MOSF 16.9: An Ugly Truth: Social Media, the American Psyche, and Preventing Civil War

Memoirs of a Superfan Vol. 16.9: An Ugly Truth: Social Media, the American Psyche, and Preventing Civil War

Ravi Chandra
November 27, 2021

Facebook lies detected, from their website (link in references). Facebook’s AI does indeed detect the vast majority of hate speech it actually removes. But here’s the catch: it removes only 3-5% of the hate speech on the site. Facebook/Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Joel Kaplan have been gaslighting the world and covering their tracks since the founding of their behemoth company. Checking them would be an important step in advancing the reality of grounded relationship as counter to inflated, grandiose, moneyed interests.

 

In my 2017 book Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, I wrote:

“Social media can be a curio for the exploration of the self. Social networks might be an empowering means to address our social ills. But the online world has traps for our habitually and unconsciously self-centered egos, cause of so much of our suffering in life. Our transcendent spirits are challenged and even imperiled by the realms we enter through our screens.”

What’s become even more clear over the years is that social media is not just a “curio for the exploration of the self,” but in fact:

  • a curio for the exploration of society;

  • a living, breathing, noxious example of the creation of colonial Empire;

  • a pernicious auxiliary amygdala that makes a beeline for our own;

  • and a perilous, deadly challenge for our co-created world already weighted all-too-heavily towards the interests of the wealthy and privileged.

I fear our collective consciousness and our relatedness is not up to the task of dealing with the genie we’ve released. I fear that the forces of sociopathic, abusive power and greed will yet completely overrun us. Indeed, they already have, and we are now struggling for light and conscience in support of our human journey. Dark clouds gather, ominous and cruel. Autocracy is on the march. Civil society is at risk. Mental health is at risk. We must take judicious action as powerful forces contest the value of human dignity and life on Earth itself.

Can society, our collective consciousness as embodied in institutions, or even our individual minds, cope with the Machiavellian, distorting surge of noxious input, the call to disconnection, factionalism, authoritarianism, hostility, and death? Can individual consciousness, institutions, and society grow and change to meet the needs of a more broadly diverse community and world, or are all of these teetering towards collapse precisely because those needs have become more visible and vocal?

By unknown Vietnamese artist.

Noxious challenge is palpable now to all in the body politic, whereas perhaps there was a time when we lived in more separate bubbles, separate and unequal, some suffering, others blissful or at least smug in their separation and privilege. These bubbles are collapsing under the light of the sun, yet some think their bubble-kingdoms will survive by demonizing the ocean from which they all sprung and upon which we all depend for survival: the ocean of common humanity, mutuality, interdependence, and compassion.

Power and ignorance demonize what they don’t understand and wish to dominate. Social media has become a forceful tool of such demonization. Concerted individual and collective action in support of human values in the realm of social media is necessary precursor to advancing related, responsible dialogue in the real world. If we do not take these measures, our real-world journeys are in doubt. Our humanity is being played by an algorithm and the algorithmic forces of reactionary power and ignorance which are fearful of the change conscience and consciousness herald.

We have to right the ship.

***

Social media has instigated, propelled and glorified political, ethnic and religious violence in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the U.S. and elsewhere. Social media has aided autocrats in Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Russia, and arguably, the United States. Facebook has padded its coffers in the process, favoring cooperation with authoritarians and moneyed interests over human rights. There is blood on the hands of Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and the C-suites of social media empires. And I carry guilt as a citizen and beneficiary of these platforms. And even more than guilt, I carry a sense of powerlessness to curtail the parade of horribles I witness on a daily basis, knowing that what I witness is just the tip of the approaching iceberg. The “cataclysmic barrage” of trauma I wrote about in 2017 has only become worse. I am frustrated that disinformation and hatred spread like wildfire, while understanding, compassion, and our deepest human values, integral to our survival, are exhausted firefighters on a burning planet that threatens every day to become a cinder within our lifetime.

“Facebook had thrown a lit match onto decades of simmering racial tensions in Myanmar and had then turned the other way when activists pointed to the smoke slowly choking the country. In March 2018, the United Nations’ independent fact-finding mission in Myanmar told reporters that social media had played a ‘determining role’ in the genocide. Facebook had ‘substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict,’ Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN mission there, said. ‘Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,’ he said.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

Myanmar is a human rights tragedy. I fear it could be foreshadowing for worse, if we allow societal norms to further burn. Social media incentivizes corrupt politicians with the prospect of their hate speech going viral, “firing up” their base, and giving them undue and corrosive influence on the course of this nation and world. Their ideas might deserve debate. As things stand, they seem to live primarily to antagonize and divide, not govern or further the cause of a governable democracy.

