towards coping. When we are subject to real problems life throws at us but do not allow ourselves any means to personally cope with them, then this seems to me to be a common base shared by so many who then develop involuntary affects that continue to grow in influence until they are highly dysfunctional. Reality has a way of whacking us upside the head with ever greater force and frequency when we do not accept that we play an important role by putting ourselves firmly into such an immobile position to be whacked repeatedly.

          Acceptance of what real life entails is what the Genesis myth is all about. IF – and this is the point – we want to live our own lives, an authentic life, we have to accept all this entails. We have to accept that life is hard, life is unfair, life is difficult, life is painful, life is finite, life is shared and wonderful and joyful and love-fueled and filled with marvels, if we want to own our real lives. We have to leave the childhood Garden of our dependency behind if we wish to grow up and become more than we were. We have to become responsible not for what life throws at us but how we cope and become more for it. This is the package deal, and it starts with accepting its conditions. By not accepting these conditions, by blaming everything and everyone else for our lives, for the problems we face, for the whacking by reality upside our heads, we try remain stunted when we are meant to grow, try to remain dependent children when we’re not, and continue to try to avoid responsibility for ourselves, and, by doing so, pretend we are still ignorant and innocent and blameless. These are not admirable qualities but demonstrate a willingness to avoid real life. That avoidance carries a very real cost. That cost, I think, is dysfunction and it reduces the quality of life significantly.

          But we’re not totally ignorant and innocent and dependent. Life won’t allow us the comfort of this delusion. Just the opposite. We know. We have eaten from life’s Tree, have tasted it’s knowledge – eating is what humans need to do to survive – and this is why the refusal to accept the consequences of what being alive means translates into creating a break between what’s real and what we want to be real. There is a disconnect. And, over time, this disconnect presents as dysfunction because something is not working right. Something is not aligned correctly. We are not coping with but avoiding real life and so the longer we do this, the longer we fail to accept our role in living and the consequences we accrue, the greater the dysfunction grows over time.

          So we have to accept that millions upon millions of Americans, for example, thought voting for Trump was a better alternative. Many believe the crazy conspiracy theories of Q Anon. How many have a suspicion that Covid-19 is a hoax? Until we accept that this method of thinking is a very real and ongoing divide, we can’t even start to bridge the gap when reality itself is disputed. And the source of that dispute is the power we afford to belief in frameworks over and above respecting reality’s right to arbitrate our beliefs about it. Supplanting one set of batshit crazy beliefs with another – and that’s what the ideology of group hierarchy and the social justice advocated on its behalf is – we continue to address only symptoms and not the core problem. That’s why we have so much social dysfunction: something is disconnected and broken. That something is our abject failure to understand and criticize the power of belief to define the reality we share.

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        • The Prof started this post with “there will probably soon be a SMSD Disorder officially entered…”

          The disorder being talked about is being subjected to social media that gives us a hit of dopamine, what is called ‘arousal’ that draws us to engaging with the source of this hit. Because your blog offers this hit to me, I facetiously claim you have ‘disordered’ me long ago – writing about stuff that causes me to have a chemical response in my brain – and that’s why I keep going back to your site. That’s why it’s appropriate to say blogging is part of the social media landscape for the disorder the Prof is talking about.

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    • 😄 Hah! Good try Ark. 😉

      Some would say it does, but I don’t consider WordPress blogging as the common definition of “Social-media.” Why? Primarily because of the degree/frequency of advertising, or “monetization” of the website’s/company’s pages crammed in your face. As far as I’ve seen (since 2011) WordPress is nowhere near as money-hungry, time-hogging of, and forcing your diverted attention onto pop-ups, reviews, etc, etc.

      Although it can be argued now that WordPress has subtly and gradually gone to a more revenue generating business model than “User Friendly” model and politely sacrificing their subscribers happiness & satisfaction for the Almighty Dollar from their sponsoring partners.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Great post. A lot to think about. I love the George Bernard Shaw quote. Yes, history repeats but humans do gradually make adjustments.

    Much has been said in the comments regarding the addictive nature of social media. I agree with all of that but I also think that the algorithms that Facebook, Twitter, and others use to draw us in are crude at best. As I think Andrew Yang pointed out, technologists aren’t bad people. They want to develop cool things.

    There are no doubt people within Facebook and Twitter that are working on algorithms to produce more fulfilling/enriching experiences for users and/or trying to reduce the negative social consequences of their current systems. Whether their ideas are put into action probably depends a lot on the CEOs and other higher-ups in corporate management. But someone is going to produce a better, possibly disruptive social media platform that appeals to people that 1) want a more enriching/fulfilling online experience or 2) want to know their personal data is protected or 3) want greater confidence that the information being served to them is reliable.

