– If you want a superpower, going forward for the next decade, if
you want a superpower that very few of your
peers have, it is nuance. – What’s up guys, welcome
back to the channel. I know many of you have asked for me to do more long-form content,
podcast-style content, even bring some guests on the show, and today’s a very special
day because I listened and we have Jonathan
Haidt joining us today who’s a social psychologist
studying morality. He’s written some amazing books, “The Righteous Mind”, “The
Coddling of The American Mind” which we just talked
about on my book review, and finally, “The Happiness Hypothesis”. We talk all things
social media, happiness, morality in this interview,
you’re totally gonna like it. Check it out. Today we are extremely lucky and I have to tell you, it’s because I have one of favorite authors here, Jonathan Haidt. Thank you so much for
coming and talking to us. Tell us about this new book. Right away, give us
what do we need to know, the take-home principle? – Take-home principle? Well, especially if it’s mostly,
you got young people here. There’s one take-home
principle for parents which is stop messing up your kids by doing the things that
we all started doing in America 1990s to our kids. But your audience is not so much parents, it’s younger people.
– Yes. – So the message is
your parents and society have treated you like you’re fragile and that has actually made you fragile. And then you got put on social media or you were allowed to get on social media when you were way too young and it kind of warped your social development. And the result is skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression. Just that. – Yep. – Not schizophrenia, not
bipolar, it’s anxiety and depression comes
kicking in around 2012, not just in America, but in
Canada, England, Australia, it’s a global thing and
so we’ll talk about why. – I am not a big purchaser of books, I’m a big audio book fan. But I have to be honest
and give full disclosure, I’ve bought five of your books. I’ve never really purchased
a book, let alone five, and I handed–
– I’ve never purchased, somebody’s gonna tweet this
like he’s never purchased a book.
– I don’t, I’m an Audible guy. The main reason why
I’m so passionate about what you talk about in
this book is that a lot of times we have people who
wanna achieve good things, like you talk about good
intentions setting up bad ideas. That’s a common theme within this book. And I feel that, especially
within the social media space, we, sometimes, try and do good things and they backfire on us, but
we don’t pay attention to that. And I think you do a really
good job summing up how, in trying to protect us, to make sure that we face less
discrimination, less hardship, because of that, we’ve
actually hurt ourselves. – Yep, that’s right. So it’s so easy to convey. You really focused on
explaining scientific and psychological principles. – [Mike] Yep. – One principle, everything becomes clear, that principle is called antifragility. You know, we all know
what it is to be fragile. So this glass is fragile,
if you knock it over, it might break, therefore we
don’t let kids play with glass. We give them plastic because plastic, if you bang it, if you
drop it, it doesn’t break. So plastic is resilient, we say. But what is the word for things that get stronger when you drop ’em? Well, we don’t have one in English.
– Yeah. – And so Nassim Taleb, the
guy who wrote the book, “The Black Swan”, was meditating on this and was looking at systems that
actually need to be dropped, they need to be challenged,
they need to face stress. And there’s no word in English
so he made up the word, antifragile, and the clearest
example is the immune system. So your immune system, you know, everybody’s gotten vaccines,
why do we inject little bits of toxin and poison and,
– Yes. – you know, in the old days
it was actual live bacteria. – Yep. – Why do we do that? Because the immune system requires a lot of exposure at a small level in order to learn and prepare its response. And if we were to raise our
kids in a protective bubble as some parents wanna do, oh, you know, bacterial spray, don’t go get in the dirt, you’ll get sick.
– Sure. – If you do that, you’re
not helping the kid. You are depriving their immune system of the learning that it needs to become a strong functioning immune system. And it turns out it’s the
same thing with psychology. So, you know, I’m a parent. I’ve got, my son is
13, my daughter’s nine. And a few times that there
was like an enemy in school or someone who teases them, you know, your heart really hurts for them. But if you could wave
a magic wand and say, my kid is not gonna be teased or insulted or excluded until she’s
18, would you do it? I mean–
– I wouldn’t. This applies within
many fields of medicine. We talk about osteoporosis– – Break bones, that’s right.
– Yeah. – Bones are antifragile. – They’re antifragile. We need to put stress on bones. That’s why I actually advocate
for my elderly patients to do weight training. Most people say well,
that doesn’t make sense. – Yeah. – But it’s true, they
need that stress to grow. Athletes, how do they get better? They stress their muscles. They actually do damage
to their muscles in order to repair and become stronger. – That is a great example. Because I think what a lot of young people have begun learning,
it wasn’t the case when I was in elementary school in the ’70s, we didn’t talk this way,
but beginning in the ’90s or afterwards, I think we began to act as though stress is bad. – Yeah. – And, of course, there are
stress-related illnesses but there’s a crucial distinction we have to make between short-term
stress and long-term stress. – That’s, yes.
– Or chronic stress. Short-term stress is not bad. – Yep. – Short-term stress is essential. Kids need a lot of short-term stress. – Yep.
– That’s how you grow is you put yourself
outside your comfort zone. It’s scary but then you survive it, you succeed, and then you’re stronger. Kids need a lot of
stress, short-term stress. Chronic stress is always bad.
– Yes. – There is no good thing that happens from having your stress
system for being anxious for weeks or months at a time. Now, I’m not on social
media nearly as much as you or young people.
