By Corvus Pointer
Diagnosing the Potential Causes of Our Currently Shared Global Predicament
A Rough Outline for an Ongoing Project
Compiled by Taylor Wickham Hord, MSW / Corvuspointer
Version 0.1 - Last Edited 16:25 PM - 11.19.2018
See Each Section for Relevant References
- We currently face an epidemic of neurochemical addiction to social media, smart phones, tablets, and the internet. This addiction is the result of “slot-machine” dynamics present in most modern video games and social media platforms. This has been correlated with an unprecedented increase in self-harm behaviors and suicide, especially in young people born after 1995. - see above graphs*
ref - Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life - youtu.be/kc_Jq42Og7Q?t=249 - see: 4 minutes, 9 seconds
- This addiction is causing mass outbreaks of symptoms, such as (but not limited to) gradual or sudden onset of: severe depression, severe anxiety, hostility, lashing out at friends, paranoia, uncontrollable moods, scary or confusing behavioral changes, crankiness, self-harm behavior, and suicide. - see above graphs
- These instant-communication tools (Smart Phones, the Internet, Social Media, etc.) were unfamiliar to our evolutionary landscape until roughly 30 years ago* and were rapidly deployed without much thought for long-term effects, resulting in the unforeseen consequences and perfect-storm conditions for the amplification and acceleration of genetic, human primate behavioral tendencies to "group up" in homogeneous "us versus them" identity / identifier group dynamics. These especially emerge when there is some perceived kind of great moral panic or social danger.
ref - Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons - youtu.be/3E7hkPZ-HTk?t=587 - see: 9 minutes, 46 seconds
- Similar to orthodox religious groups and cults, the individual is conditioned by way of groupthink and through fear of exile to abandon their previously personal or creative views in exchange for a group-approved, incontrovertible dogma. Straying from this even a little results in the loss of friends and to be re-categorized by the group as "Outsider / Unclean / Snake / Them / Witch / Satanist / Commie / Nazi / Transphobe / SJW / Alt-Left / Alt-Right / etc."
- The threat of exile is one the deepest primal fears of a human being, with origins going back through millions of years of evolution. This has resulted in a global landscape of extreme, vigorous self-censorship and inauthentic action-taking. People no longer know what is "true" or "untrue" on the internet.
- We have collectively lost the capacity to disagree respectfully and constructively.
- I am a clinical social worker, and have begun an attempt to compile my findings as dispassionately as possible, in order to share them with others and to find any new perspectives, so that we can work together to solve this looming and very real danger to our species.
- Further empirical and unbiased, quantitative studies are desperately required to better understand this phenomenon.
Many of my viewers might not be aware that I am a classically trained, master’s level clinical social worker. Though I haven't been practicing in the field for a few years now, I still take the NASW Code of Ethics very, very, very seriously, following them not only in my professional life, but my personal ones as well.
The Opening Preamble of the NASW Code of Ethics states:
"The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession's focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living."
The findings of recent empirical research have been so alarming, that I deeply feel it is my ethical duty to try and provide some kind of ongoing assistance in the transparent face of increasing mental illness, self-harm, suicide, and homicide. I am quite certain that our Human family, worldwide, is in very real, very grave danger, due to several environmental forces that have created and contributed to global-scale unease and profoundly severe social decompensation.
These are not just things I've observed in others; while I have Borderline Personality Disorder, on top of ASD and Complex-PTSD, the last few months have been a frightening experience of worse than usual mood shifts, panic attacks, paranoia, and crankiness. I know myself very well, and realized something was terribly wrong, well beyond my own diagnoses, so I dropped off the social / public map in order to fall back and begin aggressively examining what was actually happening to me, as accurately as I can.
I love the fandom deeply, and I know that a lot of people are scared. That is why I am going to attempt, in an ongoing fashion, to "clinically diagnose" what is happening to our societies and our Human Family.
These thoughts and observations are certainly not final ones, nor are they even remotely the only ones, nor are they meant to some ideologically-ossified "Gospel Truth." Instead, I hope they will be useful in our public discourse as a few initial ways of re-framing the anxiety and mood / behavioral shifts so many of us currently experience on a daily basis.