    At the rate that machine learning is advancing, I think that 10 years from now, today’s social media platforms will be viewed by most of society as highly toxic. I don’t expect the addiction problem to be solved and I think there will still be corners of the web where conspiracy theories abound. Nowadays, just as in 1968, you can still buy a pack of Marlboros, join a religious cult, or get bamboozled by any number of snake-oil salesmen. I’m hopeful, however, that a significant majority of people will benefit from the widespread efforts of smart people in many different problem domains trying to improve our future.

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    • I don’t think people are aware of just how much data is collected about them without their permission and would be absolutely shocked at just how easily they are manipulated by it.

      It may seem crude at first blush, but this data can be collated into accurately packaging the messaging each of us is receiving through social media. This involves three central planks: the social graph, the news feed, and the Like button. Put these together, and you can create a picture of likelihood about how susceptible a person is to a particular kind of messaging. You can then sell this ability to interested parties. It is effective enough to convince 75+ million Americans that Trump is preferable a leader to anyone the Democrats can put on offer. It’s enough to swing 10% of the British population to voting against EU membership. It enough to be able to find a very small number of people in Witness Protection based on their digital preferences. If this doesn’t concern you, consider who is doing the paying and why. The Chinese government, the Russian government is basically dividing the entire US population into two separate realities in conflict, where the common citizen thinks a neighbour of then ‘other’ reality – the ‘wrong’ one – is a much more dangerous enemy than Putin or Xi Jinping or Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei who smiles for the camera. That’s the power we have given away for trinkets of not having privacy rights to our digital data. We are the new Indians trading Long Island for a few beads but told to think about how shiny those beads are.

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      • I agree with you that people have no idea how much data is collected about them and sold for nefarious purposes, tildeb. I don’t agree, however, that these algorithms are so sophisticated that they convinced 75 million people to vote for Trump. The belief that the Chinese and Russian governments are paying our social media platforms to divide our nation may be true but this is just one item in a long list of potent factors that caused Trump’s rise and increased division in our country.

        The issues that the Professor has raised here, do indeed concern me, just as they concern huge numbers of people, Republicans and Democrats alike, across all segments of society. I may just believe more people are working to address them than you do.

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        • I think it’s the level and kind of manipulation that is generally either unrecognized or downplayed. And it isn’t ‘controlled’ by any one agency; rather, it’s the collection and applied use of vast amounts of what may appear to be trivial data, which then is used. So the collected data provides the means to craft not just messages but pre-packaged beliefs that are an alternative to something worse. (That’s where knowledge of human psychology plays a key role, understanding that manipulation of the limbic system is far more effective than engaging with higher cognitive functioning to prepare the ground for a belief.) And it’s not new.

          Religions have been doing this crafting and shaping of an entire ideology and its pre-packaged defense forever, not as something better on its own but better than alternatives. This is why apologists use exactly the same arguments forever regardless of how completely and for how long the key points these arguments present have been thoroughly refuted. The belief and it justification in comparison to something else, something vilified first even by lies is a package deal and reality allowed no part to dismantle it. This is what we see with the Trump supporters who, although quite willing to admit all kinds of fault with their Dear Leader, believe any other alternative is worse, believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary that the election was ‘stolen’. The belief, not reality, suffices. This use of belief to negate reality is the result of the manipulation, the result of the limbic system’s activation when the belief is challenged, the resulting dependence on rationalization, selected reasoning, confirming bias, all brought to bear by the person previously armed by the sales job.

          Now, those who pays for this data compilation don’t control it; they just use it to affect. Advertisers have built an entire industry on doing this until it is now almost an art form. Sales are already known prior to release!

          This is more difficult with ideologies and so one method in particular works very well. This is the selling of doubt to those who, through large amounts of data, are worthy targets because they are the most susceptible to receiving it. The audience doesn’t have to be done on a particularly large scale; to have the desired effect only has be done to a small segment that is large enough to swing a minority to a majority… to the point of believing that doubt is justified. Large data provides the means to finding this targeted and susceptible audience. Large data indicates what approach works best with them. And doubt is the key to selling this feature, which clears the decks of organized resistance to a particular lobby or interest group and focuses it on those affected citizens. They, in effect, fight the battle for the interested party! It ain’t Trump storming the capital building: it’s his believers. That’s why the video Trump used on January 6th is straight out of how Nazi propaganda worked: it speaks to the limbic system of believers.

          Admitting doubt about alternatives is the primary achievement to sell a preference that is presented as being better than the alternative. This is a subtle push but highly effective. That’s how the tobacco lobby worked. That’s how any and all solutions to climate change is successfully fought. This is how NOT taking vaccinations is achieved: selling doubt. It is highly effective if your goal is to swing a small number of people susceptible to using faith-based belief to a prepackaged conclusion.

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