– (laughs) Sure. – But one thing, actually,
you can help me understand. Are there corners of social media or ways of using social media where you think that people’s cortisol levels are elevated for days or weeks at a time? – Oh, absolutely. Not only in times of disagreement, because there’s plenty
of that on social media between trolling, political
polarization, all of that, people get angry as soon as
they touch their smart phone. But, on top of it,
there’s constant judgment that’s being rained upon us. When we post, I’m very
popular on Instagram as well, I post quite often there, and
there’s always this pressure to not only post often, regularly, to make sure that it looks good,
it matches a certain theme, and this is coming from
our social pressures but also from the apps themselves. They’ve created these
algorithms to push us to live these fantastical lives.
– Right, yeah. – And unless we feed the algorithm
that, our likes decrease. Our popularity decreases, and as you know, what that does to our minds,
all the feedback goes away. And then it creates this
hole that many YouTubers now, Instagrammers, have to take time off and recenter themselves
and take a break from this. Because, unfortunately,
we’ve lost lives in the YouTube community of
people, unfortunately, committing suicide because
of these pressures. So it absolutely exists and I think, as you said, the big reason is that we’re not used to
this type of stress. Because our parents, I want
to say, with good intentions, try to protect us from this,
– Right. – it’s set us up for harm. And I think– – Yep, that’s the subtitle of the book. – Exactly, look at that. – “How Good Intentions and
Bad Ideas are Setting”– – I feel like I’m quoting it.
– Yeah, that’s right. – I came to the United
States when I was six. And my father was in medical school, did medical school in
Russia, when we came to the States, he did it all over again, different language,
residency, all from scratch. So I looked at him and I saw, wow, he went through this very difficult time, that was, you know,
borderline chronic stress because you’re coming to a new country. He did it for the goal that
I would lead a better life. But he didn’t mean a better
life with no challenges because when I would come
home and say a teacher was unfair, a student was unfair, his critique or his
recommendation was never I want to fix that for you.
– Yeah. – You fix it yourself. – Great, that’s it.
– And if people are unfair to you, that’s part of life. You have to learn how to deal with that. – Yeah, that is so important. This is something I’ve never said publicly because I don’t know how to put it. – [Mike] Sure. – This might sound terrible. But it’s an important skill to learn how to accept injustice. – [Mike] Yep. – And all I mean, it’s
gonna sound terrible because we’re always telling kids, no, you know, you gotta fight for justice and never give up, and if it’s a matter of morality or justice, never give up. – Sure.
– But the thing is, two things, one, every
time there’s a conflict, both sides think they’re right. – Yes. – So if everyone never gives up, that means that we’re all
engaged in conflict forever and ever so we can’t have
a world in which nobody– – That’s a chronic stress. – Yes, that’s right, yeah. That’s one is that you can’t
know that you’re right, and you’re often wrong. And the other is that yeah,
unfairness is part of life. And if our kids make it to the age of 18 where no injustice was
accepted, where ultimately, if they think that they
were graded unfairly, they had levels of appeal, boy, are they gonna do badly in life. – Yes. – Because life is unfair. – Yes. The logical thinking that
we recommend quite often, both you and I, in cognitive
behavioral therapy. – Right.
– Right? You’re a big proponent of it. To me, why I believe it
works so well is just it’s a form of logical thinking. Where we get to evaluate ourselves, are we thinking rationally,
and if we’re not, how can we replace those
irrational thoughts? – We’re all prone to
certain thought disorders, certain thinking distortions. So I’m a social psychologist, I’m not a clinical psychologist but I study morality and politics, and there are certain
things that we just often and easily do, you know, like falling into this like us versus them. – Yeah.
– Like see if this a battle between, you know, good and evil. So Aaron Beck and a few other
people in the 1960s notice that there are certain
repetitive patterns, catastrophizing, black and white thinking, you know, over-generalizing. We have this epidemic of anxiety
and depression on campus. We have students who are
jumping to catastrophe, like, I didn’t get into this class. Oh my god, now I won’t get
into that and, you know, or oh, I didn’t do well in this as that. We have students catastrophizing, making themselves more depressed, flooding the mental
health center on campus. But here’s the thing, what are we supposed to be teaching at a university? Critical thinking,
– Sure. good thinking. so CBT isn’t just for the 20 or 30% that are anxious and depressed, it’s for everybody.
– Yeah. – Because all of us, you know, even if you’re perfectly
healthy and happy, you’re still gonna over-generalize, you’re gonna divide things into, you know, good versus evil, so you know– – It’s the human condition. – That’s right. – I actually practice CBT in my office. – [Jonathan] On yourself
or you mean on your patients.
– Well, I do it on myself also but also for my patients.
– Okay, great. – Obviously, a small group because of my limited availability but we do. And what I notice with
them is that they have a strong belief that they are the outlier, that CBT is not gonna work for them, that CBT is not their answer, that they’re the case that’s gonna fail this. And it takes some really
simple thinking of well, take me through a scenario. What were your thoughts
– Yeah. – that led you to have these feelings. – Right. – And when they are able to
sound that out themselves, sort of like a motivational
interviewing technique, – Right.
– they actually now realize that they’re putting themselves in that. And when they do that and
they have that realization, that’s where the biggest impact happens. And it doesn’t happen quickly but it dos happen.
– No, that’s a great example because you’re basically
doing CBT on their belief that they won’t be benefited by CBT. That’s like, straight
out of Martin Seligman. – Yes, “Flourish”, yeah.
– You know, a permanent features of my psyche, yeah. – Sometimes you feel helpless
as a provider when you have a 16 year-old child in front of you who’s suffering with serious
depression, deep depression. They have, already, therapy on board and they become, at
some point, nihilistic, where it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I feel better. – Oh wow. – So it becomes difficult to
instill the values of well, why don’t you want to feel better. How do we get here? – Yeah. – And a lot of that has to do with trauma. When we talk about trauma
in the legal sense, we talk about physical injury, right? You talk about that in your books. But now when we have psychological trauma, it actually creates some havoc on campuses – Yeah.