Adobe stock image by freshidea, licensed by Ravi Chandra

***

I am frustrated that the wildfire of ignorance and hatred has spread disproportionately to benefit wealthy, powerful right-wing elites, because ignorance and hatred disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in society. The wildfire is no accident. It is a defensive system, working as designed. The amygdalae of the elite have not pushed their cerebral cortices to grow in ways to embrace the reality of our diversity. Instead, they have spun into dangerous delusions of power and control. They are a fearful, insecure mind, and their fear of change, growth, and actual responsible dialogue has created an American psyche in torment. They like to provoke a fight, because they feel safe from the fallout, or are even entertained by it. The most powerful, politicians like Trump, Gosar, McCarthy, McConnell, Gaetz, Youngkin, and others seeking the spotlight of media attention, seem to think that “free speech” is a game and a way to bully their opponents, rather than showcase reason and anything approaching responsible values and relationship.

Or is it just Zuck? Does Zuck just like to see us fight? Or is he still profoundly confused on rhetorical strategies, claiming neutrality in refusing to be “an arbiter of truth”?

“He couldn’t understand that speech isn’t a black-and-white issue,” said the executive who debated the subject with Zuckerberg. “He wasn’t interested in the nuance, or the fact that when it comes to speech, there are certain things people simply feel, or know, are wrong.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

Or has Zuck historically cowered from the challenge that he created, fearful of right-wing blowback if he moved proactively to curb sociopathy? Has he been afraid of killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Is he bullied by far-right interests, as embodied by his Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan, a staunch conservative who has been an advocate for Breitbart News and Facebook pages that promote fake news, or as he seems to view them, “conservative viewpoints?” What does Zuckerberg’s complicity with Kaplan’s advice say about his leadership and ability to understand political, ethical, and social concerns? Why is “global public policy” at Facebook/Meta biased towards conservative and libertarian viewpoints anyway? Why is any move to curb sociopathy – for example hate-filled opinions about African Americans or trans people – called out as “censoring” conservatives, and why has Facebook bowed to that opinion? Is Facebook, in the end, just about money, data, more money, “engagement” and addiction? Has it become effectively a powerful app for right-wing opposition to equality and justice?

“[Kaplan’s] main goal was to preserve the status quo and to prevent regulations that would obstruct the company’s profit machine of data collection and ad targeting.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

This goal is synonymous with Kaplan’s political views and his advocacy for demonstrably sociopathic influences on the platform.

“Joel will go when Joel is ready to go. Mark trusts very few people on policy, and Joel is in the center of that circle of trust,” the policy team member said.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

What does it mean when a CEO places inordinate trust in such a policy influencer? Can we trust the CEO? Can we trust Facebook to bend our ear, when Joel Kaplan is bending Mark’s ear, which doesn’t seem particularly perceptive to begin with?

Facebook has not regulated and cannot regulate itself. It is far from being neutral. Society needs to act.

***

I keep wanting to press a reset switch, as if this was all a game, go back even further in time and make more of a difference. I want to wake up from this dystopian Earth dream, this nightmare for all who care. Can we dream lucidly? Can we break free of corrupt patterns of cruelty? Or is salt in our wounds and assault on our conscience and capacity to love our nihilistic fate? Will brutish selfishness and factionalism win, or will altruism stand out as humanity’s greatest achievement? We are not yet ahead of the curve, and social media has made the curve seem a wall.

“Facebook was designed to throw gas on the fire of any speech that invoked an emotion, even if it was hateful speech—its algorithms favored sensationalism.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

What, pray tell, is a “social network?” And what did a 37-year-old tech-genius-Harvard-dropout ever know about relationships, speech and society at age 20, other than how to profit from our desire to connect and our willingness to share?

[Journalist Kara Swisher said] “My impression of Zuckerberg was that he was an intellectual lightweight, and he was very easily swayed by [Marc] Andreessen or Peter Thiel; he wanted to be seen as smart by them so he adopted the changes they suggested and the libertarian mindset they projected.” It didn’t hurt, Swisher added, that Zuckerberg had a restless drive that compelled him to do whatever it took to ensure his company would be successful.”

