Life Isn’t About Being “Right” or “Left”… It’s About Being Centered
How can you be centered in a polarized online world?
Did you know? The average time spent on smartphones a day is 2 hours and 51 minutes. The average smartphone owner will click, tap or swipe their phone 2,617 times a day. When leaving their phones at home, 50% of respondents feel uneasy. Cell phone use while driving cause 26% of car accidents.
The irony isn’t lost on us because you’re likely reading this on your phone. The fact is, “click addiction”, has ramped up since 2020 as a result of being isolated and locked down. We want to connect and know what’s going on in the world. We are social creatures and will find a way to feed our need for interaction.
Political Polarization & Platform Design
We may not be considering that the platforms serving us content have a motive and intention in mind. In reality, our online experience is not as straightforward as seeing videos and articles that are impartial and reflect the whole story. Companies like Google, and its subsidiary, YouTube, have a vested interest in keeping us engaged and clicking. This isn’t an attack on Google, many other companies also have a vested interest in selling ads and keeping eyeballs glued to their services.
YouTubes first video was uploaded in 2005. Over fifteen years later, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos are watched a day, more than Netflix and Facebook video combined. 70% of YouTube views come from mobile devices. The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes. A recent survey concluded that 54% of teens get their news from social media. This is a trend that experts say will likely increase, not decrease.
In the hyper-polarizing realm of politics, this has a tremendous influence on society’s worldview. Warring online factions duking it out with their thumbs create a sort of tribalism which often spills into the streets… and sometimes results in dire consequences, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
We need to be aware that there is an intricate algorithm to figure out what will keep us clicking. It’s not some nefarious plot, but rather there’s a financial upside to having more viewers. Pew Research Center found that 81% of American YouTube users said they regularly watch videos recommended by the algorithm. Social media has quickly become an echo chamber of ideology.
A study published last July by Luke Munn looked at what ways might these design architectures be contributing to polarizing, impulsive, or antagonistic behaviors. He found that based on engagement, online platforms benefit from incendiary content, setting up a stimulus–response loop that promotes outrage expression. Their recommendation system is a key interface for content consumption, yet this same design has been criticized for leading users towards more extreme content. Across multiple platforms, design is central and influential, proving to be a productive lens for understanding toxic communication.
Keeping all this in mind, how do we protect ourselves from getting sucked in and warped by the online world?
5 Ways To Stay Centered
In our last blog post, we touched on “Awareness Deficit Disorder”, and this result is so evident from the online world. It’s so easy to be polarized and turn against each other with outrage. Where is the unity and balance in that?
If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that we are all in this (real world) together. Although there is “virtually” no way to completely escape the negatives of social media, here are five actions to help get back to center:
- Use a search engine with more privacy protection
It’s sad to say that many search engines tend to favor some content over another. With this, it can create misguided information, and ultimately influences our point of view.
We recommend expanding search engine horizons, and giving other websites a try. DuckDuckGo is a great search engine tool we love to use because it doesn’t store IP addresses or user information and shows results based on keywords searched.
- Be careful what content you feed your mind
We’re here to tell you that the first answer may not necessarily be impartial to a narrative or theme. Take the time to do your research and make these discoveries on your own. Compare different sources, do your own research, and stay curious without getting caught up in the emotional click bait.
- Unfollow accounts that do not serve you
Looking at negative content can stimulate our instinct to watch out for danger. Protecting ourselves from danger feels good, but can subconsciously create a negative outlook in certain aspects in life. This is related to what psychologists refer to as “Negativity Bias”. There is a certain freedom and happiness that comes after pressing that “unfollow” button on accounts which thrive off shame, criticism, and outrage.
If you find that a family member or friend constantly posts things that do not serve you, and you do not have the heart to unfollow them… simply press that mute button! It not only allows you to not see their content, but still allows you to give them that follow without the drama.
- Follow accounts striving to bring good news
We sometimes overlook positive news, skip it, or not share it. Good News is a great account we cannot recommend enough, it’ll certainly remind you how much good there is in the world. Humor is also a great addition to your day. The best medicine is laughter. Beige Cardigan is one of our favorites, check it out!
- Dedicate some “no screen time”
Be mindful not to just trade one screen for another (phone to TV or computer). Might we suggest taking a walk outside? Hopping on your bike for a quick ride? An outdoor picnic? Maybe even paint, read, or write to get the creative energy flowing?
For a healthy way to have screen time, use the Meditate Awake app as your morning routine and wake up your world with meditation, personal insight, and daily mindful action. We created it for you! Remember, the more you practice, the more grounded and aware you will feel.
We offer a 10-day free trial! Go ahead, click here to get started!
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