– through when you call Concept Creep. – Well that’s right. So let’s talk about trauma.
– Yeah. – I wouldn’t in any way want
to deny the severity of it, the importance of it.
– Of course. – But it’s gotten very
popular to talk about trauma, trauma-informed learning,
trauma-informed all sorts of things, and it might be very valuable, I don’t know, but I am wary of
what’s called Concept Creep. – Yep.
– So Nicholas Haslam, an Australian psychologist who happened to be my grad school roommate developed this idea about Concept Creep. How a lot of key ideas in psychology had a certain meaning back
in the 1970s or 80s. So trauma, addiction, bullying. And overtime, the psychological community and the people using
it have sort of lowered the bar on that to be able to
use those terms more and more. So trauma used to mean only
physical damage to tissue, and then it was allowed
to mean like shell shock and you know, like, or PTSD,
when you think you’re going to die immediately, that
can change your brain in ways that are long-lasting. But gradually, trauma has come to be, the creep has made it to
the point where trauma is, I was really upset, like you know, she broke up with me
and I was traumatized. – Yep.
– Or you know, I felt excluded and I was traumatized. No, you were in pain, you were upset but you weren’t traumatized. And so and the reason why
I think this is important is because there are feedback
effects from labeling. – Yes.
– So if now, half of Gen Z or half of, I don’t know the numbers, but if some very large percentage of young people now believe
that they have suffered from trauma, when in
fact by older diagnosis, only five or 10% would have
been, that extra 40% is at risk, they’re now more likely to
become depressed and anxious. So we just got to be aware of that. – That’s a very fine line
and it’s something I have to do with my patients often
that they may get out of a bad, let’s say they have a breakup,
they have a bad breakup or they lose a family member. These are serious events
where being down and upset is correct, that’s the correct emotion. – [Jonathan] That’s right,
that’s called grieving. – Yes, yes.
– It’s not trauma. – Yes, it’s not trauma. And they’ll come into the
office or their parents will bring them to the office claiming that they’re depressed and I posed them a very simple question
that, and they feel like there’s something wrong with them, and I pose them a very simple question. If there’s a person sitting to your left and they just lost a family member and they told you they’re sad
and this happened a week ago, would you think there’s
anything wrong with them? – Right.
– No. Well, explain why you feel
that there’s something wrong with you and they stutter
– Yeah. – and they don’t know how
to answer that question. – Because my loved one is suffering, I want you to stop it,
I’m supposed to stop it. – Yes.
– Yeah. – It becomes difficult,
especially in certain conditions where we have some inequalities
because they exist, disparities, unfortunately, in our nation and our world do exist.
– Yeah. – We have families who,
because of a lack of income, the zip code where they grow up in, they have worse health outcomes. They suffer more, they
have more likelihood of developing depression-anxiety, they have more adverse childhood events. And with all of that, it really sets them for a situation as well,
what can I do to succeed if the whole system is against me? What’s your take on that situation?
– Yeah. Well, first of all, to think that the whole system is against me, that is stepping over
line into a distortion. So there’s no question that the wealth of your parents sets you up
for more opportunities in life, but the wealth of your
parents doesn’t set you up to be stronger it doesn’t set you up– – Or happier. – Or happier. What we learned and right in the book, because we were very attentive
to class differences, what we learned is that the
rise in depression-anxiety is happening to all races, all classes. There are some differences in degree but it’s happening across the board. And the sort of the
middle class and above, they do more of the helicopter parenting. They do more of the protecting the kids from adverse experiences. So you’d think that the upper class kids would be doing worse in
terms of depression-anxiety, but the lower class kids have more of, as you said, adverse childhood experiences like a scale that measures
the really serious trauma problems of childhood.
– Yeah. – So the working-class kids,
or poor kids, I should say, are exposed to more violence,
they have worse health care, so they have obstacles there. But those that make it through
could end up being tougher. And so the immigrant
story, so for your parents, for my grandparents.
– Yes. – My grandparents came from
Russia and Poland also, they all came here very poor, you know, the typical Jewish
immigrant story in 1905. You know, they all came here with nothing and worked hard and that whole generation of Jewish kids born, that
first generation born in America grew up to be very successful. – Yeah. – And this is still happening
for a lot of Asian immigrants. So the American dream is not dead. Inequality is big and has
been rising in recent years and recent decades, so
I don’t want to deny that the obstacles are higher. – Sure.
– But to say that the whole system is stacked against me, well, that is harmful,
not true, not necessary. What you can say is my
climb will be steeper. That’s a different thing
– Yes. – than saying everyone’s against me. – You’re putting a rational thought to replace the… – That’s right.
– This sort of thing. – There’s the truth of it,
you have a disadvantage. You have a disadvantage.
– Yes. – But a disadvantage can
become an advantage if it ends up making you stronger
– For sure. – especially now that the more, with the wealthier segments of our society are raising their kids
to be weak, fragile, depressed and anxious.
– Yes. For sure. I think a concept that I talk about often, I’d love to get your
take on it is the concept of post-traumatic growth. Because we oftentimes immediately
hear PTSD, PTSD, PTSD. – Yeah.
– And it’s important to talk about PTSD because
mental health stigma needs to be broken down.
