The Individual and Cultural Unconscious of Social Media
Mark Zuckerberg was recently summoned to speak to the US Congress to answer questions. The good members of Congress may not have known quite what to ask, but they did know, at least, that there were questions. Facebook is provoking questions about who owns personal data, how that data is used, and how much its infrastructure can be manipulated by nefarious forces. Facebook has 2.2 billion active monthly users who are regularly using the platform to mediate their relationships. What all of this means to individuals and society as a whole is still to be determined. But one thing is clear - there are a lot of questions.
Online social media operates by way of some of our deepest human desires to connect with others and express our identities. Though the technology may be relatively new, our basic psychological motivation to relate to others is not. How then, do social networking sites mediate these basic motivations? What are the consequences of our social and relational lives being deployed more and more across such platforms?
The answers to these questions may have a serious impact on our internal worlds, our relationships, and how we perceive ourselves and others. However, there are also global consequences. Not only have we known that in order to use the service for "free" we forfeit our personal data and privacy; we have more recently learned that organisations have been purposefully manipulating the infrastructure of Facebook to shift public opinion, spread fake news, and harvest that personal data for nefarious ends. We find out from these revelations that the networks we have been passively using to mediate our social lives aren't as neutral as we might have thought. As historian Melvin Kranzberg reminds us, "Technology is neither good nor bad. Nor is it neutral." It is crucial that we understand better the ways in which these technologies are not neutral to better understand how this non-neutrality may be getting into our heads, hearts, and global human networks.
Dr. Aaron Balick, author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: connected-up instantaneous culture and the self, applies concepts from contemporary psychoanalysis to better understand the psychological, emotional, and relational impact of social media. Dr. Balick examines both the local and global dynamics that arise with our use of social media - from the way we negotiate our own immediate social circumstances to how we participate with the other 2.2 billion people on Facebook, and countless others via other forms of social media. The psychodynamic aim is to get beyond the content as presented across social media, what we see, to better understand how the individual and social unconscious are implicated within it. Recent events have required that we wake up to the potential consequences of the non-neutrality of our relational technologies. By better understanding the psychological motivations underneath our social media use, we can better understand the challenges it proposes.