“[Chris] Hughes [“Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate and a cofounder of Facebook”] acknowledged that the seeds of Facebook’s problems were there from the beginning: the urgent-growth mind-set, the advertising business model, and Zuckerberg’s centralized power. No one individual, not even the friend he described as ‘a good person,’ should have that much control over such a powerful institution.”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

Zuck is the “Creator-God-King” of Facebook, the aspiring “hegemon” of our real-life Ender’s Game. This kinda zucks, in and of itself.

But are we allowing ourselves to be created in his image? Has his view of relationship distorted ours?

Zuck’s motives have exemplified and amplified our own drives for power and financial gain, extending them into our intimate relationships. We buy in for the chance to go viral, gather followers, become “influencers.” Social capital leans far too heavily in the direction of internet prominence. Our online foray challenges, shapes, and frequently damages our journeys of identity, belonging, and wellness in the real world. It requires vigorous and regular questioning, and frequent mindful breaks for self-assessment and to regain conscious control. I offer a social media mindfulness detox on my Facebuddha website. But even as I do my best as an individual, I am swept along in the flow of unchecked empire.

Too many people want to be the next Zuck, Jobs, or Musk. Musk Zuckerjobs, launching White male social media penisrocketphones as fast as he can. (Order now with Prime.) The trio’s inspiration has been a distorting influence on societal aspirations. Too many people aspire to hegemonic, megalomanic, phallic domination in their fiefdoms. I think many, perhaps even most, of us actually do aspire to interdependence and a life of mutual care, learning, and uplift, but we don’t exactly attract startup funding.

We founder instead.

***

I proposed five stages of social media culture shock in Facebuddha, based on the psychological stages of migration, since we have, in effect, migrated online.

  1. Curiosity, exploration, experimentation, exuberance

  2. Ambivalence, dissatisfaction (and suffering, I would now add)

  3. Adjustment, adaptation, and resignation to the limitations of the environment

  4. Exit/deactivation or logout

  5. Repeat stages 1-4 as needed

I’ve gone through many cycles of this, exiting Facebook and social media for weeks or years at a time. I currently log onto Facebook only to share my articles. Unless there’s meaningful reform, I have little present need to go back on. The costs of mindless scrolling, being surveilled for ad revenue, feeding the beast of superficial and parasocial relationship, and supporting the blinkered rule of Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Joel Kaplan are unjustifiable. Sure, I was glad to have Facebook and Twitter during the pandemic. There has been respite from isolation, occasionally good information, and reasonable doses of friendly contact. But there is a better way: the IRL, the “World Wide World,” which needs our attention and presence, and which gives us literal, actual ground for our physical and emotional lives.

***

During the pandemic, many found entertainment, stimulation, and a creative outlet on TikTok. But what does it do to mindlessly nibble flashy brain candy, to go down a rabbit hole of recommended videos? It’s not really nourishment, is it? I watched quite a few examples in many genres: comedy, storytelling, advocacy, and affirmation of identity. I appreciated the people involved. I am a people-person, a Superfan of the human enterprise. But I found this all a colossal waste of time. Perhaps these users are gaining video-editing and storytelling skillz, maybe these will count for something in their life journeys. A few of them have found profit and influence, of some sort. But we know what’s good for us in terms of mental and social health: real world, embodied relationship and presence. I don’t even like quick cuts in feature-length films. I like them even less in 2-minute videos. The choppy aesthetic underscores a choppy mindset. I don’t need to wait for the research. I think it’s a pitch to our flighty brainstems, a destabilizing influence that takes as away from depth, health and wholeness.

Already there’s some evidence. In 2021, there was a scourge of TikTok induced tics in teenagers, mostly girls, who watched inordinate amounts of tic-heavy, back-to-back Tourette’s TikToks. These were ostensibly created to spread awareness and decrease stigma about Tourette’s Syndrome. The top video generators garnered 2 million or more followers, and tic videos have been viewed 4.8 billion times during the pandemic thus far, per a Wall Street Journal report. Teen girls apparently “caught” tics from watching the videos, likely finding tics a contagious language for the distress of life and pandemic. We are an enormously suggestible species. We can easily become what we watch, particularly under times of stress.