– Yeah. – We need to be comfortable
talking about it. But we don’t talk about the other end of the spectrum which is
– That’s right. – the post-traumatic growth. And I see examples of this on the regular. I host events for charity nonprofits and I’ll see folks who have gone through cancer multiple times themselves, their family members have gone through, and here they are leading a coalition, raising money, sharing their experiences. And the things that they all say, in fact, I just had a very popular
YouTuber who is blind, Molly Burke, sat on my couch with me and tell me she would never
change her vision issue. – Yep, yeah.
– Because it’s made her this life that,
– Yep. – not necessarily it doesn’t define her, but it’s given her that challenge
that now she’s risen above and it gives her meaning in her life. – Yeah. – This is such an important
idea to get across. I wish this idea was more widely-known. So I was very active in the
positive psychology movement which began around 1998, 1999. Martin Seligman got together young people who were studying the, sort of, the neglected positive side of psychology. – Yeah.
– Of course, when you work on trauma and violence and addiction, but nobody was studying happiness or thriving.
– Sure. – And one of the research lines that was very important early on and it’s really panned out
beautifully is exactly this. It’s called post-traumatic growth. But the general finding
is that if you look at people who’ve been through, you know, a car accident, you
know, a cancer diagnosis, all sorts of bad things,
and you find you see how are they doing a few years later, some are traumatized
but that’s pretty rare. PTSD is not very common. But most people grow. Most people at least say
that they are stronger. One of the big things is you find out who your friends really
are and those relationships get much deeper. You develop, generally,
more sensitivity to others and you tend to care less
about career success. Your values change, you care more about people and connections. – Sure. – So it’s a beautiful fact
about our species that, in fact, it’s like we’re antifragile, that when something, you
would get knocked really hard, we tend to come back better. – Yes. – So again, not two
minimize, not to say oh, everyone should go out and have a trauma, not that.
– No, for sure. – But we have to change
our conception of people. If you think of people as
fragile and you protect them and you assume they’re traumatized and they need therapy because of a loss, you’re making things worse. – I think this is a really good time to sort of bridge the gap
and talk about how currently, in our political spectrum,
I feel like the rise of tribalism and forming tribes and groups against
– Yeah. – certain parties is widely known. I mean, I work in a hospital setting and this is discussed every single day.
– Politics, like, left-right politics?
– Politics, yes. And I always found myself in the center from a political sphere, and
then when I enter the hospital and I hear how, even
behavioral psychologists, speak on the subject of
whether or not someone is all good or all bad, or
– Oh yeah. – they label them something,
– Yeah. – it puzzles me how a
person with the knowledge of CBT can go ahead and
do the exact opposite on a larger scale.
– Yeah. – My own research is, as I said, is on morality and politics. And in my book, “The Righteous Mind”, I start from a sort of
an evolutionary story of who are we, what kind
of creatures are we? And the amazing thing about humanity is that we’re able to form
groups to cooperate groups where we’re not related to each other. So there are a lot of other
animals on this planet that can work in groups,
they’re almost always siblings. So bees, ants, wasps,
termites, naked mole-rats, they build these gigantic colonies, it’s because they’re all
children of one mother so they’re all in the
same boat genetically. The only species on
earth that can cooperate in large groups that’s not related is us. And the really cool trick
that we evolved, I think, is religion, that is, you
look at traditional societies, they always have religious rituals. They often involve
making something sacred. It could be a rock or a tree
or an ancestor or a book, and then you circle
around it, you worship it, you defer to it, you act
as though it is inviolable, and in doing so, you
bind yourselves together. So this is human nature. That doesn’t mean that we’re
always in a tribal mode. And when you have, that’s
what’s so great about through the modern liberal
secular Western tradition is that it developed a way of living that dampened down the
tribalism and the religiosity, as a public factor, so
you can be religious in your private life,
but the public square is secular and it ends up being very open and tolerant of immigration and diversity. So we’ve been kind of
suppressing our groupishness and our tribalism pretty
successfully for a long time, and now it’s coming roaring back. It’s terrifying, it’s really terrifying. – Yes. – You know, I’m older than
you, I was born in 1963. When I was born, there was literally, you know, laws against black people using bathrooms and water fountains. I mean, where America was
when I was born compared to where we were by the
year 2000, it’s stunning, absolutely stunning
– Sure. – how much progress we made. The extension of rights,
tolerance, and now, in so many ways, we’re going backwards, and a lot of it is because of
the ramping up of tribalism. There’s a lot of causes of it that go back before social media, but
I do think social media is one of the largest single
ones and it terrifies me. – Why do you think it’s
one of the largest ones? – So the few political causes,
there’s kind of a America, the Republicans and the Democrats
used to be kind of mixed. There were liberal Republicans and there were conservative Democrats and that kind of was
unnatural and that kind of straightened itself out
in the the ’70s and ’80s and, that has nothing to do with media, but the the cross-partisan hatred really began increasing,
it begins going up when we have cable TV. So America had three television
networks and a few others but we had a very
centralizing media ecosystem for several decades. And that put us all on the same page. Everybody watched the same news, we all had the same facts. There were still politics,
there was still debate, but we all have the same basic facts. When cable TV comes into the 1980s, now you can have narrowcasting, before it was called broadcast. It’s to everybody.
