MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

 

An exposé of how technology giants have manipulated the human psychology to influence how we behave, Netflix’s new documentary, The Social Dilemma, is raising eyebrows and concerns from many people from all walks of life. On today’s show, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen share their insights on the documentary and how it’s examining the role of social media and technology in our lives, and how much things have changed in the past five to ten years.

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The Social Dilemma Documentary: A Closer Look At Social Media And Technology

We are going to talk about the documentary, The Social Dilemma. Jason and I have been gearing up for this for a few days. I have only seen the first hour of the documentary. I didn’t realize until we started that I should have finished watching it. There was no particular reason I didn’t finish watching besides time and getting distracted by other things beyond sitting in front of Netflix, which I haven’t done much of since I have started my travel adventures. If you haven’t read any of our episodes, or if this is your first episode, welcome. I will share with you right off the get-go that our show goes in a lot of different directions. I wouldn’t be surprised if some brand-new people are here because of the subject matter.

Welcome, if you are brand new to our show and brace yourself, our shows are on the longer side, they’re very conversational between me and Jason. We’re best friends. We’ve been working together for years. We’re going to have a very authentic, honest, open conversation about this documentary and see where it goes. Both of us, have a little preparation. I took notes because I knew that we were going to talk about this documentary. When I was watching it on my laptop, I had it open on like 3/4 of my screen and then on the 1/4 of my screen, I had my notes app. I was typing furiously every couple of minutes. It was neat to watch it that way. Jason says that he has lots of ammunition. We should dive in and see where it goes not in any particular order. First, we should summarize this documentary for anybody who hasn’t watched it yet.

I’ve noticed on Instagram. I brought up the documentary over the past few days and a number of people hadn’t heard of it. Some people hadn’t watched it yet. It’s one of those things that feels like it’s spreading, but a lot of people are going to end up watching this documentary over the next few weeks. It’s always interesting to see when things pick up. The documentary is examining the role of social media and technology in our lives and how much things have changed in the past several years. For a little context, Jason and I have been examining this from a lot of different angles over that time. I got on YouTube in 2007 and created an account that most people don’t know about. I studied filmmaking and I was using YouTube to distribute my short films that I was making back then. I started my website, Eco-Vegan Gal in 2008, and started using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I remember getting heavily into social media in 2009. At the time, there weren’t that many people that I knew that were using it. Twitter and Facebook were big deals. I had been using Facebook for a few years. I got on Facebook in 2003. I can’t remember. I got on Facebook personally pretty early, but I didn’t start my business page and get into it on a professional level until 2008 or 2009.

I started coaching and consulting people on platforms especially Twitter. That was the first time I started coaching. I had this one client who was using it. She was an actress in Los Angeles. She was using it to spread the word about her work, which I thought was smart. The word spread that I was social media coaching and consulting and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s been over several years now. Jason and I have been utilizing it for our separate platforms, for me with Eco-Vegan Gal. I got on Instagram in 2011. I remember a friend of mine in San Francisco told me about it. She was like, “This is kind of a cool app to share your photos.” Speaking of which, I saw a great meme on TikTok. The TikTok video was pointing out how Millennials used to upload all their photos to Facebook the night after an event.

Do you remember that, Jason? I don’t know if you ever did this, but I was always into documenting things since I was a little kid. I loved taking videos and photos. When Facebook came about and you could make these albums of 90 photos that you took over the course of an evening and upload them the next day and you would tag all your friends. This meme made me laugh.

It was based on a tweet that somebody put out. It was funny. My big point here, looking back over the past several years that I’ve been utilizing social media professionally and how much things have changed. I’m curious, Jason, before you dive into your mini history at with social media, were you ever one of those people that would upload a ton of photos to Facebook like the day or the night after an event, and tag all your friends? Which is not something people do that much anymore. That’s why it’s funny to think about.

There are these old archaic functionalities of Facebook that I don’t use anymore. I don’t know anyone who uses them anymore. I did use to do that. When I would go to say Burning Man or Lightning In A Bottle or expo, there are a lot of examples. One time I went to LACMA with my mom, Susan, when she came to visit from Detroit. The next day or the day after it would be like, “Here are 20, 30 photos of my trip to LACMA or my visit to Burning Man or whatever the case may be.” I don’t think I’ve done that in years. The last time I did that was 2011. These old functions of Facebook that I don’t want to say anybody, but I haven’t done it for almost a decade. It’s funny you bring that up because it’s been ages since I’ve done that.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: The Social Dilemma examines the role of social media and technology in our lives and how much things have changed in the past five to ten years.

 

That also reminds me of when you talk about Myspace, which was a platform I knew of. A lot of people I know were using Myspace a lot. I never got into it, but I know you, Jason was into Myspace at one point. What year was that?

This is a good opportunity to dive into my overarching history with social media. I joined Myspace either in 2003 0r 2004 because I was in a band in Detroit called the Bellicose Butchers. We wanted to put our music out on Myspace. At that time, I remember you could connect in networks on Myspace, much like you can on other social media platforms now. I remember one of the people I got introduced to back in ‘03, ‘04 was Macklemore. I was like, “Who’s this white rapper dude from Seattle?” I remember Macklemore watching him blow up on Myspace. Macklemore is what he is. He’s a very celebrated and acknowledged musician across the world.

I remember it back in the day several years ago on Myspace him pushing his stuff, his mixtapes, and his early recordings on Myspace. That was my official first foray into a social media network as we know and love it. I’m going to go on record, Whitney and say that if I look at my first, I’ll use the word obsessive for lack of a better word, which I will bleed into a lot of the points I want to make during this conversation about the social dilemma. My first obsession with any type of social connection framework was AOL chatrooms. I remember I joined AOL in the fall or winter of 1995. I remember getting on AOL and spending hours in those AOL chat rooms you didn’t know who you were talking to. It could be like, “I’m talking to some 18-year-old girl, but it could be some 45-year-old guy from Omaha.” You didn’t know there was no way of knowing exactly who you were talking to. My first official dive in was AOL chat rooms many years ago. The social media frameworks were 2003 or 2004 with Myspace for sure.

I wouldn’t put AOL in that same category. Leading up to it, it was the coming of age. What’s interesting is that some people reading remember way before the internet was even available. Some people reading may not remember what life was like or maybe weren’t even alive when the internet started. I don’t like to talk too much about age because there’s a lot of ages on. A little aside, one social media trend I don’t like is when people call themselves old. I’m like, “You’re in your 30s, you’re in your late 20s, you’re not old” Even if you are “old” and whatever number you associate with being old. It’s a bizarre trend that we have of calling ourselves old. Why do we need to bring attention to our age?

Without getting into the dates and the years of my coming of age story. I do have memories of when the internet was getting started. Like you, Jason, AOL was a huge part of my coming of age. At the time of it for me was so much about figuring out how I felt about boys and being curious about things. I remember discovering pornography for the first time on a computer, all of that stuff and being like, “I shouldn’t be looking at this, but I’m so curious.” We’re in such a different time and imagine kids right now, a friend of mine has a little tangent, I was speaking with the other day, said that since her son’s eight years old, she’s having to have a conversation with him about pornography because it’s so accessible to eight-year-olds. For me, I don’t even know besides like a Playboy magazine, if I was exposed to any of that early on, but it was a lot harder.

We had one computer in the household. Everybody was using. We had limited internet time. We had the weird dial-up internet especially like AOL. You remember the connection sounds that made. I remember going into these chat rooms too. When I was figuring out the internet, my dad was really into computers and always has been. He worked at Harvard law school at the time. I remember I was visiting him at work and he let me hook up to a computer in somebody else’s office and go explore the internet because I was innocent back then. That’s when I started going into chat rooms and I would be able to do that at home, but I had a lot of chat room experiences with friends.

I’m sure you did too. Jason, to get together with your friends and you would go in these chat rooms and pretend to be older than you were and you make up these fake names. It was a fun exploration. There was a kind of internet flirtation happening. Even though I was young, I did realize as you were pointing out Jason, that I could be talking to somebody who is also pretending to be a different age, gender, or whatever else. It was kind of we’re all in it together. A lot of creepy weird things could have happened. What’s that TV show where that guy catches internet predators.