I. The Great Dopaminergic Horror; a Collective Epidemic of Novelty & Addiction to Dopamine
Simon Senek on Millennials in the workplace - youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU?t=196 - see: 3 minutes, 16 seconds
Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons - youtu.be/3E7hkPZ-HTk?t=204 - see: 3 minutes, 28 seconds
Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons - youtu.be/3E7hkPZ-HTk?t=446 - see: 9 minutes, 48 seconds
Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life - youtu.be/kc_Jq42Og7Q?t=44 - see: 44 seconds
Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life - youtu.be/kc_Jq42Og7Q?t=224 - see: 3 minutes, 44 seconds
- Since 2007, a majority of human beings have been slowly addicted to smartphones and social media, through processes very similar to an addiction to gambling.
- The rapid rate at which these new technologies are being publicly deployed (driven only by short-term focused economic motivations) does not leave adequate time for empirical study to examine the long-term effects on society at-large and the unintended consequences that follow.
- Dopamine is the "feel good" neurochemical. It is released when smoking, consuming alcohol, gambling, smoking / ingesting cannabis, orgasm / ejaculation, receiving positive comments / "likes" on social media platforms, etc.
- Slipping a coin into a slot machine, pulling the lever, and waiting for the response has the same dopaminergic anticipation / response as posting Art / a Status Update / a Personal Thought to a social media platform / etc., and then compulsively refreshing the page to monitor for positive feedback's from Peers, thus delivering these "dopamine rewards" to the brain.
- The addiction is not to the dopamine itself, but to the entire process of "losing" (an absence of positive feedback for that "turn") and "winning" (a release of dopamine, or a so-called "dopamine hit") to feels extraordinarily agreeable. Most MOBAs and Blizzard games such as “League of Legends,” “World of Warcraft,” “Diablo III,” “Overwatch,” and "Hearthstone" are all fundamentally behaving in the same neurochemical ways as a slot machine in a casino, and are the same behavioral mechanisms present in social media.
- Some consequences of this epidemic (but certainly not all) are the mass outbreaks of the following symptoms of addiction:
- Moderate to Severe levels of rapid onset Irritability / Crankiness / Hostile Moods.
- New, Previously Unfamiliar Feelings of depression / severe, confusing anxiety.
- Unable to moderate feelings or moods.
- Losing interest in things you once liked to do.
- Isolating / secretive about activities, especially with close friends or family.
- Unable to sleep without a smartphone in close proximity.
- Unable to moderate Social media / Video Game / Personal Smartphone usage.
II. Social Media and its Acceleration & Amplification of Innate Human Primate Tribalism
- For millions of years, tree dwelling primates evolved in "us versus them" tribal groups, competing for resources in a common social geography, usually with each "group" inhabiting their own tree. Groups from different trees competed in this same manner.
- The Internet has a magnified our collectively held, genetically based innate primate tribalism, resulting in the clear and present "us versus them" dynamics playing out across politics, social media, pop-culture, and many other dimensions.
- Partly due to this reversion, we have collectively lost the ability to disagree respectfully and constructively, resulting in warlike and tribal tendencies between two diametrically opposed groups, whether they are identity groups, political groups, racial / ethnic groups, etc.
- Self-identified members of the "Alt-Right / Nazis" and the "Alt-Left / Antifa" are, on a global scale, behaving precisely like two tree-dwelling, human primate tribes, competing for some kind of dominance over the immediate environment.
- Some, but certainly not all Signs and Symptoms of Unconscious, Innate Tribal behavior are:
- Perceiving yourself as part of an identity group comprised of homogeneous people.
- Powerful feelings of Hostility and / or disgust for other Homogeneous Identity Groups.
- Frequently engaging in "Us vs. Them" language.
- Frequently engaging in "Us vs. Them" Twitter / Social media fights, leading to Dopamine highs.
- A sense of extreme exhilaration upon having "Shamed" an outsider individual or group.
- Only consuming media and information that is sanctioned by the group leadership.
- Only believe "The truth" as it is presented by Group leadership.
- Belief that this "Truth" is Final and Inarguable.
Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons - youtu.be/3E7hkPZ-HTk?t=446 - 7 minutes, 26 seconds
III. The Reemergence of Human Primate Tendency for Mass Hysteria and Moral Panicking
- The compounding levels of anxiety and our innate-primate nature have resulted in a new historical outbreak of Mass Hysteria / Moral Panics, magnified and accelerated by the Internet, Smartphones, and Global instant-communication platforms.
- Mass Hysteria, or a "Moral Panic," is commonly defined as "A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society."
- Examples of historically important Moral Panics include: the Salem Witch Hunts, McCarthyism, Day-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980's, "Video games and comic Books cause violence," and the 1950's-era fixation on and fear of switchblades.