– Yep. – Narrowcasting, because now
we can just target this group, give them different facts, make them angry and then this will help
both sell our products and motivate them to
vote or whatever it is. So cable TV begins the
process of narrowcasting and then the internet comes along. Now, the internet is a wonderful
thing, I love the internet, but it allows everyone
to confirm whatever it is that they want to believe. So you get more conspiracy
theories, you get more sort of crazy beliefs, you
get more false beliefs. So the internet has huge benefits and a lot of costs as well. But it’s really social media that takes the internet and allows the creation of, not just communities
of interest, you know, like Myspace could have been like, here, come to my space, like, look at it. It’s really social media puts us all into this incredibly rapid feedback loop where we get to train each other. Like, you expressed an
opinion that I think is, you know, is wrong or I’m gonna ding you, I’m gonna say something bad
and that’s gonna, you know, 1000 little things like
that are gonna train you to be politically correct for, you know, for this group or this group
– Yes. – or that group. So we don’t just have
people separating by choice, we have people separating
by Pavlovian conditioning, or not Pavlovian, I’m
sorry, operant conditioning, it’s operant conditioning. So social media, I think, once it comes in and you see this in the
polarization graphs, comes in around 2006 to 2009
is where it really begins to come in and that’s
where a lot of the, there’s a huge increase in cross-partisan
hatred in that time. – I think the social media companies bear some responsibility on this. – Yes. – Not only because of the way
they disseminate information based on, they can
target individuals based on likes, dislikes and all that, but also something I understand
very well is algorithms. – Yeah.
– So when I create a YouTube video figuring
out how to get the algorithm to share my video, it’s always easier to lend the most extreme view. And if the thing that’s being
served to all individuals is whatever they want to hear already, so they’re in their bubble,
– Yeah. – but then to the most extreme state, you’re essentially creating
radicalizing propaganda for these people.
– That’s right, exactly. – And this is for myself included. – Yeah. – So I feel like we
need to do a better job. I can’t really put it
on those companies to do because it’s not their
responsibility for our well-being, I don’t know, from a business standpoint. But what we can do as individuals or something that I
recommend to my patients is balance yourself, follow
people you disagree with. – Yes. – Read opposing ideas. Which is exactly in the book,
things, that you mention, in your book, that people are afraid of. That if an opposing idea comes in, it’s gonna hurt me, it’s gonna hurt. Well no, if they’re wrong
and you can prove them wrong, that’s gonna serve to your own benefit. – Yeah. In general, I agree with
that advice but I think it’s really important to
follow the best thinkers on the other side, not the worst, not the loudest.
– Sure. – And so, you know, Twitter, I mean, yeah, if you’re on Twitter,
yeah, it is a good idea but you should try to
follow, if you’re on the left you should find some
thoughtful conservatives. If you’re on the right you should find some thoughtful liberals. So I was always on the
left and when I wrote “The Righteous Mind”, I committed to understanding conservatives and so I’ve subscribed to National
Review Magazine which is like, I think, some of the
best conservative writing. I started watching Fox News and stuff which was not as high-quality.
(Mike laughs) So do expose yourselves to
things on the other side, but I would disagree that, I know, I think we can put a lot on
the social media companies. I heard a great metaphor from Kara Swisher who writes about tech issues in the New York Times.
– Yeah. – “You built a shiny new city, “you covered all the
walls with advertising, “you invited us in until the point “where we now basically live in your city. “It never occurred to you to
put in a police department, “a fire department and a hospital? – Sure.
– “You never thought “of these things? “And now people are really getting hurt. “Lives are being destroyed,
people are being fired “for a thing they said and
you bear no responsibility “for this city that you built?” I’m extremely alarmed that social media is devastating Gen Z’s mental health and is making democracy untenable. I actually think that it is
incompatible with democracy. It brings out all the
worst features of democracy that the Greeks, the
ancient Greeks talked about, the Founding Fathers talked about. So I think the social media platforms bear an enormous responsibility
for the mental health of kids, of teenagers,
all around the world. We’re talking hundreds
of millions of people. And I think they’re gonna
bear some responsibility for what’s happening to our democracy and for democracies
that are going to fail. – What do you think these
social media companies can do to limit that damage? – So the first thing I
think they need to do is take the mental health data seriously. Three or four years ago
they could hide behind, saying well, the studies are mixed. It’s true that there are some studies that seem to say there’s no damage but there are so many more studies, it is unbelievable, that
maybe you can put some of the images up later.
– Sure. – I mean, the hockey stick graphs, especially for girls, the
evidence that social media is part of the cause is now climbing. It’s now pretty solid that social media is a major contributor and one clear sign is that the group that is up the most, the group that’s being decimated
is 10 to 14 year-old girls. Their rates of self-harm
and suicide have more than doubled, in some cases, tripled. So one of the first things
they can do, I think, is we need to say nobody
gets a social media account until they’re 16. You know, 10 years ago we thought well, maybe this will be good for kids, maybe it’ll give them ways to be creative. It could have been but it’s not. – (laughs) Yeah.
– It’s destroying a generation of girls. So raise the age to 16. You know, kids will still have ways to connect but just not in this, not in, you know, especially Instagram. And then require verification, you have to have some proof that
you’re a real person. We should not be letting
people get Twitter accounts and elsewhere without
any proof that they’re a real person who’s accountable
if they make threats. – For sure.
– Then three is settings that anyone can use to
make their town square be a better town square. So like on Twitter, they talk about, we want to be the town square
and have better discussions of democracy.
(Mike mutters) But if it’s full of anonymous people who can, you know, throw
tear gas in your face and then run away and, you know, it’s not a good town square.
– Yes. – So what I’d like to do is I’m hoping the social media companies will be able to code the degree to
which people, you say, aggression or hostility, obscenity, and especially on the
positive side, nuance, like there are some people who will say, even on Twitter you can
say I agree with you on X but disagree on Y, like,
wow that’s the kind of person I want to interact with. – Yes. – So what if I could set
it so that my universe of Twitter people is only
people who have verified the real person, who have
agreed to use their real name, and who score above zero on, you know, like some hostile, or some, you know? – Yeah.