There are mainly catching pedophiles, which is like the horrifying parts of it. It might be called catching a predator. Whatever that show is, it’s a famous show name is, Escaping Me. I remember as a kid worrying about that, to your point, Jason, as a young girl, it’s very possible. I could have been talking to some 45-year-old guy on the other line who is trying to look for girls and pretend he’s their age, which is very creepy at that time because the internet was still new, we didn’t have a lot of regulations and it is interesting to see what excited us when we are that young and to kind of be in this wild west, which we’re still technically in years after that, we’re still figuring out with the internet.

One of the big points of social dilemma is that this is all so new, 1995 was not that long ago that we were on AOL. In 2003 to 2005, those years that Facebook was being developed and then Twitter and Instagram. I got an Instagram around 2011. I remember for years Instagram was not taking seriously at all. It was this place where people would go and upload photos of whatever they felt like. They were horrible photos relative there. They certainly weren’t Instagram worthy photos, but we consider, they were often blurry photos because our cameras were not very high quality. We use all those weird filters and frames back then. It was very innocent in 2011 to 2012. I remember in 2013 that I was starting to take Instagram more seriously, but brands and companies, in general, weren’t and even so like everybody wanted Facebook or YouTube content. There became a shift in 2014 or 2015 when suddenly Instagram became the social media network and that’s a few years ago.

The beauty of social media is it connects us and helps us understand people in different lifestyles and backgrounds. Click To Tweet

What has happened in these past few years is remarkable. We have been on social media so much longer than that. It’s accelerating at this crazy speed that even though I’m so immersed in it as a content creator, coach and as a consultant in this world. Even for me paying attention to it every single day, it feels like it’s happening so fast. The changes are almost daily. You never know, it’s so unpredictable and it’s so uncertain. I feel the changes may be too fast for us. Everybody’s trying to cope with it at this point. That’s a good place to start. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with the social pressure of it. When we add the social side of this media that we’re creating, it has a lot of ramifications and those are outlined well in this documentary.

There’s so much I have to say. I’m not sure if we’re going to get it all out, although we probably will. You and I have another layer to what we deal with and experience on social media. That being the fact that we have built our personal brands and the brand that we share, Wellevatr. We’ve been doing this from a brand and an entrepreneurial perspective. That’s one thing that doesn’t necessarily get talked about in the social dilemma. They left it out because if you look at the number of people using social media networks for strictly a personal reason versus the people using it as part of a business strategy or entrepreneurial strategy. The ratio of people using it for personal reasons is much higher.

What you’re talking about is the deeper layer of pressure and stress that comes when you are feeling like you are obligated to create specific kinds of content to curate an image because it’s part of your brand. If I think back to the reason why I started a Twitter and a YouTube account, in 2007, I had only a Facebook and Myspace account, but then I remember in 2008 or 2009, I was working with a mutual friend of ours named Jera, who was doing PR for me at the time. She was booking live speaking appearances. She was getting me local magazines. This was at the very beginning of my career as a chef, a nutrition educator.

She’s like, “Have you heard of Twitter? You got to get on Twitter. You got to get on YouTube.” I remember it was this sense of excitement and curiosity, but also pressure to back up what you said, “If I want to build my brand and get more eyeballs on what I’m doing, I need to be on Twitter. I need to be on YouTube.” It was a sense of pressure that got me to start my Twitter account, YouTube account, Instagram account and LinkedIn. We can go on down the line. Since about 2008, 2009, it’s been an attendant sense of, “If you want to build your brand, you want to make money and you’re going to do your business full time, you have to be on these platforms. If we fast forward to right now, it’s become inverted on itself for me in many ways.

If the risk of sounding cliche, I have a love and hate relationship with social media. I’ve been reflecting a lot on feeling gratitude, especially in light of the social dilemma, which we’ll dig into certain aspects. You mentioned research studies and I want to dig into the finer points of the parts of the movie we’ve watched. Where I’m at this moment with is realizing that there’s been tremendous growth, beauty, and gratitude in how these platforms have allowed me to reach people around the world. How they’ve allowed me to grow my brand, make a living for myself, and provide for myself. I have deep gratitude for those aspects of it. However, if I look to my personal mental health and I look to the clinical depression, the suicidal ideation, the anxiety, the things that I’ve struggled with, which we’ve talked about on a previous episode on suicide prevention.

I’ve talked at deep length in-depth about my mental health struggles. The flip side of that coin is that the more that I have used social media, I don’t think there’s a causality. I don’t think that social media usage is the cause of my anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, but the more that I research it, especially after watching this documentary, I believe that there was a correlation. When I say I have a love and hate relationship, I’m grateful for what they’ve done. I’m grateful for how they’ve helped me build my brand and make a living and connect with wonderful people. You and I, we’re watching each other’s YouTube videos before we ever met in person. I look to relationships, deep loving relationships that have been fostered by social media. There is a dark side. There is a flip side that I am examining the role in my mental and physical health. I’m wondering how I want to move forward and using it in a much more mindful and intentional way.

That’s one of the big aims that you and I both have and a growing aim of mine. It’s been a conflict for me doing the coaching and consulting that I do because I’ve had so many clients that are obsessed with the numbers, the vanity metrics, and the image that they create. I noticed myself over the years, feeling uncomfortable working with people like that, but also having compassion for them. As you’re saying, a lot of us believe that we need to operate that way in order to be successful. This reminds me of one part of the Social Dilemma that stood out for me and got me thinking, this is the part that I am so interested in. It centers around our self-worth and identity. The documentary talks about how important it is that the tribe thinks well of us. Even saying that phrase, which came directly from the documentary, which based on my notes is towards the 45 minutes to an hour mark.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: So much of the point of The Social Dilemma is that we are being manipulated for profit.

 

That is becoming a big part of the work that I’m doing. I’ve talked a little bit in previous episodes about this new project that I’ve been developing called Beyond Measure. The inspiration for Beyond Measure came from noticing how many people were spending their lives focused on measurements. I said earlier, “We measure ourselves based on our ages compared to one another, am I my older than you? Am I younger than you? Where’s my advantage. Am I better looking than you? Am I thinner than you? Am I more in shape than you? Am I eating healthier than you?” All of these on and on like measurements constantly. “Do I have more social media followers than you do? Do my photos get more likes? Do I make more money than you?”

Both of us have been so exhausted. It’s incredibly depleting. That’s because we’ve been so aware of that, we’ve been able to step away from it or modify it, observe it and catch ourselves when we get stuck in that. A lot of people don’t have that awareness. As you’ll see in the Social Dilemma documentary for anyone who hasn’t watch it yet, but if you have, they talk about how we are manipulated to not even notice some of these things. Some of the social media is subtle and constructed to be hidden and to allow these people that are trying to make money off of it. Much of the point of The Social Dilemma is that we are being manipulated for profit. If we don’t know that or there’s a great part in the documentary too, where one of the designers, who worked on Pinterest said even though he knew how these apps were designed to manipulate him, he would still fall prey to it.

Awareness is not even enough. You have to take sometimes extreme measures. What I love in the documentary is the scene of a family using the Kitchen Safe, which is a product that I have and love. It’s called the k Safe now. I might have a discount code for them if you want it. We always try to give discount codes whenever we get them from brands to share with you. If I don’t have one, I will try to get one for you. If you saw the Social Dilemma, you might’ve noticed the scene where I’m not going to share it with you because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody who hasn’t seen it. There’s this device called the kSafe. They got it on Shark Tank and I’ve had three of their products for a while. You can use them to lock up your food.

If you’re like me, there are some foods that you’re excited about that it’s hard to resist them, but equally as important is our devices. Sometimes we know that we’re addicted to our devices and we cannot keep ourselves away from them. One method is to lock them up and put a timer on it and you can use the kSafe for that. They’re neat. Go check them out. We’re not sponsored by them, but I am an affiliate of theirs. Full disclosure, if you buy one based on our recommendation, we get a little kickback. I’m an affiliate because it’s cool whether it’s food or a device that you put in there. I thought it was amazing that the Social Dilemmas showed this because the point is sometimes, we are so addicted to technology. We can’t stay away from it unless it’s taken away from us or we’ve created some barrier.

Going back to this idea of self-worth and identity and back on what you were saying, there was a great segment of video clips that I had seen before. I pulled up an article about this former Facebook executive from 2017 on this website called Quartz or QZ.com. This was the full quote that they use in the documentary. His name is Chamath. He said, “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short-term signals, hearts, likes and thumbs ups. We conflate that with value and we conflate it with the truth.” Instead what it really is fake, brittle popularity, that’s short-term and that leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it. Then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like, “What’s the next thing I need to do now because I need it back?”

