As the New Year commences, I peeked into the rearview mirror and rediscovered an article that appeared in Lisa DePasquale’s diurnal newsletter, Bright. Published on January 3, 2023, by StudyFinds [one word], the headline was a terse red flag for the future of our free republic: “The Social Disaster: Children Who Frequently Check Social Media Face Significant Brain Changes.”
Based upon a then recent study from the University of North Carolina, the gist of the article is in equal parts instructive and alarming:
‘The findings suggest that children who grow up checking social media more often are becoming hypersensitive to feedback from their peers,’ says Eva Telzer, a professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s psychology and neuroscience department and a corresponding author, in a statement.
‘Social media platforms provide adolescents with unprecedented opportunities for social interactions during a critical developmental period when the brain is especially sensitive to social feedback,’ the study concludes. This longitudinal cohort study suggests that social media behaviors in early adolescence may be associated with changes in adolescents’ neural development, specifically neural sensitivity to potential social feedback.
It is not difficult to understand Big Tech’s venal motives for catering to customers’ psychology to increase their use of social media: the corporations’ already humongous profits. But the societal dimension of hardwiring youth to become hypersensitive to “social feedback”—i.e., “peer pressure”—within their network will have an immense and deleterious impact upon a free society.
Certainly, it is not lost upon the administrative state, who is hellbent upon controlling (often in conjunction with legacy/regime media) both the means and messages of citizens’ interactions on social media, be it censorship, pushing bogus, statist narratives, etc.
Per the paper published in JAMA Pediatrics, “students who look at social media at least 15 times daily were the most sensitive to social feedback.” While these students are the most at risk, their peers are not far behind them: “Previous research shows that 78 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds report checking their devices at least hourly each day and 35 percent look at the top five networks ‘almost constantly.’”
Understandably, the researchers assert that “further research examining long-term prospective associations between social media use, adolescent neural development, and psychological adjustment is needed to understand the effects of a ubiquitous influence on development for today’s adolescents.”
Let’s give them an admittedly non-expert head start on this research by gazing back even further in our rearview mirror to March 20, 2018, where StudyFinds previously published another alarming article, “It’s Not Your Smartphone You’re Addicted to, It’s the Social Interaction.”
It’s author, Ben Renner, succinctly lays out the findings by the researchers at McGill University: “[people’s] urge to socialize is actually an ingrained human need resulting from eons of evolution. For those who argue spending too much time on a smartphone makes a person anti-social, the authors say overuse is actually the product of being hyper-social.”
McGill psychiatry professor Samuel Veissière admitted, “There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic. We’re trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive – and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this.”
What, one may ask, is “this?”
“Many of the most addictive smartphone apps such as Facebook or Snapchat tap into this constant search for meaning and the ingrained desire to see others and be seen by them… Veissière insists the need for social interaction is a positive instinct, but in the age of constant connectivity to the internet and the variety of social platforms it provides, that instinct can be kicked into ‘overdrive,’ leading to unhealthy addictions.”
Okay, but what are the proposed “simple solutions?”
“Veissière and his team recommend turning off push notifications on your phone if possible and purposefully setting aside time to check your phone to help battle these addictive impulses.”
Yet, for a hypersocial citizenry addicted to social media and “high on likes,” these simple solutions are the hardest, as anyone experienced in treating substance abuse addictions can attest. And it is almost impossible when the institutions subverted by the elitist Left are colluding to use social media “approval” to compel the citizenry into compliance with the state’s directives.
Adjusting the rearview mirror to 2020, the COVID pandemic provided the paradigm by which we can view the damaging effects of the administrative state’s coordinating with Big Tech, Big Pharma, the legacy/regime media, academia, and their shock troops of left-wing trolls (paid and otherwise) to enforce its arbitrary and capricious effects upon the populace. “Wear the mask” and “get the vaccination” meant you are a good citizen; if not, you are a homicidal cretin “killing people” and worthy of any punishment society wishes to inflict upon you.
So, too, 2020 also showed how the administrative state and Big Tech could collude on election interference by denying and censoring stories about the Hunter Biden laptop. Anyone trying to bring the truth to light was censored and “deplatformed” from their social network and its feedback—a cyberspace shunning.
Now, in 2024, through the deliberate, debilitating din of the Communications Revolution, we can glean the insidious aim of the administrative state, Big Tech, and a host of leftist institutions and minions: the erosion of individual liberty and the perverse inversion of subordinating sovereign citizens into subjects of the government. Doesn’t history instruct how, in attempted revolutions/coups, the cabal urgently prioritizes capturing and controlling society’s means of communication? Using social media to cajole, coerce, and inure citizens into conforming within the “collective” and its “hyper-socialism,” the Left’s first punishment for exercising non-state-sanctioned, independent thought and dissent is and will continue to be the ostracization from one’s social interactions. Other punishments, such as job loss, harassment lawsuits, etc., will follow. Frankly, what is being “cancelled” but being locked in a virtual gulag?
Thus, while the solutions may be simple, such as dismantling the administrative state, reforming their colluding leftist infested institutions, and offering hope to those addicted to “likes,” etc. – they will be decidedly difficult. But the future of our free republic requires an intervention. Inaction is not an option, especially given the speed AI is metastasizing within an already social media addled populace.
For those whose decisions are driven in whole or in part by social media, they may well refuse to admit the problem as they wheel and whistle past the graveyard of individuality and liberty. For those of us not driving under the influence of social media, as we peer out the windshield to the crossroad of freedom and serfdom ahead, one has the sensation of time slowing down as a collision unfolds.
An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.