– So that rather than having whatever it
is, you know, 800 million or however many, rather than 800 million, there’s only 100 million,
but it’s the people are high-quality Twitter users. We’re not judging left-right.
– Yeah. – We’re not judging, we’re just judging, you know, basic civility. – Oftentimes when people
talk about social media, they talk about trolling.
– Yeah. – And that happens a lot,
that happens to everyone, it happens to me, and people say well, why don’t you get upset
when someone writes something negative on your page? And I say well, you
know, I think it depends. You have control over how you
feel when people say things to you and if like a
seven year-old comes up to me and says ah, you look funny. To me, I have the choice not
to get upset at this or not. And to me, a seven
year-old, their opinion, what does it matter to me?
– Yeah, right. – So I brush it off. But then when it comes to social media, that person doesn’t have a face, you don’t know who that
is and people are quick to assume that’s their peer. That’s someone who knows
them, that doesn’t like them, meanwhile it could be someone
half across the world. – Yeah, that’s right.
– It can be a bot. It can be a five year-old,
it could be a 10 year-old and you don’t know who that person is. – Yeah, well that’s right. A town square presumes the idea of a town. And a town means that
they’re people who live there and who see each other repeatedly. Most of us would like to have some, there’s many good things that happen when you have a town square. But what if instead of a town square, all there is is in a
giant city there’s a place where anyone can go and wear
a mask and carry weapons, not weapons that will
kill you, but weapons that will hurt you.
– Yeah. – And most people there are perfectly fine but five or 10% love to whip people. They just, it’s fun
for them so they do it. And so if you go there,
you’ll probably get whipped, just a few times, who
the hell would go there? – Yeah, exactly, yep.
– What a terrible place. But that’s what Twitter has created for us.
– Yeah. – Others too but Twitter especially
– Yeah. – This is what I don’t fully understand. As you’ve seen it, as
you work with teenagers, you work with kids of all ages? – [Mike] Yes. – Okay, as you’ve seen
it, with one kid like, you know, says something
nasty or humiliates or shares a photo, how does
everyone else around react? Is it that like lots of people cheer or is it that lots of people are horrified but they won’t say
anything and a few people, like what’s the social dynamics
of reward for bullying? – I think people, it
piques their curiosity. Because it almost gives
them an intimate look into that person’s life and see, it’s like a social experiment for them. And now all these people
are paying attention to this negative outcome,
that alone can fuel the anxiety of the person being bullied. – [Jonathan] Oh god, yeah. – Because now all, on top of you being in an awkward situation,
– Yeah. – all eyes on you.
– Yeah. – So it right away amplifies
the situation and causes you to want to turtle in, isolate yourself and that hurts social
interactions moving forward. – Right.
– You’re less likely to make new friends, when you’re less likely to make new friends, you have less challenges.
– Oh god, yeah, that’s right. Now that you’ve been
tagged as the loser kid that everyone had a good laugh at. Your description of how the
dynamics work reminded me of the the way the Romans would put on games in the Colosseum. So we had all kinds of competitions. And some were fair fights. But it was great fun for people to watch, you know, convict or someone
else who you knew that that’s the person who’s gonna be killed. Like, you know that this other person is gonna totally destroy them. And it’s, apparently, it
was great fun to watch that. – I think it’s like a combination of that cancel culture,
feeding the mob effect, where it feels like now as
a group we’re all against this one person.
– Yeah. – And it’s a concept
that you talk about in “The Righteous Mind”, I
think it’s the Hive Switch. – Right.
– But it’s being flipped in a very, it’s almost
being hijacked in a way that now we’re hijacking
it to hurt someone else. And some of this–
– Yeah, that’s right. Okay good, let’s explore that. – Yeah.
– ‘Cause I haven’t really connected the Hive Switch to
these social media issues. When I wrote “The Righteous
Mind” in 2011, you know, social media was a thing but
it wasn’t nearly as pervasive and it wasn’t as toxic back then. And so, what I was playing off of, is that people can be alone
or they can be in groups. We have this ability to go beyond groups. We have this ability to lose ourselves and merge with something larger. And most people, you know,
when I would study this and I was writing about
this, I’d ask my students at the University of
Virginia when I was there, you know, tell me about a
time when you lost yourself in a group, and it’s almost always a wonderful, ecstatic thing. It’s at a concert or a rave or a march – Yeah.
– or a religious, you know, often it would happen on
like a religious retreat. And almost always, people,
they lose themselves, they merge temporarily, they come back. They don’t want to now be aggressive or get rich faster they are
more loving and more open. So what I began to see
is there’s all kinds of ways that seem to almost push a button that resets our values,
makes us more loving. Near-death experiences do the same thing. I have a whole, I used to
study near-death experiences. We already talked earlier about
about post-traumatic growth. There’s all these ways to like
make yourself grow morally. One of the big ways is
this hive experience when people become just a cell in a larger body or a bee in a hive. If anyone’s been to
Burning Man, at Burning Man it’s quite literally when
you circle this burn, it’s a very religious, you
know, pseudo-religious ritual. But as you put it, this, like
the ability to come together, not to like worship
something and then go off and be more loving,
but let’s come together to kill this person.
– Common enemy. – Take a common enemy. That sure does bind
people together but with a tremendous social cost.
– Yeah. – Especially if you never
know whether you’ll be next. My god, I mean,
– Exactly. – The poor kids today. I get to speak to social,
to tech people now and then and I get to write on this topic. And I’m planning on
arguing for, and I think the data supports the idea, that the costs for preteens and early teens are so high that no benefits could really counteract. – Oh yeah, that’s–
– And the suicide rate doubling for girls is horrifying. What would you say the
age should be raised to? So that is, obviously people
can be on email and texting. – Sure, yeah.