Reading this out loud gives me chills with that line about fake, brittle popularity is so poignant. He said this in 2017 or maybe earlier than that. In the past few years, it’s gotten even more intense. I mentioned TikTok and I love TikTok. They announced that they finally secured themselves in the app store. There were a few months where it seemed like TikTok might disappear for good based on some political drama that was happening. It looks like TikTok is here for good, but I don’t know how good it will be. It’s a wonderful platform from my perspective. It’s very entertaining. The danger of TikTok is it gives everybody a platform for popularity.

I’ve noticed over the several months that I’ve been on it. I remember getting on there in October 2019. What I’ve observed over that time is so many people are obsessed with becoming TikTok famous and people that I know too. They’re obsessed with the numbers, the vanity metric. How many people watch their videos? How many people are following them? I’ve seen a lot of good happen on TikTok. Our show has directly benefited from it. One of our guests, Jason Green, has become very successful in TikTok with his content around attachment styles and he’s driven a lot of traffic to us. Some of you may be here because of TikTok.

For that reason, I’m very grateful. The danger beyond it translating into something positive like that is for the people that are not using TikTok for outside the platform. Their focus is based within the platform and TikTok being kind of volatile. It almost got taken away from us. What happens to somebody when this fake popularity truly is short term. As Chamath was saying, “Does that leave you vacant and empty? Are you craving another way to get your fix? Another way to feel validated? Another way for your self-worth and identity to be shaped?” What happens to people though when everything is taken away from them? When they’re bullied online? When the cancel culture that we’ve talked about in a number of episodes, what happens if you get canceled and what does that do your mental health?

Social media, the way that the algorithms are designed, keeps feeding us more of what we click on. Click To Tweet

That’s a perfect segue way into what I want to cover, which the part of this that is most compelling and concerning to me is the mental and emotional health aspects of how we engage with the use social media and where it’s heading. One of the quotes that I thought stood out most to me in the Social Dilemma was that there are only two industries, which refer to the people that they engage with as users, that’s narcotics and software. Those are the only two industries that refer to the people they engage with as “Users.” If we examine that every time we get a like, a heart, a message in our inbox or anything that is validating our sense of self-worth, we’re getting a tiny little hit of dopamine in our brain.

What this means is dopamine is the chemical neurotransmitter in our brain that is activating the reward centers. It’s a job well done. You did well. This is amazing. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter. The danger in this is that we start to associate that this is the source of our dopamine. We start to become dependent for our dopamine fix on the likes, hearts, follows, the number of DMS in our inboxes, and the number of sponsorships we get. Not only the education I’m doing, but my personal battle and ongoing struggle with mental health. This is the aspect of it that’s most compelling and concerning to me is that there are many studies that have come out. It’s interesting because as we were planning to talk about this more in-depth in this episode, you and I were both feeling like we had so much to share. I got a message in my inbox, speaking of dopamine, from one of the authors I’ve been following for the past few years. His name is Mark Manson. He’s the bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Everything is F*ucked: A Book About Hope. He’s got two best-selling books.

I like Mark’s tone. He’s very conversational. He’s very off the cuff. He had in his newsletter an entire long section about his take on The Social Dilemma and he linked two different articles. He has some concerns about this and he said, “Despite all the connecting about social media, making people more anxious or depressed. There are some research studies showing that it does not make people more anxious or depressed. However, he also links to an article about teenage girls specifically that it does show that it increases their anxiety and depression. I went down the research rabbit hole and I’m not going to read the intricacies of these studies, but I do want to talk about much like, you and I, in the past have mentioned like, if you’re doing research on food, health or nutrition, you can find conflicting studies for damn near anything out there, “Keto is good for you. Keto is bad for you. Veganism is good for you. Veganism is bad for you. It’s okay to have oil. It’s not okay to have oil.” Much like those conflicting studies, I feel like going down the rabbit hole of depression and anxiety related to social media, you see some conflicts.

The first one quickly is a study that was done at Brigham Young University. It’s from the website, ScienceDirect.com. The full-length article is, “Does time spent on social media impact your mental health?” It’s an eight-year longitudinal study. The highlights are that they found that time spent on social media was not directly related to individual changes in depression or anxiety over an eight-year period. The lack of relationship was found even in the transition between young adolescence and emerging adulthood.

They found that there were not any stronger or more deep results for girls or boys. It was 500 participants between the ages of 13 and 20. That’s one that said there’s no correlation, but you go to a different study. This is what’s confounding. This is a study that is on Journals.SagePub.com. In this one again, two studies of US adolescents in Grades 8 through 12. This is Junior High through Senior in high school, looked at stats on suicide deaths between 13 and 18-year-olds. Depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates between the years 2010, 2015, specifically focusing on females.

They looked at these adolescent girls that were on new media, including social media, computers and electronic devices. They were more likely to report significant mental health issues. These adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities, in-person interactions, sports, extracurricular activities, homework and reading were less likely to experience those symptoms. You have two things that are in direct conflict with each other. It goes back to what you and I have said, going back to personal health, that in some ways, statistics and research studies are valuable. What this comes down to and where I want to steer this conversation deeper into taking a deeper look at ourselves and asking ourselves, “How am I using these devices?”

I look at when I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014, I had been experiencing depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation and anxiety for years before that. I didn’t start cranking up my social media usage until 2009. Prior to 2009, I get depressed sometimes. I feel down. If I’m honest about it from 2009 onward, I have experienced significantly higher rates of depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and mental health issues. I’m not saying that social media is the cause and I don’t believe it’s the cause. I don’t want to demonize it. I’m not here to say social media is the devil, it’s bad. I do think though, as you mentioned, and what this documentary outlines is that attention is the economy and the longer that they keep us on the apps, the longer that they keep us on the websites, the longer they keep us interacting, they make more money.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: When something’s too simple, there’s often a catch to it. There’s always a consequence of taking the easy way out.

 

They make hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s the attention economy. To go back to what you said, Whit, one of the pressures that people feel driven by to get the numbers, likes and following is they realize that the people that are most successful right now with few exceptions are not the most talented. They are not adding the most value to society or the contribution of positivity. They’re the ones that get the most attention. People are like, “The Kardashians.” For some reason, they always talk about, the Kardashians, it’s like the poster children. The reality is why are they most successful? They command the most attention. People are rewarded for commanding the most attention. The reality is too and I’m not saying this to be demeaning, but we’re all in some ways fodder for the machinelike Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, doesn’t give a shit whether Kim Kardashian, Kanye, Obama, Oprah or you and I. In reality, we’re all numbers, algorithm, metrics and fodder to feed the machine like we all are. I’m not saying that to be dismissive. I’m saying we need to look at like it dehumanizes us in certain ways. It dehumanizes us in the sense that we’re all just food to feed the algorithm, the advertising metrics, to generate billions of revenues for a small group of people. It doesn’t feel good to me.

This is why that awareness is important because a lot of people will hear things like that and think it’s fine. When it comes to privacy and we did an episode on data privacy with Paul Jarvis a few months ago. We have a lot of resources on mental health. If you’re reading this and struggling with anxiety, depression, and not-enoughness, all of these things can come up for us on social media, especially when we fall into the comparison trap, we have free eBooks and courses for you at Wellevatr.com. It’s our aim to support you beyond this show.

We hope that you’ll take advantage of that. This is also fascinating because a lot of us are so used to this whether it’s like giving away our privacy and thinking like, “I have nothing to hide. Why do I need to keep things private?” One of the big points about privacy, social media usage and the terms of service too, which is always very interesting, a lot of us give away our rights and our creative control to these companies that can use us for their financial benefit. We give it away because it feels so satisfying. That’s one of the major points of the social dilemma as well. The people that are creating these networks know-how our brains work. They’re studying our psychology. They know how we react to things.

Everything that we’re doing on our phones, our devices, these apps, these websites is being monitored and being studied. In a way, they use the phrase lab rats in the documentary. They have this phrase, “It’s massive scale contagion experiments.” It’s a lot of unconscious habit programming. We might feel like we have a lot of control, but we might not have as much as we think that we do. We might think, “I’m getting so much out of this. I’m benefiting that it’s a fair exchange.” I don’t know if it’s that fair because we don’t know exactly what’s happening to all this data. We don’t know what’s happening when our faces are being collected, our videos, our likeness. We’re giving it away a lot of those rights. We also might even be doing that for people without their permission.

