• Supporting those affected by the misery of stigma and exclusion

The social media factor

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This is not part of our theories but we are publishing this article for anyone becoming involved with Qultura to bear in mind and think about. This article is about the differences between digital and actual reality. Within we're asking you to consider the role of social media in our lives and its impact on society, our communities and the way we interact with one another. As it stands social media remains globally one of the biggest social and cultural influences of this century.

Social media usage statistics

Currently more than two and a half billion people worldwide use social media on various networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Whatsapp, or around a third of the world's population. They are part of a new wave of internet consumer businesses which are about exploiting human psychology. Social media networks are adept at trying to figure out the psychological needs of users so that they can deliver the next dopamine hit. Within this they develop algorithms and techniques to exploit the psychologicaL needs of their users.

What are the effects of widespread social media use?

But what effects is such widespread social media use having on the minds of people? What impact is this having on society and how people interact socially? Are these effects and is that ikmpact negative?

Social media can become addictive

There are signs that use of social media is addictive, especially (but not exclusively) to young people. It's not difficult to find people staring at screens of mobile devices or browsing on their smartphones in public places such as on public transport, while walking down the street and many struggle to ignore their mobile devices even during real life, face to face social encounters. Some might argue that they are not addicted. But we have to ask, would you be able to manage an entire week without having any access to your mobile device or smartphone?

It's important to remember that social media is a tool, a tool which can be very useful and powerful if used in the right way, but it can also be abused, misused, and lead to the formation of a psychological dependency. It is important to remember that social media is a tool that can be put to good use, and that we need to be the ones in control and the ones using it, rather than the other way round.

Not that social media is some evil control mechanism out to get control of your mind. Freedom of choice, free will and creativity still exists, but what social media does is to extend or expand the range of that free will and creativity much further than would happen in real time or face to face contexts. The culture of social media is totally different from more traditional, face to face social relationships. For one thing you can get access to online social interaction with people halfway across the planet. Additionally you can do this behind a created persona. However social media and how you use social media is nothing more than a reflection of you. Even so it creates more opportunities to do and say things and even share things in order to be liked, and some people will do anything, literally anything, just to be liked by other people.

The erosion of social fabric

Certainly one of the long term effects of social media is that it is starting to erode, or at least wear down the social fabric in society. It does this in a number of ways. one of the effects is the blurring of the divisions between virtual reality and actual reality. Rather than just doing things for the experience and just savouring moments, it is also important to have some record such as a photograph or a video, and quite often it is recording the experience to be shared on social media which often becomes more important than actually having the experience itself. Likewise there is the increasing importance of the image or digital trail with the view that if there's no photo or no video then it didn't happen. This has even led to the extreem where someone has been in mortal danger or the victim of a violent crime in a public place, such as in the street, and the chances are someone will have produced a camera or other mobile device and start photographing or recording the incident before rushing to the assistance of the victim or calling an ambulance.

The blurring of divisions between truth and popularity

Another effect of social media is blurring of the division between truth and popularity. It is easy to confuse truith and popularity. You can even use money to amplify that what you believe and you can get a significant number of people to believe that what is popular is truthful, and conversely what is not popular may not be truthful.

Impact on social stigma

This has caused a reversal of the situation where the internet was once a powerful tool which gave people affected by social stigma and who were discriminated against a powerful tool to overcome that stigma. Today we have a situation where stigma and oversimplified beliefs about certain social groups of people can be amplified and popularized through social media and online media sources, both through overt and covert means. Various groups of people have fallen victim to online stigma, including non-white people, women, the LGBT community, people with disabiltiies, the jobless, people affected by obesity, and Muslims.

The exploitation of human psychological needs

What all social media networks do is to exploit the natural human tendency and emotional needs - as humans are social animals - for feedback and appraisal and well as a need to belong. The need to belong is the strongest and most persistent human emotional need and our need for feedback and appraisal and be satiated in different ways, a need for attention, for external validation, for acknolwedgment, and for recognition.When these emotional needs for feedback and appraisal are satiaied a chemical known as dopamine is released in the brain. It is not just social media which exploits this emotional need for feedback and appraisal, as this is also common in video gaming.

However Facebook was the first social media network to exploit this vulnerability in human psychology and was the first social media network which in the course of its development sought ways to use up as much of the users' time and conscious attention as possible through it's likes and shares buttons and boxes to draw users into a social validation loop. The like function has since been expanded into five basic functions adding love, surprise or astonishment, sadness and anger. These are emotional appraisal buttons designed to elicit emotions and reactions, drawing people also into commenting, so as to take up more of people's time and attention and drawing them ever deeper into social validation loops.