– That’s not the issue. The issue is a social media account in which you’re managing your brand and you put things out and
lots of people comment. That’s what seems to be
bad for mental health. – Yeah. – At what age do you think kids should have such accounts?
– I think we should treat it just as we do any
mind-altering substance. Cigarettes, nicotine, alcohol. – Mind, yeah. – This is what it is. And I recently was on FOX Business and we were talking about how
Netflix hacks our neurology because it encourages us to binge watch. Every episode is programmed so well that it ends with that little bit
– Yeah. – where you want more, that
you need a little bit more, and social media is the same thing. And you constantly want more likes. If I take off two weeks from
YouTube and I don’t post, my views will drop dramatically because the algorithm doesn’t like that. – Oh wow.
– So they’re essentially– – The algorithm doesn’t like that. – Yes! – We must please the algorithms, wow. – It’s a god. This is classic addiction.
– Yeah, yeah. – And this has been talked
about not even by myself but by everyone else, but
I see it in my friends who have changed as a result
of social media and some have, I know that, for example, AA,
some of the strongest leaders within AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, are ones who’ve suffered with addiction before. And I think of myself as someone who got on social media early, was very addicted. I had narcissistic traits–
– You were in medical school, that’s not early. – I mean, early in the sense
that early in my career where, even for me, it gave
me, I was mature enough to notice it rather
early on, but it gave me those narcissistic powers where, look how many people like me. – Yeah. – And doing that to someone
whose mind hasn’t developed, there’s side effects. – Right. – Which is why, for example, vaping, is such a huge problem
in the teenage community because nicotine changes the development of the frontal cortex, our
decision-making abilities. – Right. – So I think social media is just another vape.
– Yeah. No, that’s beautifully put. I think a lot about the addiction aspects, I’ve never called it a
mind-altering substance, that’s really good.
– Yeah. – I’ll try to use that, I’ll credit you if it’s in writing,
– Okay. – if I can do that.
– Sure. – But let’s drill a little
deeper though because, so the research that I’ve been analyzing with Jean Twenge shows
that it’s not screen time which is so bad, you know,
– Yeah. – spending eight hours
a day on a screen pushes everything else that’s, it’s okay. But you’re right. Television, there was a
moral pinnacle for television and it turns out it didn’t
really rot our brains. Moral panic over video games,
still some mixed evidence but in general, it’s not nearly
as bad as people thought. Social media seems to be much worse. The problems seem to be very concentrated in social media use, heavy use, especially by girls, especially early. So to take your Netflix example, my sense is that Netflix is addictive in the way that you say but you know, the key thing about addiction is the speed at which you get the reinforcement. So with Netflix, it’s TV or movies, and then there’s that crucial moment when you’re influenced to click again or to let it run, whatever
it is, but that happens every 20 minutes or 40
minutes, whatever it is. Social media, the
feedback cycle is seconds and you can have hundreds,
within that 20 minutes, you could have hundreds. And of course, some kids are watching Netflix and on social media.
– Yes. – So I think the thing
to keep our eye on here is kids should not, we should not let kids be involved in social interactions that in which other people
are conditioning them, are reinforcing them on a rapid basis. So Netflix is okay, but Facebook and especially Instagram,
Twitter, Snapchat are not. That would be my suggestion. You know what, it’s funny
because I don’t want to villainize social media. – Why not?
– Because I don’t think social media is the culprit. – For, wait, for teen depression? – [Mike] Yes. – What else is there in every country? – I think its algorithm,
of behind the social media. – Okay.
– So I think when Myspace came out, we didn’t talk about. – Yeah, that is fair, Myspace
was not addictive in that way. – Because the algorithm is
what makes it addictive. It’s the neurological biohacking
that Facebook, Google, I mean, Instagram, when it first came out, was not a toxic place, it was actually one of those safe places.
– Right. – And then Facebook acquired, changed the algorithm completely
where it’s not time-based, where you’re seeing all of your friends, – Yeah. – what they’re doing, when they upload. Now it’s what do they
think you’re gonna like? You could only be exposed to this because you already like
it so here’s more of that. – Okay, so one possibility is that it’s the difference been an algorithm versus just unmediated connections.
– Interactions. – That’s one possibility. Another is that it’s the degree to which it fosters self presentation
and brand management of kids.
– Of course. – A third is the degree
to which it subjects kids to rapid behaviorist
Skinnerian-type conditioning by other kids, those are
three separate things. – Yep. – Perhaps there are forms of social media, perhaps we’ll find out
that of those three, maybe one is really bad
and one’s not so bad. So there may be forms of social media that are not unhealthy for kids. I personally doubt it because even, let’s take Instagram which is
much nicer than say, Twitter. – Yeah. – But apparently, you
know, the big problem for girls especially is that it’s so nice, look at this nice shot of me on vacation, look at this nice shot of me
having fun with my friends. I mean, everyone’s having
a great life except for me. So what do you do about that? How could you have social media that isn’t just constant social comparison? – I think, because it’s new, it’s that. And I think already I’m
seeing a shift away from it. I do feel like the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction
where people will sort of fight back against that sort of– – How, how will people fight back? – ‘Cause I’ve seen the
transition already happen. When Instagram first started, it was very low-quality pictures. So that if you even took a
decent picture of your dog, all of a sudden it got more likes. And now it’s gotten to the point where it’s like almost everyone is
a professional photographer and a professional editor. – Right, with yeah. – And now, and that became hot. And now when everyone has the ability to be a photographer, editor, post these ridiculous pictures where they don’t look like
themselves, it will get boring. That’s my prediction.