There are many cases online of people’s likeness being recorded and utilized. We see bullying videos. We see videos made for entertainment. The dark side of TikTok, you’ll see a lot of bullying, for a lack of a better word, of people, sharing videos of somebody else, and making fun of them or pointing them out. I saw one that was political. It was somebody recording a protest. The person behind the camera was saying awful things to the protesters and the protesters were recording this person. Both sides are being recorded. Both sides were shouting cruel things to one another. The person that posted this on TikTok came across as very self-righteous. You read the comments and everyone’s like, “Those protesters are awful people.”

There’s part of me that agrees with that. There’s part of me that’s entertained by that. There’s another part of me that thinks like this is kind of sad human behavior, that we’re using this type of cruelty as entertainment. You see that a lot on social media, especially on YouTube and TikTok. There’s this kind of accepted way of operating where we can record people without their permission and then say or do awful things to them, and then become very self-righteous as if they deserve it. That makes my skin crawl. It’s horrible because to Jason’s point, we don’t know the long-term ramifications. That person might seem like they’re not bothered by it, but who knows what happens when they go home? I was listening to a few audiobooks on my road trip, and I remember one of them talking about the increase of suicide, especially amongst teenagers. A lot of this is affecting teenagers in ways that we don’t even realize yet because we are in this lab rat experimental stage of social media, that this might be incredibly detrimental.

We are often very driven by the desire to feel accepted and to make money. Click To Tweet

To the point that we made towards the beginning. Jason and I have and maybe some of the readers do as well, have that perspective of seeing the internet evolve over our lifetimes. I remember life before the iPhone. I worked at Apple the day the iPhone came out. I have a very integrated experience with Apple and how that device changed the course of our lives. That was in 2007. It’s not that long ago. Thinking about life was like before we had access to the internet in our pockets, we have to dive deep into how we felt.

Jason, your point about noticing your mental state from 2009 and beyond, and what it was like before that. Some people do not have the awareness to remember that. Some people may have been born after this time where they were growing up during this time. They don’t even remember what life was like before all of that. Coming back to my point about utilizing content for this temporary satisfaction, but not realizing the long-term issues with it, is a huge problem. Before we started, Jason and I were having a little discussion about the website’s only fans. I was starting to say to him that I don’t have a problem with people going on a platform, creating private content and making money off of it. I start to wonder this seems a little too convenient.

It seems a little too easy to go to make much money on this website. I don’t even know what the only fan’s terms of service are, but a lot of people are exposing themselves in very vulnerable ways just to make some money, they’re going on these platforms and seeing their friends on there, making money. I see a lot of this on TikTok. Going back to the benefits of TikTok. You can learn a lot about humanity on TikTok for better or for worse. I see a lot of people discussing their experiences with only fans. There are people on TikTok that posts tip videos about how to make money on only fans. I’ll read through the comments and there are so many people in the comments sections of these videos saying like, “I want to do only fans. I heard I can make a lot of money from that” They’re discussing these tips about exposing themselves and their bodies or even their body fluids.

I was telling Jason, there’s a big trend, there has been for a while, but it’s becoming a trend on only fans apparently. Some other websites where women and men can sell some of their undergarments for lack of a better term to be about it. They’re selling their soiled undergarments to people. One person pointed out in the comments. They’re like, “What if your DNA is being stolen? That sounds paranoid, but there’s a part of me going, “That’s a good point” In other words, we’re putting things out into the world, whether digitally or in that case, physically, we’re giving it to somebody in exchange for their money, which feels a little too easy and a little too convenient.

Anytime something is that easy, whether it’s popularity or money. We should examine it because what seemingly takes a few minutes of our time to gain something. We need to also address what we’re losing, whether it’s our mental health, our privacy, or our data potentially. I don’t even know how DNA works in the sense. What if somebody was buying your undergarments so that they could take your personal bodily fluid to seduce? I don’t know if this makes any sense, I haven’t researched it at all, but it just made me wonder and pause for a second and think there’s always a consequence to taking the easy way out in my opinion. When something’s too simple there’s a catch to it often, and then it’s also not sustainable that’s the other thing.

Maybe there’s no catch. Maybe they just innocently want a pair of your panties to do whatever they’re going to do with it. If you’re okay with that, that’s fine. If it’s all innocent, that’s great. The other consequence there is, are you going to base your entire income on selling your underwear to strangers on the internet, or getting nude in front of stage strangers on the internet and not knowing what they’re doing? Are they taking screenshots? Are they capturing your image? Are you okay with that? Where is that being distributed? I talked about how my eyes got opened to the pornography industry. Going back to what I said earlier, it changed so much in my lifetime. A lot of these porn websites are their terms of service, allow people to post anything that they want on there.

People are recording others without their permission and sharing some either very private moments. There’s revenge porn. There are people doing things to one another, without their permission. I’m trying to be mindful of the words that I use to not trigger anybody emotionally because these are sensitive subjects, but somebody could record you or sexually abuse you and then posted on a porn website to make money from it. That’s all allowed on some websites. We do need to pay very close attention to our usage, what we’re gaining and what the costs are.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter. The danger is that we start to associate the likes, the hearts, and the follows as the source of our dopamine.

 

The deeper level of concern with it that’s brought up you talked about the flip side to how making easy money or it seems too easy. One thing that I have hesitated to do and I want to pull the reins a little tighter on this is talking about certain aspects of my personal life or sharing those things online because overall, if we look at the attention being the most valuable currency online, which it is. Whether that’s these platforms and social media apps garnering our attention by showcasing people that are getting a massive amount of attention, that’s the economy. The more attention, the more dollars, but there’s an offshoot of this. There’s a branch of it, which is that radical vulnerability is also a currency. I never got into and I never felt comfortable with the idea of vlogging style and for any readers who don’t know what a vlog is, it’s a video blog. It’s a style of YouTube or long-form video creation that is documenting every day of a person’s life from who they’re dating, who they’re breaking up with, what they’re eating, the friends they’re hanging out with, and a lot of people got massively successful.

Jake Paul is the first person that comes to my mind. Although there are hundreds of others that like, “Here’s my life, I’m living this crazy wildlife, and here’s everything that’s going on.” They’re rewarded for that level of not just vulnerability and perhaps oversharing their personal life, but the level of outrageousness that they are willing to showcase from their life. My point is, I find it very bizarre that people will send me messages asking about my personal life. I got some DMs about like, “How is Bella? I haven’t seen Bella in a while. Is she okay? Is she alright? I haven’t seen her just checking in.” I’m like, “I don’t know who you are. Who are you?” This person doesn’t even showcase their first name. I don’t know who they are. They’re like, “I’m just making sure your dog’s okay.” That seems innocent enough. I’m hypersensitive to strangers in my social network asking me about my personal life. Like, “I saw on your stories, you might be dating someone new. How’s that going? Do you have a new girlfriend?”

It’s none of your business unless I want to share it with you. People sending me DM’s about this. It bothers me because it is now become socially acceptable to share anything and everything about our lives. We see internet celebrities doing this where they’re sharing break up videos. It’s so cringy to me to see someone like, “We’re breaking up. We made a video about it.” I’m like, “Why? Attention, those videos get millions of views. It’s become a socially acceptable thing to DM someone you don’t physically, personally know and ask them about their personal life. I don’t want to respond to those messages anymore.

Why am I bringing this up? It’s something that you may have heard of Whitney, years ago, this was 2011. There was this thing about how over the course of human evolution, most of the time that we’ve lived on planet Earth in some sort of organized structure of society. It’s been in a tribal arrangement of only 150 people. There was a professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford named Robin Dunbar. He was talking about through his research and looking at these massive social networks on Facebook and all the others we have that’s not typical of how we have existed on the planet in organized human society, that you look at the hunter-gatherer societies. That there’s a sweet spot, like the Bushmen of Southern Africa to Native American tribes, Amish, Hutterite communities, ancient societies are ones that even exist to this day.

They only know and have intimate relations as in knowing each other’s name of about 150 people and that we are being stretched thin emotionally and psychologically. We are having all of these modern-day complications trying to maintain networks of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or in the case of these mega influencers and celebrities, millions of people and how unnatural that is. Not only unnatural, but how unequipped we are from an anthropological, biological, psychological, and emotional perspective to handle that number of connections. It’s an NPR article that you can either read or listen to. It’s a science article that says, “Don’t believe Facebook. You only have 150 friends.” I love this because if I transpose this on my own experience because I feel a sense of resentment sometimes.

