Does Facebook Divide Us?

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“Social media platforms use algorithms that play to our need for stimulus, on our worries, our fears and, yes, our hates to keep us clicking so they can show us ads. Seattle Times, October 28, 2018 (Donna Grethen / Op-Art)

Readers of MillersTime may know that in January I stopped using Facebook. There were a number of reasons (see Goodbye Facebook), but an important one for me was my belief that FB was adding to the divisiveness in our country, in part because they could continue to build market share and make money from its usage.

A couple of days ago the Wall Street Journal posted an article that addressed this issue. The article began:

A Facebook team had a blunt message for senior executives. The company’s algorithms weren’t bringing people together. They were driving people apart.

“Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” read a slide from a 2018 presentation. “If left unchecked,” it warned, Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

That presentation went to the heart of a question dogging Facebook almost since its founding: Does its platform aggravate polarization and tribal behavior?

The answer it found, in some cases, was yes.

If this issue and analysis interests you, read the WSJ’s entire analysis:

Facebook Executives Shut Down Efforts to Make the Site Less Divisive by Jeff Horwitz & Deepa Seetharaman, May 26, 2020, WSJ.

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A Warning We Should Not Ignore

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While I’ve cut back on how much time I am spending reading various articles, posts, news reports, and time spent on social media, tweets, etc. (Facebook is a thing of the past for me now), I continue to follow what for me are a few reliable sources of information.

In that vein, I came across something two days ago that I think is worthy of your time and consideration. It’s from The Atlantic magazine’s upcoming June 2020 publication, written by Franklin Foer, a staff writer for The Atlantic and the former editor of The New Republic. He clearly writes from a liberal perspective. Nevertheless, what he has to tell us in this somewhat lengthy article contains new and detailed information about the situation facing us vis-a-vis Russian interference in our elections, his view that it is going to happen again, and our lack of preparedness for it.

This article goes beyond anything I’ve read on this subject to date, and I hope you will spend the time to consider what he has uncovered and wants us to know:

The 2016 Election Was Just a Dry Run, by Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, June 2020

As always, I am open to your reactions, whether you agree or disagree. Use the Comment section of this post to let me and others know your reaction to what for me is a very disturbing account of where we are headed for the upcoming elections.

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Know the Rules – Follow the Rules

I know we’ve all heard, read, watched all sorts of advice, much of it good, some questionable, and some simply not up-to-date or just inaccurate.

Below you will find links to two videos/advice from Dr. David Price, a critical care pulmonologist caring for COVID-19 patients at NYC’s Weill Cornell Hospital. (Hat Tip to David P. Stang for alerting me to this information.)

He will tell you some of the things you know, some things you may not be sure about, and some things you may need to know in the days and weeks and months ahead.

What is outstanding about these two videos is the level of practical advice that comes from someone who is on the front lines of caring for people who come to one of our best hospitals. Dr. Price is clear, straight forward, and seems to have the very latest experiences and knowledge from the front lines.

I’m sure there is something in these two videos for everyone, no matter how much information you may know or where you live in this country or abroad, or what you already know that is valid or perhaps not valid.

He is positive and focuses his remarks for a wide range of people.

The first link, the first video is a 24.05 minute compilation of Dr. Price speaking to us all: Empowering & Protecting Your Family.

The second link, the second video is a 57:06 minute conversation from Dr. Price that includes much from the first video but also includes his answers to questions from people across the country: Empowering, Protecting Your Family and Responses to Questions about COVID-19.

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Goodbye Facebook

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I’m going on a diet.

Not the kind of diet I’ve been on for the last three years, with some success, despite some ‘give backs.’

But a diet from the two to three to four hours a day I spend between email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and a variety of websites that provide me with some form of input about things important and not so important.

I’m starting by withdrawing from Facebook, which is something I’ve been considering for a year or more, not just because of the amount of time I spend on it, but also for a number of other reasons.

