9

I looked up 'social media' in the questions, but didn't find an answer precise enough for my inquiry. Basically, I came to the conclusion that 1) social media fragments attention drastically by multitasking and unawareness, and 2) it is extremely addictive, perhaps for that precise reason.

Thus, I ask what is likely cause, effect, and remedy linked with social media. What fuels social media use? What effects does its use have? What are the best ways to deal with this addictive medium? And finally, is it possible to tackle this addiction without alleviating it with the natural drive to socialize?

Thank you.

8

What fuels social media use? What effects does its use have?

I suppose it's fairly benign or minor to start with.

  • Curiosity: "What is this 'Facebook' which other people talk about?"
  • Utility: "I have a question about my work, I can ask people online."

I've read people say it's fueled by small rewards. You get a little chemical 'hit' from smoking a cigarette or taking a drug; or from winning on a slot machine; similarly you get a little (mental) reward when you get a 'Like' or a reply on social media.

And Stack Exchange for example encourages people to "pay it forward" (e.g. if you're helped by someone's answer, you're invited to try to help someone else by contributing another answer elsewhere), which (the feeling of altruism) is some kind of reward in itself.

See also "operant conditioning".

As for effect, it is time-consuming; and (like other addictions) can or will fragment attention. It also results in social bubbles (less connected with "real" people around you).

People have a similar problem with smart phones and email/messages (the thought occurs, "let's check my phone to see if there's another message"); or with Twitter and news sites ("has anyone posted anything new?").

It's easy (relatively effortless) to do (it's easy to read a web page, for example) so I'm inclined to do it instead of doing something more difficult (e.g. work): "It's time to start work now ... I'll just read a bit of social media first, which is easier, to get started ... maybe I'll feel like working after I do that."

IMO a task's being effortless is interpreted by the brain as a type of reward, something to seek (perhaps it's associated with mastery).

It's unsatisfying though (or only temporarily satisfying), hence the eventual desire to repeat the "rewarding" behaviour.

What are the best ways to deal with this addictive medium?

Sometimes if I get too disgusted by how much time I spend on a site, I block it from my computer so that I cannot access it anymore.1

It may be good (or better) to find alternative media for communication: 'phoning people, writing letters, reading books, meeting people in person.

And perhaps alternative "reward" systems (other activities that are rewarding in some way).

On the subject of "best ways", it might a topic to apply the noble eightfold way to (starting with right view, and so on).


1 This technological solution, i.e. barring one's personal access/exposure, is also used by other software developers: see 'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia, which also explains in more detail the theory of why it's addictive and takes your attention.

5

On a fundamental level, social media use (like most worldly pursuits) probably arises from the three unwholesome roots. For example, "instagram" is a tool with which many people attempt to satisfy their need for recognition (root of greed), in posting public images showcasing the events of their lives. Oftentimes this platform is abused, in order to enhance the portrayal of our lives to the rest of the world (root of delusion) and build our sense of self (more greed). Furthermore, cyberbullying commonly occurs through social media, and this could be considered an extension of the unwholesome root of aversion, or hatred.

To answer your specific questions:

  1. The cause of social media use is these three unwholesome roots: greed, aversion and delusion.
  2. These being the primary causes of suffering according to Buddhist doctrine, the effect of social media use would be (and we could safely say has been empirically proven to be) suffering.
  3. On an ultimate level, the remedy for any worldly pursuit is to clearly comprehend its nature according to the three marks of existence (suffering, impermanence and non-self), and thereby become dispassionate towards it and relinquish it. However, a more proximate solution to social media would be to approach it mindfully, reduce the amount of time spent engaging in it, and maybe abstain from it entirely.

Lastly, a Buddhist approach to any addiction would not necessarily be to "tackle". Instead, you would be more likely to succeed in attaining freedom from the suffering you experience with regard to social media by approaching it mindfully; examining it in order to discover it's true nature and truly understand it's malevolence. Once you see this, you will relinquish it effortlessly.

2

There is plenty of good advice on this from the Sigalovada Sutta, though it comes from an era where electricity and wireless communication through electromagnetic waves, was not yet invented.

