Tuesday, 25 February 2014

What is Social Media doing to our Kids Brains?

How are teens being affected by social media? Research suggests the impact is an emotional one.

“I don't think digital communication in itself is a bad thing, but if we're losing out on opportunities to connect with people as well as we can, that's a problem."
~ Laureen Sherman, UCLA Graduate Student & Researcher
Source: CBC News - Health: Social media affecting teens' concepts of friendship, intimacy

It’s a valid question: how is the prevalence of social media affecting the still developing minds of adolescents? A recent study by UCLA Developmental Psychologist Patricia Greenfield suggests social media use among teens is having a negative impact on the development of intimate friendships.

Having a large number of followers on Twitter and racking up “likes” one receives on Facebook and Instagram are replacing the support teens used to look for from intimate conversations with their peers.

According to Greenfield:
“The whole idea behind intimacy is self-disclosure. Now they’re doing self-disclosure to an audience of hundreds.”
Source: CBC News - Health: Social media affecting teens' concepts of friendship, intimacy

A CBC report from June of last year suggested social media attracts individuals who need an ego boost. And this latest report seems to corroborate the previous study. Teens in the above video report so much as say so: “who wouldn’t want to be famous?”

As a society, we are inundated with messages and images of idealized ways of living. Lifestyle has displaced all other considerations when it comes to aspirational longing. Success, wealth and fame are the new benchmarks for happiness for an entire generation of young people who have never known a world without the instant gratification and potentially instant global stratification of the Internet.

The lure of “overnight successism” is made all the more dreamy in the eyes of the ego thanks to the instant mass-positive reinforcement tool known as the “Like” button. Where once teens suffered silently at home wondering what “the group” thought about them, now they know “exactly” what the world thinks about them:

Published by Getbloopit

But whereas one might forgive Sally Fields her emotional, Oscar-clutching response to winning an Academy Award after years of blood, sweat and tears in Hollywood, the accumulation of clicks on a button by dozens, maybe hundreds, heaven forbid thousands who completely forget what it was they were clicking in appreciation of the very micro-second Facebook registered their approval is something else.

You may be asking yourself: what does all this have to do with ecosystems?

The point of the CBC piece is this: the egoistic nature of social media are making people less empathetic towards others. Positive reinforcement is fine, but positive reinforcement of self-serving egoistic behaviour will not now nor will ever result in anything resembling empathy or compassion for others.

Ecosystems are in many ways an antidote to “anti-social media” and infinitely more social than any digital technology. Ecosystems encourage awareness—consciousness. When you enter into a space with an ecosystem you become a part of that ecosystem. You just do; it’s simply a biological and energetic reality.

When you embrace that objective reality, and allow your self-awareness to immerse itself into the oneness and the wholeness of a high-level rainforest ecosystem, you begin to develop a kind of appreciation for “others” that defines empathy: you recognize yourself in them, they in you.

It is this conscious individuated experience of wholeness that expands one’s sense of self well beyond the limitations of the paltry ego and expands one’s sense of possibility to include the benefit of the whole: ecosystem, family, peer group, school group, community, nation, the planet.

This is not an intellectual nor mechanical exercise. No, unlike social media which is both those things, being with an ecosystem stimulates raises our awareness of ourselves, our surroundings, and our relationship with those surroundings—exactly those aspects of ourselves (including our brains) which make us sensitive and empathetic.

PeapodLife invites you to invite an ecosystem into your home. Let your family begin experiencing the antidote for technology’s misguided idea of what social means. Lose the mechanical ego in the wonder and awe of an authentic relationship with the very nature of life itself.

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