Social media usage as a factor

Unfortunately this impact from social media is coming at a time of widespread cultural decline with a lack of real time opportunities for many people as well as a tendency for governments to become more authoritarian in nature, possibly as a response to the ever increasing waves of cultural decline and social fragmentation. Therefore while social media does have a major influence on what is happening in society it cannot be considered as much more than a significant factor.

Social media's noticeable impact on society and social relations

However the effects in society are already visible and noticeable. They include less and less civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth, social stigma, social exclusion, increased social division. This is further exacerbating social fragmentation and breaking down how society functions and how people relate to one another. Furthermore we can only imagine how this is affecting children who are growing up in today's society.

We are of course referring to the erosion of human social interaction and how people relate to and interact with one another. There is also growing evidence that social media usage is causing tension and breakdowns of friendships and relationships which were once developed in real time and existe4d over a number of years.

We believe that this is also causing a significant increase in people who ahve been left without social support networks, who are becoming increasingly socially isolated, alone or lonely, which is also having a major impact on social stigma and social exclusion and leading o a rise in suicides and people who are attempting suicide and feel that they have nothing left to live for.

Indeed we have reached the stage where anyone for any reason at all can manipulate any number of people through social media to do any number of things up to and including committing crimes and committing suicide. Indeed humanity has reached a very dark and lonely place.

How Qultura is responding to this impact

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There is a strong possibility that, right now, today, we are on the verge of social collapse as a result of advances in technology and in particular with regard to the social impact of the development of social media. We are asking anyone and everyone who reads this to pause a moment for reflection and try to internalize this in some way. Qultura was set up as an organization to support people out of social stigma and social exclusion but what we are finding consistently, more recently, is that demand outstrips our limited resources. We have reached the point of needing to take some form of decisive action and we have decided to push back and start moving in an alternative direction.

We have decided to take the following measures.

A complete revision of the ways in which we use social media

We have decided to move away from using the more popular and indeed populous social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. As an organization which was devoted primarily to supporting people affected by social stigma and social exclusion our use of social media was only as a means of raising public awareness of these issues and initial online contact. Social exclusion and social stigma are two increasingly common social issues which can only be resolved through direct means, i.e. through real time, face to face social interaction and contact and our use of social media and popularity on social media networks does not provide opportunities for people who are affected by stigma and exclusion to address these issues in their own individual ways in any way which is meaningful. Online social contact is not the same as real time social interaction.

The creation of new community moderated social media spaces

We have decided to create new community moderated spaces on different social media platforms which are newer, open source, which are publicly accessible which are based on a new egalitarian culture which encourages and facilitates civil discour4se, cooperation, mutual support, reciprocity, and good relations/ These social media spaces are intended to be part of developing networks which can lead to real time local community networks, community support networks and social support networks. These social media spaces will be Qultura groups on various social media platforms. These social media platforms are accessible which are accessible from computers, mobile devices, or both. We leave the chocie as to which of our spaces on which social media platform a user signs up to down to the individual user.

Mobilization of people to participate in our network and social media groups.

We believe that a growing number of people are unhappy or concerned with the way things are developing in society and in their local communities and would bhe willing to participate or do something either for themselves or others if only they had access to the right opportunities and resources. We also believe that a number of people are either disillusioned by political activism and social movements or are unwilling to participate in civil unrest and acts of violence to achieve social change. There is more than enough division in society and we believe that there are people out there who favour much more methods which are peaceful, non-violent, cooperative and community based.

There are numerous ways people can get involved both online and offline and participate at a local community level to bring about positive social change and rebuild social support networks. Participation is a key component to provide opportunities for others to rebuild their own social support networks and overcome both stigma and exclusion, and we are confident that there are people out there who would much rather participate in social media groups and networks which lie in the interests of users rather than corporate or government interests and who would much rather have access to such spaces which are far more social inclusive and more geared to function as social media spaces were originally designed to function - to bring people together.

Our role in these new social media groups.

We have chosen to create various groups and networks on more open source social media networks such as MeWe, Minds.com, Groupbox, Slack, and Patreon and encourage participants to make use of Whatsapp for interpersonal communication. We do not wish for the spaces we provide to become political nor so we wish to create a social movement with specific objectives other than providing stigma free spaces which provide opportunities for social interactikon, and local community cultural development. Our role is centred around creation and provisions of such spaces, moderation, administration and the provision of support to those who need it. We would prefer not to take up any leadership role and to keep this as a grassroots movement. While we seek to act in the best interests of those who participate in our networks and communities w2e hope for the cooperation of participants who get involved to also take measures to ensure that such spaces remain egalitarian in nature, and free from stigma and divisive measures. Furthermore it is our intention that these networks and spaces are kept freely accessible without membership fees, subscriptions and commercial and corporate and exploitative interests.

Further development of this website

Qultura is looking at possibilities of further developing networks, opportunities and spaces on our own website with regard to media and content management.