It’s not just my email. I have my primary email box. We have our Wellevatr company email box. That’s two email boxes. We have text messages. That’s the third thing people can reach me, but then on every single one of these social platforms, there are DMs. Mind you, that’s already three, two email inboxes and one text message, SMS on my phone then you have DMs on Facebook. You have DMs on Instagram. You have comments and DMs on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok. That is nine portals for people to reach me with messages, requests, pings and questions. That’s insane when you think about it, for me, it is. That might not bug certain people. A certain listener might be like, that’s not that big of a deal. They’re so great.

I have seven DM inboxes, a cell phone and texts. To me, if I sit with that and we talk about awareness, Whitney, that’s overwhelming. The resentment I feel is it’s how easy it is for thousands of people to contact me all of the time asking me for stuff. If I don’t respond to a stranger, they were asking me again about Bella and her food. They’re like, “I can see you’re not responding, unfollow.” Then unfollow, I don’t owe you an answer and that’s the thing is people think that you owe them an answer now and that drives me insane.

I was thinking about this too how people will use the threat of the unfollow. I was reflecting on like, “It’s a power thing.” It’s like users feel powerful because they believe if they unfollow you, that’s going to ruin your career self-esteem. For us, as content creators, we have been trained to believe that we always need to gaining and we can’t lose. If we lose followers then that’s a sign that we’re not doing well enough. I fallen prey to that mentality years ago. I was caught up in that. It still affects me, but not as much as it used to where it was this obsession with getting to certain numbers. When I examine it, Jason, I’m not triggered by the private messages like you are.

I do get overwhelmed by email, which bothers me the most. Whereas comments and messages, I don’t receive enough to feel overwhelmed by it. We all have our different thresholds of what overwhelm feels like. Email overwhelms men and that’s where I get resentful. I think like, “Why do all of these people think that I have the time to sit around and respond to every single email?” If I don’t get to it at a certain point, they’re going to keep bugging me until I do. There’s so much miscommunication that happens through text so I’ve been doing more video or voice responding to people and that’s helped me connect with people more. There is this sense of entitlement.

It’s such a fast-paced world that we're in right now, and human beings have not evolved to cope with that properly. Click To Tweet

As you’re saying, these influencers and the celebrities, that there’s a sense of entitlement because they’ve worked so hard and they’ve earned it. From my perspective, there’s no overarching definition of what it means to earn something because there are so many ways to fake influence. You can buy followers, that’s been an issue for many years. Jason and I both know people that have faked it until they’ve made it or their entire version of making it is based on faking it. That’s hard for people that have tried to do it authentically and been very real in their approach to social media marketing. It’s the Wild West. People can get away with stuff and make it work. They don’t have to pay much consequences for cheating.

We are constantly rewarded because these vanity metrics have become so important in our world and increasingly important. The numbers game is an ongoing thing. It’s getting worse. I have not seen it get better. We’ve seen some of these social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram trying to change it so that you don’t see the numbers. That change did not happen and I don’t know if it ever will. Right now, we become obsessed with how many friends we have, how many connections we have, how many followers, subscribers, on and on. That gives us that false sense of power, influence and community. Then as viewers, as users, and as community members, I imagine part of the reason that they may respond in these ways that you’ve mentioned Jason, is simply because they’re looking for their own sense of power.

This focus on numbers is not just detrimental for the content creators and influencers like this obsession with having so many numbers. Imagine how it feels to be somebody within that community and not be a content creator like you and I Jason. If they’re simply just a user, as a participant, as an audience member, they feel like they don’t matter at all. Perhaps that’s what leads to them saying things like, “I’ll unfollow you,” because that’s their only sense of mattering. If you don’t respond to them, it can be hurtful and that translates into them trying to hurt you back. That is where this all becomes detrimental to everybody is that we’re all being toyed with. We’re all being manipulated. We’re all being told that we don’t matter unless we do this or that.

Being in this world of influencer marketing, which is continuing to grow again, you and I, Jason have been in this field before it was even called influencer marketing. That’s a relatively new term. Now you have all of these people that are power hungry and obsessed with getting numbers because they want the rewards that come along with the numbers. We’ve been taught to believe that we have to have X number of followers in order to make X amount of money or get X number of products or X amount of experiences. A lot of influencers have been manipulated without even realizing it because we’re used as examples like, “Check out with so-and-so is doing, look at the rewards they’re getting, you could do this too If you get the same number of followers.” Now we have thousands, maybe million-plus people who are desperate to become an influencer themselves because they’ve been taught for many years to see all the rewards.

That’s part of the reason it’s important for us to speak openly about this because it’s not as glamorous as it might look. It’s hard. There’s not much foundation there. It could fall apart at any moment’s notice. The platform like TikTok could be taken away at any moment’s notice. Facebook could dissolve. We saw MySpace dissolve. All of these platforms go through ebbs and flows of their own types of power. Meanwhile, these companies are trying to keep themselves in that place of power. They are trying to design themselves to always be on top and be important. We see Instagram desperately trying to copy the magic of TikTok. Maybe they’ll succeed, maybe they won’t. We saw what they did with Snapchat, which I used to use. I was thinking, I go on Snapchat for personal reasons.

I don’t use it publicly at the moment. A few years ago, I used to love using Snapchat. I loved that story feature. Instagram created their own story feature. Now I use that instead of Snapchat. What’s used to be so powerful in one platform is now on another and we see this happening constantly. I remember in 2019 when I was first noticing TikTok and getting into that world, there wasn’t much of a celebrity impact at that point. Now, we’ve seen TikTok rise up. There are all these big influencers coming out of TikTok. That reminds me too of Vine and how powerful that was probably back in 2014 or maybe 2013 when Vine was like this big app and it created a bunch of “influential celebrities or celebrity influencers” like Jake Paul and his brother, Logan.

They rose to fame because of that platform. That platform was taken away from them and they had to scramble to figure out another way to monetize, stay relevant, create on different platforms and adapt to that. That’s exhausting. We don’t focus that much on the burnout side of it. We disregard a lot of that. I have a lot of compassion for big content creators or influencers out there, who are basing their whole sense of worth, identity and financials based on whatever platform they’re on without realizing it could be taken away from them in any moment’s notice.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: We’ve become obsessed with how many friends, connections, followers, or subscribers we have, and that gives us that false sense of power, influence, and community.

 

This is in particular so relevant, Whitney. When you realize that the system can be rigged, popularity and influence can be bought, it engenders a lot of emotions. We know specific people in our industry that have bought their way to a New York Times bestselling book. There’s one in particular author that years ago, I had found out through friends of hers, acquaintances, and people in the industry. She put some ads out on Craigslist, got dozens of people and paid tens of thousands of dollars to do this on the day her Book released to go into Barnes & Noble and bookstores all over the country. To physically go in and paid them to buy her books, which instantly got her in the top five of the New York Times bestseller list. You can still do that to this day. All it takes is money and you can rig the system much like social media. There’s a platform. I learned about this platform a few years ago, Whitney. It’s called iDigic.com, where you can buy Instagram views for videos. You can buy Instagram followers and buy Instagram likes. Now people are like, “That must be prohibitively expensive.” It’s not. For 5,000 followers, this offshore company will design profiles and then assign them to like your account, 5,000 followers for $40.

If you want to have instantly, like you want to start an Instagram account or you’re already existing and you want to have 100,000 followers. It only takes $800 for you to get 100,000 followers on a platform like this, where you can buy manufactured accounts that will follow you. What you do is you’re like, “How did so-and-so get 100,000 followers so quickly?” You can go and buy likes. You can buy the attendant amount of likes that metrically would fit 100,000 followers. You can buy 10,000 likes for $70. The danger in all this is that if you have the right connections like iDigic, if you have $800, you can instantly have 100,000 followers.

If you have another $70, you can have 10,000 likes per photo or per video posts. All it requires is a person with enough capital and they can manufacture an identity for themselves on social media. This is very important because the comparison trap, the not-enoughness and the mental health we’ve been discussing throughout this entire episode is real because we compare ourselves quickly to another person’s following, their success. Their like, “I got my brand-new McLaren. I got my beautiful wife or husband. I’ve got this perfect idyllic life.” People are manufacturing their identities, their followings. We don’t know what’s real and that’s the scariest part. Going back to The Social Dilemma, Whitney, there was an interview with Mark Zuckerberg. I saw this years ago, they briefly show it in The Social Dilemma, but they were talking about fake news and certain Russian operatives that have had bought advertising and infiltrated certain Facebook groups to skew the election results in 2016.

