Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Do you know who you are? We are constantly pulled in a thousand directions. Especially, when we are faced with the real Social Dilemma - the dilemma is real. If it is true that the average American spends many hours scrolling social media every single day then we can not measure the impact until decades to come. Think about it.
We have always been influenced by the forces of jealousy, lust and honor. They are relentless and inspire us to action every day, both good and not so good. Some of the most evil atrocities known to man were motivated entirely by jealousy, lust and honor. However, this social media thing is different. Let me explain an aspect that perhaps the economists, psychologists and sociologists have overlooked.
Let's look at this from the religious framework. A human being consists of both a body and a soul and they are married until death at which time they go their separate ways until the great reunion. When we die, our soul leaves the body and the body returns to the ground. While we are alive and these to characters are together they don't always get along. Each one wants to return to do their thing. Each one wants to return to their source. The body is made of physical elements and gravity pulls on it nonstop. The body loves laying horizontal, hitting the snooze button, sitting on a beech "living the life."
The soul, the breath of G-d, is entirely spiritual and is a fish out of water far away from home in this physical world. The soul wants to be like G-d and show compassion to others, care for the needy, and elevate the world. These two components can live harmoniously together when they listen and take care of each others deepest needs. However, that doesn't always happen. Oh, I digress.
In order to crystalize this, lets look at a few examples. The soul appreciates when the body and should together participate in selfless acts of kindness. Its that feeling when you do something good for others. When you help someone in need. The body on the other hand, walks by a restaurant and smells the delicious food which stimulates a reaction in the hypothalamus which causes the mouth to salivate and the stomach to growl. The body says, "I want a burger." The soul might say to the body, "Why don't you buy an extra one and give it to that homeless person sitting on the ground outside the restaurant. Together they live in harmony and take care of each others needs.
But what happens when the human is situated in front of pictures of burgers all day long. The human sees big burgers and little burgers, burgers dressed nicely in lettuce and buns and burgers made to stand by themselves like a meat loaf. All day they are fed images of delicious burgers. Do you think they'll stop by the restaurant more often or less often? How will they start to look at cows? Will they see them as sources of milk and ice cream or a juicy steak?
Okay, now let's play a game. Which platforms cater more to lust - the written word or pictures? Which pictures have more potential to strengthen lust - still images or video? What types of video are going to strengthen the animalistic aspect of the human - videos of intellectual discussion or people dancing to music?
Social media started with Facebook and Youtube and today we live in an Instagram and Tiktok world. A young boy growing up in 1980 in front of a television set would be unable to watch movies and content that are readily available on the internet. Cable T.V. restricted certain channels or would only show "Rated R" (for restricted) content after hours.
What about today? What impact does this shift in normative culture have on adults as well? We are constantly pulled in a thousand directions, away from our true inner selves, away from our deeper self, away from our soul. Constantly putting our brain on the alter of the internet for the algorithms to "suggest" content for us to consume is not a formula for success by any measure. The algorithms cater to that which will have you on the platforms more. When you feed the desire you desire more.
What is most alarming and requires your immediate action is that much of humanity is being pulled downward. Even those who are discovering new skills and information, if they are learning new things to make money or to impress others just so they can buy more burgers then it isn't really elevating the world.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to inquire. Inquire about the deeper purpose of humanity. Inquire about the greater responsibility we all share. Inquire about your true inner self. Inquire about how you can elevate your true inner self and elevate the world around you. If humanity can die a death by a thousand cuts, then it can also repair the world one step, one decision at a time. We just need to begin.
Rabbi JP Katz founded JPULSE, a Boston based spiritual, social and educational hub for thousands of young professionals. He is the founder of The Tribe Group, a boutique mentoring group focused on helping individuals actualize their unique potential.