Hatred is also a contagious language for distress. Americans seem to think happiness is a kind of birthright. There are so many ways to fuel pleasure and escape from difficulty in our modernity, yet simultaneously many causes for anguish. The “pursuit of happiness” is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Research has tied happiness to the warmth of relationships – so no wonder there’s been more depression, anxiety, and suicidality since the birth of the smartphone, the rise of social media distractions, and the worsening of inequity. No wonder mental health issues have spiked even more during the pandemic. We have collectively opted for superficial relationships, and this last two years, we have barely been able to gather at all. We are left with holes in our emotional lives, our synapses crying out for meaningful embrace, safety and well-being. Perhaps a significant number of us have reflected on the importance of caring relationships, and renewed them. Maybe this will be a takeaway from this COVID era. But I worry for those who may have gone in the other direction. If Americans think happiness, or a superficial happiness, is their birthright, then they easily fall to blaming others when they are not happy.

“I’m not happy, and that’s someone else’s fault.”

Many White people who don’t have significant relational experiences with BIPOC people, trans people, immigrants, and non-Christians easily fall into blaming these groups for raising challenging issues of belonging and equity, or simply for being visible. This tendency – the tic and day-to-day tick-tock of White supremacy – is fueled by social media and weaponized by right wing politicians, allowing them to win elections and further subordinate and disempower minorities. Around the world, it’s easy to demonize other human beings as outsiders and scapegoat them in times of difficulty, economic stress, and societal change. Small minds assert dominance by insisting on their rightness and “righteousness.”

Glenn Youngkin, whatever his merits as an individual and politician, weaponized White parents’ fears and misunderstandings of Critical Race Theory and books by Toni Morrison (!) to win in Virginia. He will be the model for the waiting-in-the-wings GOP resurgence in 2022 and 2024. He is Trumpism without Trump. The GOP seems to find its inspiration in the reactionary and violent defeat of Reconstruction after the Civil War, resisting not only the integration of society, but the integration of consciousness. They don’t like our influence. They don’t even like us taking up space in their minds. If that’s not racism, what is?

And there are extremist outliers who long for another Civil War. The FBI has confirmed that domestic White Nationalist terrorists are our greatest security threat. Political rhetoric and theater pushes unhinged individuals to violence especially in times of civil unrest. Facebook has been a willing tool. The Facebook Papers, Frenkel and Kang’s writing, and other reports have revealed that time and again, even Facebook’s own employees have alerted Zuckerberg and Sandberg of impending dangers on the platform, but were overruled. (Twitter, also, has been slow to act or completely negligent on these matters.)

“We weren’t giving Black Lives Matter an audience with Mark, but we were giving that access to conservatives like Glenn Beck? It was such a bad decision,” a former employee said.”

“Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and a renowned expert on voting rights, cautioned that Zuckerberg had displayed a ‘dangerous misunderstanding of the political and digital landscape we now inhabit.’”

“’The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against Black demonstrators by the U.S. President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,’ Robert Traynham, a senior Black employee and director of policy communications, wrote on the Tribe group for Black@Facebook. ‘Along with Black employees in the company, and all persons with a moral conscience, I am calling for Mark to immediately take down the President’s post advocating violence, murder and imminent threat against Black people.’ Traynham’s post built on years of frustration among Black employees, many of whom no longer trusted their employer enough to use the Black@Facebook Tribe board to air grievances about the company.”

“Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.” – from an Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg signed by hundreds of Facebook employees in 2019.

– All quotes from Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

       “’Even though [Facebook executives] don’t have any animus toward people of color, their actions are on the side of racists,’ said Tatenda Musapatike, a former Facebook manager working on political ads and CEO of the Voter Formation Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses digital communication to increase participation in local state and national elections. ‘You are saying that the health and safety of women of color on the platform is not as important as pleasing your rich White man friends.’”

“The Black audience on Facebook is in decline, according to data from a study Facebook conducted earlier this year that was revealed in documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen. According to the February report, the number of Black monthly users fell 2.7 percent in one month to 17.3 million adults. It also shows that usage by Black people peaked in September 2020.”

       “The document prepared for Kaplan [reviewing options for taking down hate speech] referenced that some “conservative partners” might resist the change because they think that ‘hate targeted toward trans people is an expression of opinion.’”