There’s lots I like about FB, particularly for being in touch with friends (and some foes) with whom I otherwise might not have frequent contact. Certainly I enjoy posting photos (mine and Ellen’s) and links to my MillersTime.net blog. And there are a number of links that I follow from various FB posts that I might not know about otherwise.But I’m choosing to start this diet with FB because of what FB has become and what its leaders, particularly Mark Zuckerberg, have done with this once promising social networking website. I’ll spare reposting Lisa W’s list and explanation of Ten Reasons Why You Should Quit Facebook NowSuffice it to say that I agree with at least eight of her 10 points.

(I have previously posted (on FB!) Sacha Baron Cohen’s powerful three minute video of how FB’s platform and policies are allowing the spread of hate and lies in our political and other discourse and, in fact, makes what is occurring there even worse by their unwillingness to intervene. If you haven’t listened to Cohen’s message, stop now and click on the link above.

I will continue, for now, with my Instagram and Twitter accounts knowing that Instagram is owned by FB. As with any diet, you can’t cut out everything at once, but you have to start somewhere. In order not to just transfer my FB time to one of the other social media time killers, I will also limit my total time spent using these (and other) social media platforms.

So by the end of January, I will no longer have a Facebook account. Between now and then, I will figure out alternative ways to stay in touch with some individuals abroad and with friends here in the US. I’m open to suggestions as how to do that.

And if you want to help me (having partners in dieting has proven valuable to me with my weight loss), you can let me know if you’d like to be on my MillersTime.net mailing list, which at no cost to you will get you three for four emails a month that describe my most recent blog post (on travel, photos, family, grand kids, books, films, baseball, and an occasional attempt at describing something that is on my alleged mind.) Just email me if you want to get those notifications about new blog posts.

Finally, for now, I will retain my two Instagram accounts (samesty84 and millerstimeblogger). So feel free to follow me there and send me your Instagram handle (if you want to stay in touch that way).

There’s always that old fashion way of communicating – email (Samesty84 at gmail dot com) and texting. I am diligent in responding to email (and snail mail) from friends…and texts, which seem to be my wife’s and daughters’ preferred way of reaching me.

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Every Vote Counts

When I was in Ohio working on a ‘Get Out the Vote’ campaign in 2016 and Donald Trump surprised many by winning the Presidential election, I wrote late that night, actually early the next morning, the following”

The country spoke yesterday.

And we must listen.

We’ve now had two years of Trump and his supporters speaking.

It is time the country speaks again.

And Trump and his supporters listen.

Every vote counts.

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“12 Rules for Living” – Antidote to Chaos

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A review and commentary by MillersTime reader and friend, David P. Stang.

Dave wrote in his email containing an early draft of this post:

“My intent is to present a case for Peterson’s views that reasonably educated people would find appealing irrespective of their political parties.”

12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan B. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and had previously taught at Harvard. The New York Times stated that he is “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.” Evidence of this claim can be found in the fact that his lectures recorded on and accessible through YouTube have attracted over 65 million viewers.

Peterson is also a clinical psychologist with a continuing active practice. He and his wife Tammy are parents of a daughter, Mikhaila and a son, Julian. Mikhaila has suffered enormous pain resulting from years of combating rheumatoid arthritis and enduring multiple surgeries. Her father fondly regards his daughter Mikhaila as a courageous hero.

Over the course of his life Peterson also has observed much suffering experienced by his patients who described their emotional pain problems during their psychotherapy sessions with him, and he learned about suffering experienced by many of his students over the years. He clearly feels great compassion for them and for others’ suffering which often results from tragedy and malevolence. So much so in fact that it drove him to write two books related to suffering.

In this new book he states, “The idea that life is suffering is a tenet, in one form or another, of every major religious doctrine…. We can be damaged, even broken, emotionally and physically, and we are all subject to depredations of aging and loss… It is reasonable to wonder how we can expect to thrive and be happy (or even want to exist, sometimes) under such conditions.” In 1999 he published his first book, entitled Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief which Peterson stresses constitutes the conceptual foundations of his 12 Rules.

Throughout his 12 Rules and YouTube lectures, Peterson presents a mixture of the diverse classic literature and teachings of the past several thousand years emanating from pre-scientific cultures, the hypotheses and scholarship of modern-day science (including particularly neurological and psychological studies) and he constantly injects first-hand, real-life examples of human and animal behavior which illustrate the concepts he is propounding.

