Month: December 2021

Social Media is Not Connecting People. It’s Dividing Them.


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Image: Pawel Kuczynski

Social media is supposed to bring us together, to connect us with each other. Hence, we call it social media. But does it really bring us together? Or does it maybe bring us further apart?

Most of us, if not all, love to connect with other people. We love to have others to share our thoughts, emotions and experiences with, to feel part of a community, to feel that we belong to something greater than ourselves. And that sense of connection and belonging is contributing greatly to our happiness and well-being.

Those among us who have been lonely for a long time know well how bad it feels to have no one in life, to feel disconnected and alienated. I used to be one of them, luckily only for a short while. Perhaps you were or still are one of them too.

Research shows that those who are lonely tend to be more stressed, and hence unhealthier than those who feel connected, both physically and mentally. Lonely people have a much higher risk of developing a wide array of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, respiratory conditions, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on and on. A study found that loneliness affects people as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And another study found that people who are chronically lonely are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships.

This is how lethal loneliness is. Yet sadly, over the past few decades, people have become increasingly disconnected from each other. Currently, about half of US citizens feel lonely and isolated. And the problem is similar in many other countries around the world.

Interestingly, at the turn of the 21st century – perhaps at the peak of humanity’s social disconnection – social media suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and it made a big promise. It promised that it would break the walls between people and allow humanity to come together. It promised that it would bring us closer to old friends and family members we had lost touch with. It promised that it would enable us to easily meet interesting people from nearly every part of the world. It even promised us intimacy and love.

And guess what? This promise resonated with hundreds of millions of people. Being thirsty for connection, they believed that social media is exactly what they were hoping for. So, they jumped into it without second thought.

At the beginning, social media seemed great, but over the years it became crystal clear to many that it failed to offer most of what it had promised. Instead of connecting people, it was actually separating them. Even worse, it was bringing them against each other. So, what could have gone wrong?

There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, people started to spend more time on social media, which means that they had less opportunity to go out of their homes and meet people in person. Yes, on social media people might communicate with others via text and image, but true, intimate connection is missing from it. No text message or emoticon can replace the feeling of being in the same physical space with someone else, looking into their eyes, feeling their touch, sensing their presence. Yet social media still does provide some solace to those with lonely hearts, which is what keeps them returning to it. It provides a substitute, which, although never enough, it temporarily soothes their pain.

The second main reason why social media separates people is that it breeds polarization. Most people don’t realize it, but the truth is that today’s popular social media platforms are profit-making machines, who’re earning tens of billions of dollars in ad revenue from essentially selling people’s attention. And to sell more of it, they have to be designed in such a way to keep people engaged in them.

So, what’s one of the best ways to increase engagement? Playing with people’s emotions, such as by promoting polarizing content that divides people in opposing groups who fight endlessly in comment sections. Something that the big social media platforms are doing very well. Which makes one wonder: Is social media “social” or actually “anti-social”?

To make things worse, most social media platforms filter what they show to their users, according to each user’s behavior. So, if, let’s say, the algorithm detects that you have a certain political affiliation, it will show you as much content related to it, preventing you from being exposed to different political ideologies or groups of people affiliated with them. As a result, social media creates an informational echo chamber that further alienates people from each other.

Having said the above, I want to make it clear that I’m not against social media per se. I might not like social media as it exists today, but I don’t think that it’s inherently bad. In fact, I like many aspects of it, and believe that it could play a big positive role in the evolution of humankind.

The problem that I find with social media is how its platforms are set up, and what people want to get out of it. Social media could be an immensely powerful tool in bringing people together, but it will always let us down if we think that it can substitute intimate, in-person physical relationships. Social media could also enable people to engage in a free flow of information sharing, if social media platforms were designed for the benefit of its users, and not with the end goal of profit-making.

Then, a revolution in consciousness would likely begin. But for that to happen, our values need to change. Social media technology as it exists and is commonly used today is nothing but a reflection of our collective values, and unless those change, social media won’t change either.

How to Resolve Conflict in 4 Easy Steps

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“More” Is Not the Answer to Too Much

“I’m overwhelmed” is something I’ve been hearing over and over lately. I’ve probably said it a couple of times myself.

Chalk it up to life in the vortex, the sense of having more time than ever before (in some ways), yet not always sure of where it goes.

Feeling overwhelmed is a common condition—yet in trying to deal with the problem, we sometimes often end up compounding it by adding more programs, systems, and solutions.

Here’s the irony of the $11 billion self-improvement industry: in an attempt to simplify, we end up adding new tools, gadgets, email newsletters, and subscriptions to our lives.

A few examples:

You can now download apps with the sole feature of blocking your ability to access other apps. An app to keep you from using apps!