– Why do think that? Why will it get boring? – Because initially,
there was hype around it because it was new, that
look at her pictures, they’re better than mine. I want to mimic that,
I want to get better, I want to get popular. And now, even I see this in
influencer marketing place. If, let’s say, you’re a popular girl, a model, that posts bikini photos, which is quite popular on Instagram. Now the competition has gotten so intense that your value of what you
do has dropped significantly. And it’s not because your
value as a human drop, but your value on this site has dropped. – Which means your value as a human, as far as you perceive it… – And what’s happening,
those people now get less of a reward from that website. And I think as that
reward falls off, my hope, and I’m being maybe too optimistic here, is that it will shift. Specific traits being highlighted, those who make unique video content. And that’s already happening right now that we’re leaving the photography space, even on Instagram,
– Okay, okay. – and we’re moving towards video where it takes a little bit more skill to create something that’s engaging– – Okay, is it creative videos. Like I just, what the new Chinese thing, is it TikTok, what’s the new thing? – TikTok, yeah. – I just looked at it for a few seconds. – Sure, I’m not even very– – You know, if it’s things
that are creative and funny, I can see that could be good. If it’s here’s me presenting my brand, now I’m in a 15-second
video rather than a selfie, I think this is just gonna be bad. – I think that I look
at who’s become popular on social media, and
there’s a lot of folks who are toxic to the community that have become mega-famous. I mean, to the tune of
making 20-plus million from selling T-shirts. – Wow, a year?
– Yes, in a year. – Good lord.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah, forget about all the other
endorsements that they get. So this is ridiculous figures that we’re talking about here and– – Wow, winner take all market, that’s what it’s, wow.
– Here’s why I think in that way, because less of those people have come up in the last five years. – Oh, okay. – So we’re getting less
superstars who are just superstars because they’re themselves
or they act wacky, now people who are becoming popular are becoming popular for a reason. They’re talented at
singing, they’re creative, they do videos well.
– Okay. – They read books and
they share information. And I hope that trend will
continue, that we continue seeing more of that.
– Yeah. – I think our initial
crossroads, I don’t even know if you remember this, you went
on Ben Shapiro Sunday Special and I tweeted that I love
that you focused on nuance. Because it was an idea
that I’ve always had in the back of my head
that I feel like context is being lost, nuance is being lost. The exact tweet I tweeted at you, we’ll pop it up on the screen is that the difference between high blood pressure and hypertension is
one is a single reading and one is several readings. So right now if I get up and, you know, walk around the room and
check my blood pressure, I’m high blood pressure, it doesn’t mean I have hypertension.
– Right. – And that little bit of
nuance is so important because if I’m scaling my
research or my understanding of a group of people across population, I can make grave mistakes if
I lose sense of that nuance. And I feel with the way
that we discuss politics, the way that we discuss
humanitarian issues, we lose nuance. – So okay, I’m gonna turn to the camera and speak to the audience. – [Mike] Do it, – If you want a superpower going forward for the next decade, if
you want a superpower that very few of your
peers have, it is nuance. And what I mean by that is
in an age in which people are encouraged to make
these extreme judgments, to say all or nothing, in an age in which whether there are
pressures to take one side or the other, people who
can come into a situation and say hmm, I see what you’re saying. I understand, you know,
why you think that, that’s a very good
point, I agree with that. On the other hand, what
about in this case? Maybe that isn’t right in this case? That has a magical effect on people because we’re all ready to
go to war, we’re always ready to go to war.
– Yes. – And I am assuming, if we’re
gonna have a disagreement, I’m assuming you’re
not gonna give an inch, I’m not gonna give an inch. And an amazing thing happens
when you give an inch, when you acknowledge something
that the person said. That you take them by surprise, knock them out of their
certainty, their combat mode, and then there’s a sort of a power, if I make a concession to you, there’s a power of reciprocity
now you’re motivated to make the concession to me. And actually, I just read,
I just looked you up on, I think it was on Wikipedia. On your Wikipedia profile
it says something about how you read or profited
from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. – Yes. – That is one of the most
important books ever written. – Yeah. – So again, people watching this, get the book by Dale Carnegie,
– Yes. – “How to Win Friends
and Influence People”. It will give you superpowers. Gen Z was raised in this
social media maelstrom. And as companies are
hiring members of Gen Z, I’m hearing from a lot of business people that they’re having more trouble with their Gen Z employees. The Gen Z employees are more inflexible, they’re more moralistic. You know, not most, but there’s, you know, a few new employees
– Sure. – will call people out,
they’re causing all kinds of conflicts and problems. What they need is nuance. What they need is the ability, what they need is Dale Carnegie. – Yeah.
– So any Gen Z audience members,
– Yes. – if you read “How to Win
Friends and Influence People” and you convey that in a job interview, that you think in this nuanced way, they will see you as socially
skilled, not a social problem. – Very much agreed.
(gentle upbeat music) Sir, thank you so much for your time. – What a pleasure, what a pleasure. – Yeah, I mean, it’s
funny that we’re actually on YouTube right now and
we’re sort of advocating for limiting social media.
– Yeah, let’s not think of that, yeah. Well, YouTube is is better than Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. – (laughs) All right, so Google, you have the approval there. But thank you so much
for watching us, guys. If you have any questions,
drop ’em down below in the comments, you know
I’m very active there, I’ll try and chime in as much as I can. Perhaps we can do this again if there’s any new books released, any new studies released that
you’d like to talk about. As we say as always,
stay happy and healthy.