Beware of too much partying on social media (which sounds like addiction to social media):

"These are the six dangers inherent in habitual partying: You constantly seek, 'Where's the dancing? Where's the singing? Where's the music? Where are the stories? Where's the applause? Where's the drumming?'

Too much indulgence in social media could make you lazy (which is distraction to productivity):

"These are the six dangers inherent in laziness: saying, 'It's too cold,' one does not work; saying, 'It's too hot,' one does not work; saying, 'It's too late,' one does not work; saying, 'It's too early,' one does not work; saying, 'I'm too hungry,' one does not work; saying, 'I'm too full,' one does not work. With an abundance of excuses for not working, new wealth does not accrue and existing wealth goes to waste."

Beware not to allow it to make you seek bad companions:

"These are the six dangers inherent in bad companionship: any rogue, drunkard, addict, cheat, swindler, or thug becomes a friend and colleague.

"Young man, be aware of these four enemies disguised as friends: the taker, the talker, the flatterer, and the reckless companion.

"The taker can be identified by four things: by only taking, asking for a lot while giving little, performing duty out of fear, and offering service in order to gain something.

"The talker can be identified by four things: by reminding of past generosity, promising future generosity, mouthing empty words of kindness, and protesting personal misfortune when called on to help.

"The flatterer can be identified by four things: by supporting both bad and good behavior indiscriminately, praising you to your face, and putting you down behind your back.

"The reckless companion can be identified by four things: by accompanying you in drinking, roaming around at night, partying, and gambling."

On social media, I did join some Buddhist groups and they share good material on it. So, of course, it can be used for good things too. You can find good companions:

"Young man, be aware of these four good-hearted friends: the helper, the friend who endures in good times and bad, the mentor, and the compassionate friend.

"The helper can be identified by four things: by protecting you when you are vulnerable, and likewise your wealth, being a refuge when you are afraid, and in various tasks providing double what is requested.

"The enduring friend can be identified by four things: by telling you secrets, guarding your own secrets closely, not abandoning you in misfortune, and even dying for you.

"The mentor can be identified by four things: by restraining you from wrongdoing, guiding you towards good actions, telling you what you ought to know, and showing you the path to heaven.

"The compassionate friend can be identified by four things: by not rejoicing in your misfortune, delighting in your good fortune, preventing others from speaking ill of you, and encouraging others who praise your good qualities."

It's up to you to use social media in a way that benefits you.

1

Eggman, and those interested,

The answer can be found in Methuna Sutta: The Discourse on Coupling: Brahma/Abrahmecariya. It's simply a matter of desire of be coming and on most networks just a maintaining with sensual pleasures. Unskillful entertaining of the mind.

The superintendent of meals

Humans not restrained in sensuality, (after) honour, and do the wrong thing. Acting on interest (greed), anger and fear, they are (engaged in) the defiled gathering. The recluse who knows has said, Great Men should be praised,

Established in the Teaching, they never do evil. They do not act through interest, anger or fear,

That is said to be the cream of a gathering.

Nevertheless, like food is used to overcome desire for food, so is it with socialicing.

It's not so that one should abound what is called

Sangama [fr. saŋ+gam] 1. meeting, intercourse, association Sn 681; J ii.42; iii.488; v.483. -- 2. sexual intercourse M i.407; J iv.106.

but with who and for what purpose.

A person tended to Dhamma and liberation will not be found on ordinaty social medias by nature but would seek for association with Noble one or those following them.

My person gave a extanded talk on Sangama, yet it is in German: Socialicing - សង្គម [Sangama]

One might now thing that "buddhist" Forums and Networks are differen. That is not the case. Nearly all those places and Networks, since mostly also householder undertakings, are nothing else as places for low kinds of coupling, entertainmend, nourishment of sensual pleasure and becoming, identify.

If someone, in the way of serving, helping, assisting, those with noble inspiration, with tendency to Nibbana, seeks of relation with them, seeks for much as possible assosiation, this would be the reason why it can be aspected, that such a person soon might develope right view and progress on the path.

So one is wise if only join places and communities where good deeds are in action practiced and to possible avoid places of consumery, of what even many "buddhist" place are, just charing and eating food (most from third, without any estimate ir obligation) and non of virtues visible.

"What is good friendship?