Understanding that one’s individual self as divine or sovereign, according to Peterson, reveals the pathway to meaning in life. A major foundational principle of his 12 Rules is that every human life is confronted by order and chaos. By order he means “the place where the behavior of our world matches our expectations and desires; the place where all things turn out the way we want them to.” Chaos, on the other hand, is the “domain of ignorance itself” and is “unexplored territory.” He tells us chaos is present when you feel despair and horror and is the place you end up when things fall totally apart. Order can be disrupted by chaos and chaos can be constrained by order. Within chaos potential exists. He informs us that your attitude toward potential confers on you a certain moral obligation: The challenge is to live up to one’s potential. The potential is in the future. Contending with chaos that disrupts order is like meeting the Dragon head on.

As part of his extensive tour this year Professor Jordan B. Peterson has been lecturing about his book. In his talks he stresses that his twelve rules can be comedic, but that they are really metaphors which point to a deeper philosophic and psychological meaning. In his book he urges his readers to focus on their individual patterns of thought, belief and behavior. He stresses that his rules are not injunctions meant to make life easier. They are injunctions to make life more difficult. He asks his readers and listeners to aim higher and to seek to become the very best they can be. Peterson stated that I hope that what I’m aiming at is to tell people stories and provide them with clinical information that is derived from the best literature and science that I know so they can be fortified in their ability to contend with tragedy and malevolence.”

These are his rules:

Rule 1: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”

Peterson emphasizes that standing up straight with one’s shoulders straight reveals not only self-confidence but also indicates vulnerability. When one is standing up straight (instead of crouching or cowering) one’s most vital spots are unprotected and exposed to danger, signifying through that confident stance that one has mastered order while simultaneously that one is courageously prepared to face chaos head-on.

Rule 2: “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.”

Peterson’s main point here is that people tend to treat themselves more poorly than they treat others for whom they are responsible for caring. So he advises us to treat ourselves in the same way we would like our children to be treated.

Rule 3: “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”

One way of treating yourself like someone you are responsible for helping is to make friends with people who want the best for you. Some people tear you down. Don’t put up with that, he instructs, find others who lift you up. Therefore you have an ethical responsibility to surround yourself with people who support you when you do good and criticize you when you misbehave.

Rule 4: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday not to who someone else istoday.”

This is also a rule about avoiding envy and avoiding excessive self-criticism or self-loathing. Peterson tells us that in life we face an eternal landscape of inequality. There will always be people more competent than we are. This should not lead us to despair but rather encourage us to become the best we are able. This requires setting high goals, but ensuring that we choose goals that are possible for us to attain.

Rule 5: “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”

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“Leadership in Turbulent Times”

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Ellen and I had an experience Friday that will stay with us for a long time and gave us some perspective on the troubled times facing our country today.

We were attending a book luncheon at the Hay Adams Hotel, overlooking the White House, where Doris Kearns Goodwin was speaking about her soon to be released latest book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. (We’ve long been a fan of this Pulitzer Prize winning author/historian and have read most of her historical works and also her wonderful memoir  – Wait Till Next Year.)

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Do You Know of Jordan Peterson?

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Thanks to several emails from my friend who sees the world somewhat differently than I, here is an article by that he encouraged me to read. I pass it on to MillersTime readers as I start to explore more about what this man, Jordan Peterson, has to say.

I find the title and some of what Flanagan writes to focus perhaps too heavily on the “Left” in our political world when I gather Peterson is also warning the “Right” at the same time.

Let me know if you explore Peterson’s writing, podcasts, etc., and what you think about what he has to say.

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The Measure of Trump’s Devotion – David Frum

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer – RC139CB8A3A0

The article below is by David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic. He was a speech writer for President George W. Bush in 2001-02.

While I do not agree with Frum’s conclusion (I think our country would pull together in a crisis, whether or not many do not trust Pres. Trump), I do agree with most of what Frum writes in this article posted on The Atlantic website today, May 28, 2018.

The Measure of Trump’s Devotion, by David Frum

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