There is now a podcast that consists entirely of trailers for new podcasts. Within a few weeks of its debut, it had dozens of episodes, all highlighting new series

Online meditation is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with brands that are just as competitive with their adversaries as financial trading firms are.

With no end to this growth in sight, you’ll only have more and more opportunities to study at the feet of the digitally enlightened—but should you? Your inner world deserves better treatment than your sock drawer.

Of course, some of these things can be helpful. I use lots of different tools and software every day. Just notice that the same people and companies who promise you a simpler life are the same ones that contribute to your life being complicated in the first place.

Learn to be wary of everything that demands your constant attention. Use the tools that help you, and religiously discard the ones that don’t. Apply a high filter to this decision process: don’t think “This might help me one day, so I’ll keep it around.” Instead, think “If I’m not using it now, I don’t need it in my life at all.”

Whatever the solution to overwhelm is, it can’t just be “more.”

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of Liza Summer.

The Year I Figured Out the Truth about Santa

If you believe Santa is real, you might want to stop reading right now…spoilers ahead!

If there’s one universal experience for kids whose families celebrate Christmas, it’s the day we realize that Santa isn’t real.

There’s something so sweet, so innocent, about kids and Santa. Who didn’t love the idea that there’s some benevolent being who not only can tame reindeer and employ elves but can also make deliveries to every house in the world in one night (Santa’s better than Amazon!)

As a kid, it was nice to know that if you were “good” you would be rewarded with presents. It made all those times you held yourself back from smacking your little brother or pilfering candy from the store worthwhile.

The day you realize that Santa doesn’t exist is the day that you first start to lose your childhood innocence. As that sense of wonder and miracles falls away, one thing is clear: reality sucks!

I’ll never forget the day I learned the cold hard truth about Santa.

It was the day after Christmas when I was five years old. I was in kindergarten, and I’d made my very first friend from outside the neighborhood.

I think I had a vague understanding that people in my neighborhood were “poor” but I didn’t quite know how the lives of poor people differed from rich people. Until that December 26th when I was five.

I’d made a best friend in kindergarten whose name was Kim. We both went to Catholic School and she lived in a different neighborhood than me. Kim’s mom asked my mom if she could pick me up for a play date.

I noticed right away that Kim’s mom’s car was much nicer than ours. It was shiny and there was no duct tape on the seats. It was super quiet too, probably because it had a functioning muffler.

Then we got to Kim’s house. It was much larger than ours, and there was green grass instead of weeds and junker cars on the grass.

But then the most shocking thing of the day happened: I went inside and saw an enormous pile of Christmas gifts around the tree. It looked like the Toys R Us catalog had come to life right there on the blue shag carpet.

“Where did this all come from?” I asked in wonder.

“Santa Claus,” Kim told me.

This didn’t make sense to me at all. There appeared to be a discrepancy here. Rich kids like Kim got many nice new presents from Santa. Poor kids like me got one or two used toys from the Goodwill. (In fairness, I now understand that Kim’s family was solidly middle class, not actually rich, but they seemed incredibly rich to me).

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks: either Santa was a total asshole or he was fake.

I was pretty sure that Santa wasn’t an asshole, so do the math…Santa was a fraud. When I went home I told my mother I knew there was no Santa Claus.

“Why do you think that?” she asked.

“Kim got a Barbie Dreamhouse and the Talking Crissy doll and Toss Across and an Easy Bake Oven and lots of other stuff and it’s all in brand new boxes like in the store!”

Mom took a drag of her cigarette and shot me an annoyed look. “Just don’t tell your sister”.

And that, my friends, is the day I started to lose my childhood belief in the magic of Christmas.

How about you? When did you realize that there was no Santa? Share your stories in the comments.

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. As a dedicated multipotentialite, she writes on a variety of topics including self-care, aging, inspiration, business, and pop culture. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. In addition to writing, she teaches accessible yoga and sings. Sadly, she has absolutely no musical talent so she’s forced to mostly sing in the shower. For more of Rose’s work, visit her website at or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

Helping Your Child with Anxiety

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Are You Ready to Sit Across the Table From Family Who Made Different Vaccine Decisions Than You? Here’s the Ultimate Mindful Guide to Complicated Holiday Dynamics

Let’s face it, no matter what holidays you celebrate, there are countless reasons we may be managing difficult emotions (and social situations). The good news is that our mindfulness practice is here to support us and help us make space for self-compassion and maybe even a bit of ease.

The post Are You Ready to Sit Across the Table From Family Who Made Different Vaccine Decisions Than You? Here’s the Ultimate Mindful Guide to Complicated Holiday Dynamics appeared first on Mindful.