- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Because life is unfair.
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- And doing that to someone whose mind hasn't developed,
there's side effects.
- 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.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- That is one of the most important books ever written.
- 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.