“Facebook is the new cigarettes.”
Those bold words came from Marc Benioff, co-CEO of Salesforce and co-owner of Time magazine.
According to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, Benioff said those words in 2019, well before the pandemic and accompanying political divisiveness of 2020. Husni references the old Philip Morris ad campaign that promised no cigarette hangover the day after, with the slogan “You’ll be glad tomorrow … you smoked Phillip Morris today.”
Clearly, that wasn’t the case long-term; medical science tells us that. What about social media? While sure, we get that dopamine jolt (it was engineered to do that), research tells us the “next day” impacts aren’t anything to be glad about.
“The Australian website CBHS Health Fund quotes a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,” Husni writes. “Researchers ‘found that when people reduced their use of social media to just 30 minutes a day (spread across three platforms), their overall mental wellbeing improved. This study found that feelings of depression and loneliness in particular declined.’”
If mental wellbeing improves after reducing social media use, it stands to reason that it declines with continued or heavier use – like now, when stay-at-home orders and the dire topics in the news feed keep so many people glued to their screens.
“Constant updates about coronavirus, especially those concerning confirmed cases and the number of deaths to date, can be extremely overwhelming and feel relentless,” writes Sharon Salt, senior editor for Neuro-Central. “Moreover, rumors and speculation can add fuel to anxiety, which is why obtaining good quality information is so important.”
Clearly the combination of heavy social media use and the impacts of COVID-19 are playing havoc on our collective and individual mental states. And our 24-hour news cycle is the perfect platform to exacerbate the problem.
“Too much information leads to less comprehension and less impact,” Husni writes. “It desensitizes the audience in a way that they tune in and tune out and hear exactly what they want to hear.
“More than ever,” he continues, “we need to hit the brakes on the dissemination of the shotgun information delivery and get back to the laser targeted news that was delivered in less time with more information that was curated and fact-checked before it was delivered.”
Husni believes the rise of immediate news and the loss of in-depth reporting is tearing at the very fabric of society.
“Between the delivery, whether from presidential press conferences to comments of the sane and insane alike on social media, we are moving with the speed of a bullet, fast and furious, to destroy the social fabric (some say we already have) of our society and drive a bigger wedge between the people, among themselves and among their authority figures,” he writes.
“Social media and the 24-hour news cycle, while they claim to be keeping us connected, they are in fact creating the biggest divide ever and the biggest threat to our democracy and freedom of the press,” Husni continues.
Husni wonders, how many people are really thanking the cigarette companies? And how will we feel about social media five, 10, 20 years from now?
“I rest my case. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to welcome the stack of magazines that just arrived on my doorsteps via Fed Ex,” Husni writes. “Credible and trustworthy journalism awaits. There are good times ahead. Count on it!”
We are counting on it, and we are seeing it happen already as magazine media publishers continue to provide inspirational, fact-checked and uplifting news. I’m not seeing a whole lot of that on social media, my friends.