YouTube as an opiate

I saw this Sarah Silverman video a while back. It came up in conversation recently and I went out and found it to post here.

I honestly find the story a little suspect, but the sentiment is valuable. The caller explains that people are often not aware of how their Facebook algorithms suck them into a radicalized world of single topic consumption. It’s addictive, because the user is surrounded by like-mindedness. And if one isn’t careful, he/she gets sucked in and finds it harder and harder to get out.

The caller explains that his mother moved from centrist views to right-wing conspiracies over the course of a few years and he wondered what was up. He was astonished to look at his mother’s Facebook feed which featured not one dissenting voice to his mother’s newfound addiction to right-wing information. So he carefully – over time – hid people with extreme views and unhid people with moderate views. After a few months, his mother returned to centrist thinking and he felt that anecdotally we could all learn from the way Facebook pressure cooks its users into an addictive echo chamber of info.

I personally hide anyone who expresses any form of political views, right or left. I only follow people who talk about themselves, what they are up to, or what movies they’re watching. Politics are out. It makes for a much more gratifying experience. At least for me.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about parents who have become addicted to YouTube. It would seem that all social media is addictive, but this one in particular is poignant for our elderly friends and parents who are used to consuming TV and can find any number of ways to enter an echo chamber of gratification-fulfilling talking heads.

In the last decade, cutting the cord from cable seemed like a good idea. Views from MSNBC and Fox News started taking tolls on its viewers and it’s better just to leave those channels off. But then newcomers entered the market. OAN and Newsmax. There are new options popping up. It’s become so easy to produce videos that look legit. And they are proving to be addictive and isolationist to viewers.

I recently was involved in a car crash argument with a couple of conservatives and the blanket statements they were making about political divides were so black and white that Tina and I were astonished. I almost didn’t survive it.

But what got me the most upset is that the discussion turned to issues that none of us had any business attempting to solve. Rampant gun violence? None of us own a gun. Fatherless families. None of us have any professional experience working to solve that issue. Drugs. Underage pregnancies. We are so far removed from all of these issues and yet these conservatives insisted that he try and approach them in discussion.

It’s fucking stupid.

Why are we concentrating our valuable time trying to solve world issues that we cannot even begin to fathom their solutions? And yet there we were, cornered by these questions of what we think the answer to gun violence is in America. The answer is: I fucking don’t know. What should we do about any of the issues?

What a useless exercise in futility.

In the meantime, I’m reading books about educating yourself. About exploring self betterment. But does anyone give a shit about that? Nope. they care about everyone else’s problems that we CANNOT begin to understand. Because we don’t know what shoes they’re wearing let alone what size, color or kind.

We’re watching the show Dopesick on Hulu, and it’s astonishing to see the way they show how addictive opioids are and the dastardly ways that the pharmaceutical industry got rich of addiction. But the virility of information, of memetic information, of mental viruses are just as harmful, just as addictive, and just as miserably hard to rehabilitate. It’s just as mentally deceptive.

I have done dry Januarys and I know people doing it now. We should all do well to do dry social media months. But if the person doing a dry January cannot wait until February 1, how is it going to be if they attempt a social media dry Jan?

The paths to addiction are many. The rehabilitations are few.

The cycle is unending and dismally getting worse.