They were asking Mark Zuckerberg about the role of the accountability of Facebook’s algorithms. His response was like, “We’ll just develop more advanced AI and the AI will, in our opinion, be able to root out the “fake news.” You look deeply into AI researches. AI from what I understand does not have the ability to discern objective truth. AI from what I understand is not like, “This is objective truth of reality. Anything that is not in alignment with objective truth in reality, based on the algorithm of the AI, we are going to ban that or take it off.” If they’re relying strictly on AI to discern truth from fiction or root out the fake news, from what I understand, it’s not going to be able to do that. There’s no programming or objective algorithm metrics to obtain absolute truth. If these platforms are relying on AI to discern truth and therefore root out fake news or conspiracies or whatever they’re trying to do it, researchers are saying that it probably can’t happen.

There also isn’t much of a motive for it to happen because as the social dilemma talks about fake news spreads up to six times faster than real news and false information makes more money. For a platform like Facebook, they’re probably benefiting from that fake news, that outrage and the confusion that people have, and the vulnerability that we feel when we don’t know what’s right or wrong, what’s true or false, what’s up or what’s down. When we feel scared, when we feel threatened, when we feel pitted against each other, we start to take actions to protect ourselves. A lot of the time that involves us spending money on something. It had been interesting to see how much money has been made during the pandemic when ironically, a lot of people lost money, but some people, as we saw, are taking extreme measures to stock up on food and supplies because they were terrified and buy all of these things. Many things sold out during the course of the pandemic that you couldn’t even get access to them.

The first thing that comes to mind is webcams because now so much of our lives are based online. People were buying webcams to do their work or to connect with others, which also makes me think we are moving into this time of digital communication in a whole new way. The ripple effect that we’ll have once we get comfortable with it and talking about mental health. Mental health has been a huge issue during COVID-19 and quarantine, but it might not be over for a long time because certain people realize, “I don’t need to go to the office anymore to work. I can stay home.” That sounds wonderful. If you’re socially isolated, that’s going to take a toll on your mental health.

We will be fine no matter what decision we make, as long as the decisions are based on our deeper core values. Click To Tweet

If you get used to FaceTiming with people or using apps to communicate with one another, whatever that might be, Zoom, Marco Polo, Voxer, all these other platforms where you can communicate with people through audio and video. It becomes comfortable especially for someone like me who has some social anxiety. A lot of people have social anxiety. Social anxiety is going to get worse because of the pandemic and people are going to start to think, “It feels a little bit better for me to stay home. I feel safer.” At first, we think we’re protecting our physical health, but we’re getting used to not being around other people anymore. We become used to the digital communication without realizing that it’s crucial for us as human beings to interact in person, at least through voice. I read that text-based communication is so new for us as human beings. We don’t even know the ramifications it has on our mental health. We need to make sure that we’re communicating vocally at least with people, either on the phone, because phone usage has gone way down thanks to text messaging.

Now people avoid having live phone conversations. All of these tools like Voxer and Marco Polo, which are great and they’re very convenient, but they’re shifting our communication styles. It’s no longer live communication. It’s now whenever it’s convenient, it’s whenever I feel like I look okay to be on camera, to record a video. People will become very self-conscious. One of my friends told me that he feels like he has to look a certain way before he makes a Marco Polo video that’s being privately sent to his friends. Social media has also conditioned us to become very self-conscious of ourselves because of the use of filters or because of lighting and all these camera tricks we’ve used.

We’re now afraid for our close friends to see us look disheveled. We’re afraid to admit that we don’t always look perfect on camera. There’s not only an issue of not communicating and being with people in person. Now there’s all these levels of fear, anxiety and pressure to be camera ready even with the people that we supposedly know the most and trust and feel safe with. All of this is having a ripple effect on us that we will not know for many years. By that time, we may be so used to all of this that it’s going to be hard to change it. That’s part of the big issue here is that, as you were mentioning Jason, as kids using platforms like AOL felt so exciting. There was like these possibilities and being connected to people across the world. That’s the beauty of social media.

It does connect us. It does help us understand people in different lifestyles, backgrounds and all different diversity within each other as human beings. That’s the reason I love TikTok. For me, it has opened my eyes up to people all around the world. People that I wouldn’t normally even notice or know that much about all learn about them through that platform, which is incredibly valuable to me. The same amount of exposure I get to new people, I also get exposure to people that I feel like I’m comparing myself to.

Sometimes I have to shut down TikTok because I’ll start to feel envious as somebody lifestyle like you were mentioning, or I’ll start to compare myself to them and wonder, ”That person’s more successful than me, that person’s better looking than me, that person’s in better shape than me, that person’s younger than me,” on and on that whole rabbit hole of measurements towards the beginning. As much as I want to use that platform to connect with others and learn from others, I’m simultaneously putting myself in a vulnerable position of affecting my mental health in a negative way. That’s what’s sad about where social media has gone. You’re like playing Russian roulette every time you go on there.

To that point, I’ve been sitting with how the software, the algorithms and the AI are researcher in The Social Dilemma put it. He was doing a presentation on how we are afraid that Artificial Intelligence is going to surpass human power and human intelligence, and that we are so afraid that it will grow so powerful and omniscient that way it will outstrip us. His point is the thing that we should be more concerned about is that AI has already outsmarted human weakness. Our weaknesses and our propensity to be hateful, violent judgmental beings, it’s already taking advantage of those tendencies of human psychology. On that note, I wanted to bring up another study. This is going to be the last study I bring up for this episode.

I know we’ve talked a lot about studies, but I think it’s apropos of digging under the hood, which we love to do here on this show. Mark Manson, I admire him. He sent out a newsletter. He refers to another study of the American Psychological Association. It is a new way of looking at data, similarities between groups of people that are large and important. The study was trying to look at data sets, looking at the differences and the similarities in populations. It was an international survey of almost 87,000 people and categorize them by age, gender, education, nationality and religion.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: Social media has conditioned us to become very self-conscious of ourselves because of filters and all these camera tricks we’ve used.

 

It asked all of these almost 87,000 people to gauge their values around 22 different important topics like trust in science, education, morality, ethics, and then the researchers then analyzed all this data to determine which groups of these people around the world are most similar and dissimilar. They ran like 160,000 comparisons and found that on average people’s values were 93.3% the same. Of all the comparisons, only 0.66% of them produced results where populations were more dissimilar than their values were similar. What this means is the majority of the time in the majority of circumstances with these core values, people see things the same way. They want the same things. They desire the same things. Their ethics are similar. If you travel around the world and you meet people from different cultures. I say this right now because you talked about the comparison trap and comparing yourself in the differences. Why then in 2020, does it seem like there’s so much divisiveness, hatred, stratification and polarity?

If we’re feeling the same 93%-ish of the time, why do we have so much anger, war, hatred, bigotry and prejudice over the 7% difference? It doesn’t make any sense honestly. Sigmund Freud called this the phenomenon, the narcissism of the slight difference. Freud argued that before we had any framework of cognitive biases, we’ve talked about that on the show, that the small differences between us are magnified in our consciousness and then drown out all the things we have in common.

We take our similarities and our common shared humanity for granted and we obsess over the subtle differences in our character, our culture, religion and ethics as if they’re a world-ending. I have permission to hate you now because of these slight differences. Social media, the way that the algorithms are designed is they keep feeding us more of what we click on. If we are into conspiracies in QAnon, anti-vax, anti-5G, we keep getting more and more of those same articles. If we are pro-Trump, if we are pro-Democrat, whatever it is, we’re into cat videos like we’re going to get bombarded with more and more of the same thing.

The point here is that social media and the internet take the narcissism of the slight differences and multiplies them tens of thousands of times before we even get out of bed in the morning. Our minds and our consciousness are primed to loathe these minor dissimilarities that we noticed between ourselves and others. The internet and social media is giving us millions of reasons to spot those dissimilarities and then permission to hate people that have those slight differences. To me, that’s even more concerning in some ways, Whitney, than the mental health aspects. It ties in of like we have more in common than we do that we’re indifferent about, but we’re on the differences in using them as ammunition to hate each other. That’s frightening.