- The words "Nazi / Transphobe / Alt-Right, Alt-Left, SJW," and many others are operating very similarly in public discourse as the word "Commie, Communist, Red, etc." operated in the era of McCarthyism, or the word "Witch" operated during the Salem witch trials, or the word "Satanist / Baby Killer" operated during the period of Day-care sex-abuse hysteria.
- As a result, we currently live in a society that cultivates and encourages insecurity.
- Some Symptoms include mass hysteria / moral panicking include:
- Gradual or Sudden onset of Paranoia or Conspiracy Thinking.
- Compulsive belief that any ideas counter to one’s own are made through clandestine ill-will.
- Similar to the symptoms of Item II, Gradual or Sudden onset of intense disgust / hatred for specific a homogeneous group(s).
- Shunning any ideas that cause any level of discomfort whatsoever.
- Uncontrollable obsession with the notion that the opposing group is guilty of "Great Evil."
IV. The Bullied have become the Bullies
- Many individuals now censor their language and thoughts around friends, due to fear of excommunication.
- As already stated in Item II, having evolved in trees as smaller primates, we have a deeply primal instinct to not "misbehave" in such a way as to be thrown out of the group onto the dangerous ground below. This has resulted in vigorously severe anxiety and a distinct sense of "Walking on Eggshells" in certain social circles (especially where no such experience was present before.)
- Many individuals that have experienced bullying in their past and are given some sense of perceived power over a group, tend to behave as though they wish to "turn the tables" on their bullying, and seem to enjoy consciously or unconsciously bullying others into compliance with the group, and leverage group membership as a way to "Boss" the members around, sometimes simply for amusement only.
- Some examples of this presentation of Bullying are:
- a sense of being interrogated to explain very specific word / media choice.
- a sense that a third-party has control over which friends you have and whether they remain so.
- being demanded to do involuntarily participate in actions that seem very uncomfortable.
- This impulse is similar to the psychological phenomenon of "Acquired Situational Narcissism"
- Peer Pressure is currently at unprecedented levels of severity, and has rendered many people vulnerable to "Bad Actors," and isolated from genuine, trusting peer-groups.
V. What can we do?
These are not even .001% of all the possible recommendations I could make. But for now:
- Just like a Dog or Cat growls or snarls when scared, so do humans "snarl" or "growl" when they are scared; this might express itself in a "meltdown," a comprehensive twitter rant, and lonely, fearful journal, etc. Remember, just because individuals sometimes treat others poorly does not mean every person has done so for ill or in bad-faith intentions. While some of them DO have this intention, a majority are scared right now, expressing their fear in their own personal, individual ways.
- Something many people do not have right now is someone who will not judge or criticize them for their views; simply listening to someone who is scared can make all the difference in the world to both individuals.
- Be Nice to Each other. I am not kidding. Enough individuals doing so may literally save our species from driving itself collectively insane, and ultimately, extinct.*
ref - The Fourth Frontier: Discovering Humanity's Future - youtu.be/kc_Jq42Og7Q?t=249 - see: 25 minutes, 2 seconds
- Try to educate yourself on any of the above issues that may have "rang true" for you more than others.
- Try to listen to "outsider" viewpoints, even if you do not hold them yourself. You do not have to believe them, but consuming alternative viewpoints is critical to an accurate (as opposed to a skewed) reading of the world around us.
- Attempt to disengage from 'Mob-on-Mob' Twitter / social media tribal identity 'wars.'
- Remember that mostly everyone is scared. While there are absolutely malevolent, authoritarian, or sociopathic Human primates taking advantage of the current disarray, remember a majority of people are just as scared as the rest of us, and wish to do whatever they can to help. We are stronger working together than we are split and divided.
- Know that you are not alone.
To Be Continued.
If you've read this far, I deeply, deeply appreciate it. What you've read is the initial draft for a much, much more exhaustively research, cited, and written paper.
I have easily 20-30 other "Bullet Points" (as opposed to the Five you've just read through) that I'll be stitching into this ongoing draft, but for now, I hope at least one or two of these thoughts will be useful for you for the time being.
If there is any "Group" or "religion" that I have tried to follow and encapsulate in my life, my behavior, and my intentions and dreams, it would be the values and lessons of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every week I watched the crew of the Enterprise, the "Good Guys," do everything in their power to save the day, in the name of peace, science, a free marketplace of ideas, and unity.
The Enterprise is here to help; PapaBull is one of those Good Guys, I promise.
Corvy / Taylor