Facebook Brain Drain: Is Facebook Making the World Stupider?
Is Facebook making the world stupider? I sincerely hope not, as I share this world with a lot of Facebook users and I hate to think that somehow the world would be getting dumber as a result of people kicking back on the world's favorite pastime. Yet, what I want or do not want does not matter when it comes to the truth. We must look at reality and assess the situation that is in front of us. Therefore, let's dive in and see if we can get to the bottom of this question.
First, we must be willing to take a look at the landscape of Facebook. That is how we will be able to gauge how people act and see if it is in accordance with intelligence and rationality. If we were merely to look at politically charged posts, we could quickly draw a conclusion that Facebook users are easily agitated, given over to fits of rage, react based on emotion rather than reason, and are not willing to budge on their opinions. Worse yet, many treat their fellow human beings like garbage if they do not agree with them! Not good at all!
If how we treat people we don't know has anything to do with intelligence, then many of us have immediately failed the test. But Facebook is more about interacting with friends and family, right? That's what I have always thought, so maybe we should instead take a look at those types of interactions. How do people treat their friends and family on social media?
Well, if trying to make friends and family feel envious, or if trying to get friends and family to follow your political beliefs is deemed intelligent, then Facebook users are doing a good job of doing those things. The amount of fighting and arguing amongst family members over time has only grown as the world has become more divided. It is so important to make sure everyone thinks the same, right? And, there's nothing like making that sister of yours feel envious because she wasn't nice to you twenty years ago when you were kids, right?
Being able to deal with different viewpoints is a sign of intelligence, and no matter which side you are on politically, all have failed miserably at this. More often than not, those who claim to be open-minded and accepting quickly become close-minded and angry if you counter their arguments. We can see this in any political debate. A shame.
What about the articles that get shared on social media? You know, the ones that have 50 page lists that you have to swim through neverending pop-up ads to read? Yeah, those are IQ enhancers (sarcasm). What about the 10 sentence articles that were written to make you angry about some time. The ones that make you feel like a pile of sea-foam for the next few hours? Or the websites that have stories on subjects, such as psychology, that look like they were quickly written by a first-year college student at the very best? And those hugely biased news articles that are shared are not doing anyone a favor at all. What's worse is that once you read through the comments, you quickly realize that few if any have actually read the article. Instead, they are busy arguing about the title and the picture!
I once read that many people do all their reading through Facebook. No books, journals or even newspapers. Many won't even click on the blog articles that they share. Many people are sharing informational articles they have not even read because they agree with the title and imagine that the rest of the article goes along with their beliefs! Yet, the same will often state that this makes them more informed about the world. If you share something you should really read it.
They say one way to gauge the greatness of a society is to look at how much they read and what they read. It's no secret that the Roman Empire fell in part because of how people were so pacified by banal entertainment without any elevating purpose. Facebook is the same kind of "entertainment." In fact, Facebook resembles more of a gladiator match than a place of learning. It's beyond ironic that Facebook was originally developed for Ivy League scholars! One of my students told me that a lot of libraries are closing because people read more online than they do in real life. When I lived in Egypt, I found that very few of my students enjoyed reading. Almost every one of them enjoyed Facebook though.
If one is not reading and engaging their mind in learning, their brain will become thick sludge. You have to exercise your body to get stronger, so why not the mind? If you look at society you see obesity increasing, so would it not stand to reason that the mind is also becoming enfeebled at least the same rate? When I was in law school I witnessed many of my fellow students reading Facebook while the professor spoke (which was a catalyst for me starting this site in the first place. It left quite an impression on me). These are the future (and current) attorneys and judges, and masters of business, mind you.
Facebook is largely about self-promotion and bragging about self. At one point in time, such a thing was considered obscene and a trait of foolishness. Even the Bible speaks of moving away from self. The man who thinks himself wise is a fool. It has always been considered prudent to not talk about yourself and, instead, take an interest in others. Yet, this idea has been turned on its head on Facebook. Everything is about self -- from what you ate last night to what you think of the president. Your view is the master view and it's definitely the most important. Many people read to argue with one another, formulating a response even before they finish with the post. I have talked with some of these people in real life. They are the same way in person as they are on Facebook. You can't even finish a sentence before they speak loudly over you, as if they were still on Facebook typing their reply. The art of conversation has been lost.
Emoticons have taken over words, emotion has taken over reason. Anger is a virtue. Rage is power. While it was once said that a man who could not control himself was weak and exhibited a lack of self-control, such action screams power in Facebook, where the angriest person can garnish many likes and shares because of how "passionate" he or she is for a cause. We see this type of behavior in the protest videos that are shared far and wide, where one person begins to scream in another's face. Although the individual is barely understandable, this kind of so-called dedication for a cause makes him or her seem like a hero who signed off Facebook long enough to fight a battle in the real world. Surely, this type must be an amazing one to interact with on social media. I picture all caps and a lot of cussing.
Maybe people need to reassess how they use social media and balance their use with actual real-life education. Yet, with how addictive social media has become, it's hard to stay off long enough to make meaningful changes in your life. There is a virtue in being a private person and coming away from the world for a while. Many have seemed to have lost touch with this idea, preferring the noise of life to the quietness of self-reflection and personal development. That's a shame because, without quiet meditation and growth, you are stuck in the death march that social media is. Enjoy!