It does go back to profit though that manipulation side of it is because we are being monitored as they talk about in the documentary, in terms of our mood, our behavior, our personality, the trends. They’re trying to predict what we want more of. They’re trying to predict what we enjoy. All of this data is collected and then put into this algorithm or perhaps that creates the algorithm that then presents us with more of what we respond to. We tend to respond to outrage in a more intense way that benefits these people running the software and the apps because they make money off of the more time we spend online. When I think about TikTok, for example, I get pulled into it. I have to be very mindful of how much time I spend on there because it’s very stimulating. It’s designed to be stimulating and there’s so much money to be made off the stimulation.

I also think about as a creator, I don’t create that much on TikTok. It’s not easy for me to create on TikTok, but I see a lot of people churning out content on there because they’re rewarded. Now you can get rewarded monetarily. You can get paid to create content, which sounds great. Even though the numbers are not that impressive, you don’t make a ton of money. It reminds me of the days when I used to make a good amount of money on YouTube. It was like, “I want to create more content.” Remember that the pennies that you’re getting to make your content on there, the companies behind these platforms are making so much money off of you because you’re feeding the machine. You’re part of the machine. This is why you and I, Jason, try to take a step back from this and think what do we want our role to be like, do we want to be part of this?

That’s something that’s come up a lot for me when I was watching The Social Dilemma. Afterward thinking like, “How am I contributing to this? Am I contributing in a way that feels authentic and alignment to me?” Going back to our conversations about platforms like OnlyFans, I don’t have an issue with OnlyFans, like I don’t have an issue with some of these platforms that we’ve mentioned in the sense of, there’s a lot of freedom there. There’s freedom of self-expression. There’s freedom of speech. That’s great. What I do start to notice is that we are often very driven by the desire to feel accepted and to make money. Those are rooted in our survival needs. We want to feel loved, appreciated and part of a group. We want to feel important. We want to feel like we have a purpose that we’re contributing to society. Social media plays on all of that simultaneously when we’re offered money to do those things. It’s triggering us and we get so excited.

Whenever I noticed myself doing something because the monetary side of it is so appealing, I have to check myself, step back and think, “Am I doing this just for the money?” I have felt fallen prey to that. We both have many times. When we don’t feel like we have enough money to pay our bills, it can get very scary. It can feel very tempting to do these things. I found myself wondering sometimes, “Maybe I should try OnlyFans,” but I stepped back. I’m doing that because the money sounds good not because I want to do it, not because that brings me joy, not because I adds to my purpose, it’s for the money or it’s for the curiosity. Personally, for my ethics, I don’t want to make decisions like that based on money. Not only is that not helpful for me as a person and it also could be detrimental, but I have to look at how it impacts others.

So many people base their identity and self-worth on how many people give them attention; it's a very human desire. Click To Tweet

 Watching this documentary has made me feel like I have a responsibility as a content creator. We have a responsibility as podcasters, people are paying attention to what we’re doing. The people that send you direct message, Jason, they value you. They look up to you. They look to you for information and inspiration. That is a huge responsibility. There’s plenty of people who are reading this who we never hear from. We have zero idea how much we’re impacting them. That responsibility that what I post on social media, what we share in this show, what we write about on our websites and our newsletters, etc. Someone like Mark Manson has impacted you, Jason, you’re doing the same for others. I’m doing the same for others and so I need to take care of those people.

I don’t treat these people like numbers. If I do, that’s a big mistake. I have gotten caught up in the numbers game and tried to get more and more. I’ve shifted into like valuing these individual people, seeing them as individuals, and recognizing, it is a huge responsibility that they trust me enough to read this, to follow me on Instagram, and interact with my posts, to watch my YouTube videos whenever I make them and all the other stuff that I’m doing, That’s a big responsibility because what they’re seeing from me is impacting them in some way or another that I don’t even fully understand.

If I’m making decisions based on vanity, my ego, the desire to make more money, it’s a little scary. It’s scary that these websites, these apps, these pieces of software are doing things to us that seem insignificant, but add up to be incredibly significant to our mental health. If they’re doing those things and manipulating us in these ways so that they can make a profit, we can see how it hurts us. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on how we’re impacting other people when we make the same decisions just to make money.

That’s a wonderful thing to reflect on, Whitney. A deeper sense of reflection is an ongoing conversation that you and I have certainly been having long before The Social Dilemma came out, long before this episode, we’ve been having conversations with Adam Yasmin, who was a wonderful guest in a previous episode here on the show too. He has started a coaching business as a digital wellness coach. We did a panel with Adam in Downtown LA, along with Tommy Sobel from Brick, a gentleman from Headspace, and talking more about the digital wellness conversation. The thing that I’m reflecting on how do I better manage not only my mental and emotional health, knowing a deeper layer of the psychological manipulation that’s happening now because I simultaneously feel a level of deep burnout right now from doing any social media.

I have people sometimes very lovingly that are like, “Are you going to post any more YouTube videos?” I’m so burnt out, not just on YouTube. I feel a level of emotional and psychological burnout on social media that this conversation and some of the articles that I’ve been reading that I mentioned, the social dilemma is almost like the domino that is pushing me over the edge. When I say pushing me over the edge, I’m trying to figure out right now, do I create more succinct boundaries and containers for my engagement with social media, getting a case safe, creating some mechanism where I’m only spending 30 minutes a day on social media, 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at night, or what I’m also considering is deleting all of the apps from my phone, putting out a post on all the major networks saying, “I’m going to be off social media indefinitely.

I don’t know when or if I’ll be back, but if you want to communicate with me, if you have my cell phone number, call or DM me, or you can email me directly.” I’m trying to figure out and also think, am I getting a light phone that doesn’t have any apps that don’t have any stuff like that? I’m trying to figure out in this moment, what is it that I can do for my mental, emotional and physical health that is going to not alleviate the sense of burnout, but somehow recapture my sense of autonomy. I realized over the past several years, that there is a corollary in my mind between all the thousands of videos and posts we’ve done, and my mental health declining that if I were to limit or eliminate my participation with this as an experiment, Whitney, how would it affect my mental and emotional health?

I’m very curious as an experiment to honestly get-off of them completely. I know that’s tough because you and I have a business, we have this show, we have things, but my mental health and emotional wellness I realize is of the highest priority. If that suffers, everything suffers. I’m saying all this to you as my best friend and to the public, for the readers, like I’m considering either severely limiting my interaction or completely eliminating my interaction with social media for an unspecified period of time right now. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do yet.

A lot of people are doing things like that, Jason, and you’re certainly not alone in it. It’s funny to me because some people will ask me, “Why I’m not doing this or that? When am I going to post on YouTube again?” I don’t even know if those people realize we have a show. This show takes a lot of work. We have three episodes a week and there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. Going back to what you were saying before, there are many platforms and there’s this almost cultural expectation for us to be on all of them all the time. We’re not machines. We talk a lot about how we don’t want to be part of hustle culture. We’ve been trained through, whether he intended this to have such a long-term effect or not.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: There are just so many platforms, and there’s this almost cultural expectation for us to be on all of them all the time.

 

People like Gary Vaynerchuk had this idea of like, “You’ve got to be everywhere in order to make a difference, to build a business, to monetize and to grow.” I reflect a lot on what’s necessary. What’s the rush too? Going back to what we were talking about the beginning or sometime towards the first half of this episode is that there’s such a fast-paced world that we’re in. I don’t think that human beings have evolved to cope with that properly. Even if we do evolve to cope with that, I don’t know if that’s our best interest. Maybe we never will. Maybe we’re forcing ourselves to live and operate a certain way. That’s bad for us. It’s great that more attention is being called to mental health.

Mental health is also becoming a trend. It’s becoming a thing that influencers say that they care about, but do they care about it if they’re promoting hustle culture? Do they care about mental health if they’re sharing pictures of themselves looking perfect all the time? That’s what I started to question too is we need to take this incredibly seriously. I had a conversation in the beyond measure group, which is in the Alpha/Beta testing period. I have a small group of people who are helping me shape what will become a public version of beyond measure. We discussed the social dilemma a little bit and talked about the pros and cons of social media. Most of the people in that group are off Facebook.

Most of the people in the group are considering being off all of the social media. Most people don’t find that much value in those platforms. That’s part of what’s happening. I’ve been wondering how these platforms are going to respond to the social dilemma because I’m sure they’re scrambling with that documentary being so successful and seen by many people. You’re not the only one. I bet a lot of our readers are either barely on social media or not on it at all. That leads me to think, does it even matter how much we post on there? A lot of the times that I post on social media is when I’m being paid to post on there or when I want to reach people for a specific purpose.