"Herein, Vyagghapajja, in whatsoever village or market town a householder dwells, he associates, converses, engages in discussions with householders or householders' sons, whether young and highly cultured or old and highly cultured, full of faith (saddha),[4] full of virtue (sila), full of charity (caga), full of wisdom (pañña). He acts in accordance with the faith of the faithful, with the virtue of the virtuous, with the charity of the charitable, with the wisdom of the wise. This is called good friendship.

.

[Kapadika Bharadvaja:] "To what extent is there an awakening to the truth? To what extent does one awaken to the truth? We ask Master Gotama about awakening to the truth."

[The Buddha:] "There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on greed that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on greed... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not greedy. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's greedy.

So one should understand rightly the meaning of

Seclusion

"It's through living together that a person's virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through trading with a person that his purity may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through adversity that a person's endurance may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through discussion that a person's discernment may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning."

If one seriously like to make progress, food-places, shows, entertaining, e.g. common social networks need to be avoided, and one should not think "oh, look, this monks use it also, so it might be not that bad" since when seeing monks on social networks, it's a clear sign that such person might wear a rob but by heart had not left home at all, is - if good - simply a "cook".

Since it all is a matter of accumulating debts in this or that way, it's wise to look to whom on does increase debts for his/her entertaining, livelihood of mind. Some word on it may help: Depts, but to whom?

If one is not really blessed, not having good protection yet, one would be wise to activily seek for such protection:

Many devas and human beings

give thought to protection,

desiring well-being.

Tell, then, the highest protection.

The Buddha:

Not consorting with fools,

consorting with the wise,

paying homage to those worthy of homage: This is the highest protection.

...

Respect, humility,

contentment, gratitude,

hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions:

This is the highest protection.

Patience, compliance,

seeing contemplatives,

discussing the Dhamma on timely occasions:

This is the highest protection...

Maha-mangala Sutta: Protection

Since just translating, as the mechanic of "gifts" and "debts", to (be)come again and again:

From Dualities

The manifold stresses that come into play in the world, come from acquisition as their cause. Anyone not knowing [this] creates acquisition. The fool, he comes to stress again & again. Therefore, discerning [this], you shouldn't create acquisition as you contemplate birth as what brings stress into play.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gain by means of trade and exchange]

1

There have been several good answers above, but I found many of the answers to your questions in the book: "The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked" by Adam Alter. It includes, but goes beyond just 'social media'.

Part of what Alter says is that the addictive nature of social media and the entire 'monetized' internet world is no accident. He first discusses the way our brains work, especially how addictive behavior is created and fed through external stimulation. He then shows that the creators of games, apps (including but not limited to social media) and entertainment actually hire psychologists to build content to play into these addictive brain centers and create 'addictive desires' for them. The do it for the money, not often for our betterment.

He has been professionally involved in internet tech world and understands what is being done to us through these minimally helpful and often addictive and useless (to assisting our way along the path) entities.

Your feelings that you are being manipulated by social media sources and pulled into addictive behaviors are well founded. We need to be aware of and wary of these distractions to the important path we are trying to follow. Best, James

  • Thanks for the reference. This is a link-only answer though -- can you add anything to the answer to answer the question, perhaps summarising or quoting from the book you referenced? – ChrisW Oct 13 '17 at 19:11
  • @ChrisW, better? Sorry, I was trying to not be too verbose (which I am prone to do) by creating a 'link only' answer. Have not done a lot of comments here yet and still learning the ropes. Best, James – GVCOJims Oct 15 '17 at 18:48
0

From a Theravadin Buddhist point of view, a preoccupation with social media is merely a waste of time. Ordinarily, the term "addiction" is reserved for talking about a mental disorder (which consists of a profound disruption of one's life and an inability to function). You probably do not have an addiction. You may wish to contemplate the fact that you are living a trivial life that in no way benefits the people you love or care about.

  • 2
    IMO people who smoke cigarettes, for example, tend to be addicted though not unable to function. – ChrisW Oct 14 '17 at 17:27
  • I was referring to the concept of addiction as defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM 5. You are expressing a personal opinion. I am not. – Ronald Cowen Oct 15 '17 at 7:12

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