– Dwoskin E, Tiku N, Timberg C. Facebook’s race-blind practices around hate speech came at the expense of Black users, new documents show. Washington Post, November 21, 2021

When a vulnerable group says they are suffering in a particular environment – we should all listen. Black people leaving Facebook is a bellwether. Personally, I have no doubt that I’d feel more comfortable where they felt more comfortable. Facebook nation is not that place, and this country is not yet that place. This should make us all feel deeply uncomfortable.

We are not ok.

Facebook continues to mislead about its policies on hate speech. It reports “We proactively detect more than 97% of hate speech on Facebook that we remove before anyone reports it to us.  (Emphasis added.) However, per the Facebook whistleblower papers as reported by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired, they only remove 3-5% of hate speech. Artificial intelligence detects most of this tiny percentage. Over 95% of hate speech stays up, a staggering 250 million instances. They’ve downsized the expensive human review process that might better catch trends in hate-inspired content. Moreover, they spend the vast majority of this review budget in the United States, leaving much to be desired around the world, where most of its 3 billion users live. They will never get ahead of this, especially without ongoing independent audits.

***

If Whites are conditioned to believe they or their “way of life” are under threat, through social media, cable news, and other outlets, some might be more inclined to act violently. How is social media conditioning White people? Certainly, it seems to have so far largely conditioned Zuckerberg, Sandberg and Kaplan to believe they should have hegemonic power above the concerns of vulnerable communities.

But I digress.

How is social media conditioning White people?

We know now that internal Facebook research created minimalistic conservative profiles. These profiles were quickly inundated by racist and conspiracy oriented “suggested pages.” These results were observed both in the U.S. and India. The algorithm peddled division, rage and societal disintegration.

White supremacy benefits from an ill-informed population, unsteadied by a noxious surge of fear-inducing disinformation and factional opinion spouted by cable news and social media. We have to take strong measures to rein this in, or the nation will collapse in chaos. This is the approaching iceberg.

Photo by Toni Zernik.

***

What are we becoming as we take our eyes off the ball of the Earth and real-world relationships and place them on our screens? Is this really a good time to get wiggy with our sense of reality? Particularly since 9-11 and the “truthers,” many people have not been able to take in the enormity and actuality of the real world. They have retreated into paranoid, simplistic fantasy, applied to a snap-to-grid of disconnection, alienation, and difficult emotions. I am pretty sure this mental health crisis underlies susceptibility to manipulation by anti-vax and anti-election conspiracy theorists, who play to the American myths of individualism and individual control to push people away from expert consensus, which is cast as “authoritarian.” The problem, of course, is that resisting knowledge pushes this population towards strategically paranoid, divide-and-conquer opinion spouted by actual authoritarians. We are all influenced by others, our environment of trusted social relationships. Too many people do not have trustworthy relationships, too many people have been turned by propaganda, and the nation has paid the price in COVID deaths and the amplification of racism, now focused on fear-mongering about Critical Race Theory and defending against the teaching of factual and comprehensive history.

Adobe stock image by GoodIdeas, licensed by Ravi Chandra.

How do we get back to relationship and related discourse in a world where the GOP has weaponized disinformation, allying itself with autocrats around the world?

Autocracy is indeed on the march. The GOP is all too happy to martial White supremacist language and demagoguery to inflame discourse. They profit from people like Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, J.D. Vance and Marjorie Taylor-Greene – walking, cartoonish memes for their proposed idiocracy, decorticate brainstems connected to mouthy dispositions, and frequently, a really crappy rhyming dictionary. We are already in civil crisis. Placing limits on and restructuring social media will be an important precursor to preventing an actual civil war. We also have to notch wins for justice and equity in the real world, particularly around the events of January 6, 2021.

We cannot take our eyes off the ball.

“On January 27, 2021…In yet another about-face decision on speech, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was planning to deemphasize political content in the News Feed because, he said, ‘people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our service.’…The announcement was also a tacit acknowledgment of Facebook’s years-long failure to control hazardous rhetoric running roughshod on the social network, particularly during the election. “We’re going to focus on helping millions of more people participate in healthy communities…”
– Frenkel and Kang, An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination

Society has paid a heavy price for Zuck’s “evolution” and intransigence. We have foundered on his blindspots, his ego, his greed, his intellectual, relational, and conceptual shortcomings, and his blunders. What might Facebook have been if he had started with the intent to foster safe spaces for dialogue on even the most controversial topics, and to curtail problems as soon as he learned of them? What if he had actually had those dialogues? I mean – he went to Harvard, right?