I’m not on social media all the time because it doesn’t bring me that much joy or satisfaction. I go on there for business reasons. I do find that the joy I get from a platform like Instagram is through the direct message feature when I can message people and have conversations with them. Part of my aim is to bring people offline, off of social media, into having more connected conversations. That’s why I’ve been working on beyond measure. My hope with beyond measure is to give people a sense of real community off of social media. I’ve been observing my own relationships and dynamics on that as a result. I’m not quite at that point where I’m thinking about getting off of social media, but I don’t feel I have to be there all the time.

My heart goes out to anybody who does feel like that. I go on TikTok a lot and I use that as a source of entertainment. I have to reflect a lot on the role that’s playing in my life too. That’s what it comes down to. Our question for the readers is what benefits are you getting from social media? Examining it, noticing it, if you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma yet we recommended. It’s not a perfect documentary. I had issues with it, but it gives you a lot of food for thought. It gives you an opportunity to become more aware of the role that social media plays in your life and other people’s lives. Taking a step back and saying, “Do I want to be part of this? If so, how do I want to be part of it? What is it doing for me? How is it serving my life?”

If you examine your behavior and recognize it’s not helping you, and it’s causing more harm than good. Maybe it is a good time to get off there at least temporarily. The good news is that since these apps are constantly changing, you may decide to get back on there one day, and maybe social media will be shaped in a way that you enjoy again. Maybe you’ll find a different platform. There are new social networks starting up all the time. As Jason was talking about, there’s a technology designed to give you a better relationship with social media. There’s a lot of options. They’ll continue to pop up as a ripple effect of this documentary and other information out there.

This isn’t the first time that this was going to be discussed. It’s not the last. There have been articles about this and videos about this subject matter for many years. Jason and I have both been observing it and reflecting on it. That’s the other important thing to leave people with is it’s not something you’re going to figure out. Jason and I have been grappling with this for a long time. We’re constantly examining our relationship with these platforms. This is the beginning of a conversation or the midpoint of a conversation, not a final answer, final decision or a quick way to determine it. As far as it goes for you, Jason your mental health is the most important thing. If you need to step away, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. What we’ve created with this show is what matters to me. As long as we keep this up, I’m okay with limiting social media in terms of what we do with Wellevatr.

I appreciate you saying that because there’s still remnants of this strange voice in my head. That’s like, “You need to stay relevant and you need to keep posting. What about the algorithm?” It’s this constant pressure that is part of the hustle culture. If you are not immediately top of mind in your industry or category, then you lose relevancy. If you lose relevancy because you’re not posting, because the algorithm won’t favor you and you won’t show up in the searches. We can go again to the construction of the software of these programs and apps. You are rewarded for how often you post, the hashtags you use and the titles you use. People are constantly trying to crack the code. I appreciate you saying what you said, Whitney because if I’m honest about it, I’ve started to feel burnt out on all of this. If I look back to 2017 after my first book came out, after I launched my healthy hustle, like spring of 2017, I was already feeling burnt out.

MGU 128 | The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma: There’s this constant pressure that is part of the hustle culture that if you are not immediately top of mind in your industry or category, then you lose relevancy.

 

I’ve been feeling an increased level of disillusionment and burnout for over a few years. I’m considering doing levels to limit my interaction or even indefinitely again, like I said, putting a post out that says, “I’m going to be off for a while. I don’t know when, or if I’ll be back. If you want me, call me or email me?” Therefore, reclaiming my mental space and my attention to know that if people want to communicate with me, people that want to get me, they’ll email me or they’ll call me. Not the seven DM boxes on every social platform, not the constant comments and the likes, but just like, “The people who want to speak with me, it’s phone or email, and that’s it.” Even by saying that I start to feel like a physical sense of relief. That’s an important thing to pay attention to like my body is responding to me saying that.

That’s an important thing to pay attention to. I’m glad you’re speaking about this because there’s probably somebody reading who’s in a similar position. Going back to us, speaking about this from the perspective of influencer culture and content creation, I wish that more influencers would talk about these things or content creators. I wish more people do this professionally would discuss it because there’s this fear of losing relevancy. I always wonder where is that coming from? For me thinking about back in 2016, I was trying to work on my YouTube strategy, because YouTube is a big part of my career for so long. I remember learning about how important it was to post consistently. If you didn’t post consistently, you’d fall out of the algorithm.

That’s what happened to me. I noticed that when I got less views on YouTube, I felt less relevant. I made less money and my motivation started to die down. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on why I was posting on YouTube to begin with? A lot of that was shaped by the ego, was shaped with the desire to feel important and to make money. I don’t want that to rule my decisions. I also feel grateful that both you and I experienced life before all of this. It wasn’t that long ago that Instagram was used for fun for us. It wasn’t until about a few years ago that Instagram even became part of our careers.

We were fine before those platforms. We were fine when Facebook was something you use to connect with friends from college and high school. We will be fine if we decided not to do them. We’re fine before we had a show. I love doing the show, but who knows, there might be a period where we don’t want to do this anymore. We have no idea. We have to remember that we will be fine no matter what decision we make, as long as the decisions are based on our deeper core values coming back to a sense of contributing and serving the world versus acting purely from our own ego and our personal benefits and all of those things that drive many of us. I’ve taken so much issue with that. The amount of times where I felt like my self-worth was shaped by how many people watched my videos, followed me or any of that. That’s sickening to me.

Many people base their identity and self-worth based on how many people give them attention. It’s a very human desire. There’s nothing wrong with the desire. What makes me sad is that it can be so detrimental. I’ve experienced it firsthand. You’ve experienced it firsthand. We have been pressured to keep going even when we feel burnt out. That’s all part of this capitalistic hustle culture that we’re in this productivity world. We don’t need to participate in that, Jason. I would rather have you feel your best every single day than have you do things that don’t feel like they’re in true alignment. The same thing goes for you, the readers. I do hope that you question all of these things. I hope that you figure out what works best for you and why you’re doing it, what your motivations, and if you need support with that, I hope that you can find that within our podcast episode with our guests.

We have an upcoming guest with Jason Horton, who’s been another fellow content creator for many years. He’s been through all sorts of ups and downs with social media. It’s great timing. It’s a coincidence that his episode is coming up soon. He’ll share with you a lot of the benefits of social media for him. He’s going to talk about his book, what it’s like to be a published author and how that came about for him. Social media does have a lot of benefits, but along with those benefits, do come some compromises. We want to make sure that the pros outweigh the cons for you, no matter what you decide with your life. That’s the aim of Wellevatr. We’re here to make sure that you feel your best each every day and learn new tools. Think about life in different ways, and we’ll let you in into the vulnerable moments. The things that we’re reflecting on and Jason can keep us posted on his social media journey and how that evolves.

I’m going to make some decisions soon on that. There’s a lot of layers being shed of expectation, pressure, comparison and the things that we mentioned. As the expectations are what ought to be doing, should be doing, or guilting myself for what I’m not doing, that limiting or eliminating my social media interaction is going to allow even deeper layers of healing for me. I have an intuition about that. I want to extend my appreciation. There was a part of me that was like, “We’re business partners. You and I have supported and collabed with each other on many incredible things on social media for the past decade almost. There was this fear of like, “If I tell Whitney who’s my business partner, friend and collaborator, I want to get off and I don’t know what I’m going to be back.” Is she going to be mad? Is she going to tell me no? We have to do the show.

The fact that you responded with so much acceptance and love, it diffuses any of the fear or reticence that I had to share with you, Whitney, what I was thinking because I was afraid. I was like, “Is she going to pressure me? She going to be angry with me” As an experiment, this is the thing that I need to do. I appreciate your love and support with it. We’ll definitely report back with what I decide to do on a future episode. With that, dear readers, thank you for getting uncomfortable with us here on the show and for reading all of our perspectives and thoughts in this journey that we are on with social media, business, influence, mental health and all the things. The core of what Whitney and I started this podcast for is to have these types of conversations.

This is Episode 128. We have a lot more content, guests and perspectives to share with you soon. We hope you subscribe to the podcast. If you do love this episode, love what you hear and feel that this has contributed to your life in some profound and lasting way, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps to get the word out to a much larger international audience. With that, we love you and appreciate you. Thanks for getting uncomfortable with us here on the show.

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