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Episode Notes

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Around the world, people are spending more time online. If you've spent any of this time “doom-scrolling” your social feeds, you know that social media can impact how you feel. But it's not all doom and gloom, and you can reclaim control. In this episode, Ricardo talks to Tom Webster, a researcher specializing in how people use technology. They'll chat about social media's role in our overall emotional health and how to strike a balance online, so you feel good, not sad.

Tom Webster breaks down the research around social media, its usage, and its impact on people’s lives. Learn about how social media has changed the way people interact with each other over the past two decades, what that means for your personal happiness and well being, and how to use social media in a responsible way that protects your emotional state and helps you avoid the rabbit hole of rampant, and often rabid, personal opinion.

Before and after the interview, Rik and Helen talk about the social media platforms that they use and how they use them.

If you cut out social media from your life, are you still a digital citizen? We need to begin thinking about how to be a good digital citizens by understanding the tradeoffs we make by using social media.

🎙️ Guest Interview - Tom Webster

🗣️ Discussion Points

  • Social media encompasses many different spaces. Exploring how they make us feel is crucial to the conversation around social media.
  • People need to be more intentional around social media and deliberately make choices about how much to use it instead of falling into the same habits each day.
  • Tom Webster is the Senior Vice President at Edison Research. Each week, they put out a study about social media platforms, who is using them, and their impact on society.
  • One of the things they found in the survey was that roughly half the respondents thought that social media was harming them somehow. Like a glass of water can’t be half dirty, from a societal perspective, social media has certainly had a harmful effect on some level.
  • A significant percentage of people get their news from social media, but that’s a bit deceptive since the ultimate sources are often news media companies. Social media’s primary effect is to amplify the lesser heard voice, which comes with its own set of benefits and challenges.
  • The ability to fact-check information on Facebook is an issue of scale. There is no governing body like the FCC for social media, but a good solution is not necessarily government action. Much of the success of social media is because of the lack of regulation.
  • There is a lot of good that comes from social media. Tom takes certain steps to protect his well-being while using social media, and one of the biggest is that he completely avoids reading editorials and opinion pieces.
  • Tom is a consistent un-follower of people. His test for people is not whether he agrees or disagrees with them. It’s whether they are willing to entertain an argument against their perspective. You can’t uninvite Uncle Ralph from Thanksgiving dinner, but you don’t have to follow them on Facebook.
  • It’s the community’s job to make sure that everybody feels heard and to avoid harming anyone else. If you can do those two things, you are contributing value to that community.

Takeaways

  • Tom Webster’s suggestion about how to be a better digital citizen:
    • Have a healthy media diet and understand the sources of the information that you are taking in.
    • Don’t unfollow or block people if they disagree with you, but unfollow or block them if they are disagreeable.
    • Be careful with opinions and editorials because they are designed to inflame and incite.
    • Look for the smaller communities based around an enjoyable activity.
  • The key point to remember is that social media impacts how you feel. You should be putting your own mental health first and prioritizing what is good for you. Be very careful where you get your news and what sources you trust.
  • Things that make you feel bad don’t deserve a spot in your day, and definitely don’t deserve to be the first thing you see when you wake up.

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