Instead he chose his wallet.

He is now poised to take his inclinations into virtual and augmented reality. Meta, as alternative reality, is an attempted bright-eyed, bushy-tailed escape from his checkered past. But Zuckerberg is not a trustworthy host for any kind of spin-off from the reality we share. Malice and worsened mental health outcomes are sure to follow from his continued unfettered prioritization of profit over social good, and his inability to understand the needs of vulnerable communities or vulnerability itself.

Facebook is indeed a curio for the exploration of self, society and human values. The prioritization of profit over people is not just a problem for Zuck. It’s a problem for all of us as individuals, as a nation and as a world. It is, in the end, a choice.

What will we choose? Will we be carried along in the unchecked flow of financial empire and self-centered ego? Will the Earth itself be the graveyard of such Empires? Or can something new arise? Can we live?

Our collective decisions about social media will allow our exploration of self, society and values to be an affirmation. What will we affirm? Who are we? What might we become, together?

Lasting change happens at the pace of real-world relationships, the pace of living. Not at the pace of a social network, built to make a killing. The social network, like the internet, might give us important input; I don’t think it will give us good output.

If we put out the wildfires of social media, maybe we can have a shot at growing back the rainforests we’ve destroyed, another effect of our outsized ego of limitless growth and greed.

Adobe stock image by aaabbc, licensed by Ravi Chandra

References:

  1. Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination. Harper Collins, 2021

  2. Chandra R. Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks. Pacific Heart Books, 2017.

  3. Dwoskin E, Tiku N, Timberg C. Facebook’s race-blind practices around hate speech came at the expense of Black users, new documents show. Washington Post, November 21, 2021.

  4. The Facebook Files. The Wall Street Journal.

  5. Teens are developing tics. Doctors say TikTok may be a factor. Wall Street Journal podcast, November 8, 2021.

  6. Chandra R. The Facebook Papers, Congress, and Society | Psychology Today. Psychology Today, November 15, 2021. (Includes links to the Wall Street Journal’s coverage.)

  7. Giansiracusa N. Facebook Uses Deceptive Math to Hide its Hate Speech Problem. Wired, October 15, 2021

  8. Chandra R. Is Facebook Destroying Society and Your Mental Health? Psychology Today, January 29, 2018.

  9. Lima C. “Top Democrats unveil bill to rein in tech companies’ ‘malicious algorithms,’”The Washington Post, October 14, 2021

  10. Promoting Safety and Expression. Facebook website, accessed 11/26/21.

Photo by Bob Hsiang

Ravi Chandra is a psychiatrist, writer and compassion educator in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and now looks forward to broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts here. He writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure, though one has permanently shuttered during COVID. His debut documentary was named Best Film (Festival Director’s Award) at the 2021 Cannes Independent Film Festival. The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice is available on-demand. His nonfiction debut, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, won the 2017 Nautilus Silver Award for Religion/Spirituality of Eastern Thought. You can find him on Psychology Today,  Twitter,  Facebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.

2 Comments

  1. Jan Harkins on December 1, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Sadly disappointed that your article began so lucid and well thought out and fell into the delusional sphere of blaming imaginary “white supremacists” and conservatives for all the world’s ills.
    ANY group you can name uses social media to advance their particular agenda, democratic socialists are no exception.
    Here’s a thought, let’s examine individual responsibility in this issue. As unpleasant as it is to admit it, no one has a gun to their head, they can all refuse to participate, as you apparently have, unless it’s in the interest of your own self promotion. Parents can control their children’s use of social media. They just refuse to do so, it’s easier to blame someone or something else for issues that arise from their childs use of these platforms.

    • Ravi Chandra on December 1, 2021 at 10:00 pm

      You seem to think White Supremacy is imaginary. This seems odd given the perspectives and experiences of many many people. I am often tasked to have empathy for white people who voted for Donald Trump. I wonder if they could have empathy for me or people like me. Empathy and compassion are the main human agendas I see as essential – to combat abusive power as embodied by people like Gosar, Boebert, Taylor-Greene, and DJT. I hope you can understand my personal experience of feeling dehumanized and scapegoated for the country’s ills. That’s not right. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. As the last image indicates – HOPE comes from Hearing Other People’s Experiences.

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