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  • Debbie Wilkins

What is Social Media doing to your brain?

I was watching Breakfast news recently and they were interviewing Grayson Perry about his programme that was being aired that evening. He talked about the programme, his amazing motorbike that he had specially commissioned and his stunning riding leathers. Then he talked a little about social media and I loved the way he described how we were all using it. He said, and I quote (as I went back and reran the conversation on iPlayer), ‘we need discipline to get out of our filter bubble’. That really resonated with me the way he so clearly described where we are right now with social media, literally in our own little ‘filter bubbles’.

It sounds as though I have been watching loads of TV, which I guess I have done lately, and I saw a very interesting programme called Social Dilemma. It is on Netflix and it scared the pants off me. Basically, it is describing the same thing as Grayson Perry. That we are all in these filter bubbles, we slowly develop or curate them for ourselves.

The way I imagine this is I am walking down the street on a sunny day. I am in a bubble, I can see through the bubble and I can hear through it, but I am clearly inside a bubble. I can see the pavement and the trees, people’s front gardens, the sky, cars going by, other people. I can hear the babble of people close by, sirens in the distance, cars and motorbikes. The bubble filters all these sensations through lots of little holes. There are also the senses of taste and smell and touch.

Then I pull my phone out of my pocket and open it and stand and look at the screen. Immediately the external world to the bubble is muted except for those things that I am most interested in. So, I will see the gardens clearly but not so the cars. I will hear the birds and see the sky, I like those things. I don’t see or feel or hear those things that I am not interested in, like cars or motorbikes scooters. Everything is good in my world on my screen as they are all things I like, they all agree with me and what I am thinking.

What I didn’t realise was that with every like or share I am adjusting those filters on my bubble. The bubble is only letting in stuff that I like, that I am interested in. Other aspects of life are muted and, sometimes, become polarized. I don’t want to look at pictures of cars and motorbikes, they are dirty using up loads of petrol and pumping carbon into the air that I breath. By the way, these are only examples, I am using them to illustrate how our bubbles develop.

As well as each of us honing or curating our individual bubbles, manufacturers, politicians, anyone trying to get us to spend money, is targeting us. They pick up our age and our likes and dislikes from the pages we Google, from our social media, from our email conversations. That is why I am bombarded with advertisements for incontinence pants! I am a little old lady and I am highly likely to need these things. But this isn’t funny when people are targeted with political messages, or misinformation. Social media now uses techniques so advanced that they have scrambled our brains, so we don’t know what true information is and what is not.

What the programme, Social Dilemma, is asking us to do is to be aware of this and to work, on mass, each and every one of us, to manage this phenomenon. We can all do our bit. These tips are from Dr Rangan Chatterjee Feel Better in Five1 book.

> We can stop all our notifications so that we are not constantly pulled away from real conversations with loved ones and friends. We read our WhatsApp or Instagram when we want to.

> We can activate the black/white or grayscale screen in the evening on our phone, screens certainly look less appealing.

> Leave the phone in another room when you are relaxing.

> Remove your social media apps so you can only access them through the browser.

>Sign out of your social media accounts and disable the auto-sign-in setting so you have to log in manually each time.

>Turn off fingerprint reader or face scanner so that you have to enter your PIN number.

If you are interested in developing your ability to understand what we are seeing in our feeds see the article below (2). It lists 5 ways that we can begin to understand what we are seeing on social media and be more discerning whether we want that view in our lives or not.

1. Question the videos and articles you are seeing to click next on

2. Look at the other side of the argument

3. Consider the author and the source

4. Look at how the data was collected

5. Remember that correlations is causation

I would love to know what you think about this article, whether you have tried some of these tips and if they have worked or whether you have better tips.

References

1 Dr Rangan Chatterjee Feel Better in Five, Penguin

2 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-do-you-know-whats-real-news-anymore-5-tips-uncover-dr-chloe-sharp/

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