What Do You Get Out Of Social Media?

The Internet plays an important role in our everyday lives. We use it for work, for pleasure, for communication, and for collaboration. Dominating the Internet are social media giants that facilitate building online communities, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you are reading these words, chances are pretty good that you use at least one such website or app.

A lot of research goes in to designing the various social media platforms to encourage their use. As a result, we spend hours and hours scrolling though shared posts, tweets, pictures, and videos.

The negative aspects of these platforms can vary from obvious to obscure. Time spent using them is time not spent doing other things, which in theory could be more productive: reading, interacting directly with friends and neighbors, taking classes, engaging in a hobby. Interaction with short bits of information fractures our attention span and makes it harder to concentrate. Leaked personal information has been used to manipulate individuals without their knowledge or consent.

Social media can contribute positively as well. We use it to get a job, make romantic connections, keep up with friends or family that live far away, and to build communities that share specialized interests.

Evaluating these pros and cons is important for everyone to do. What are some of the other advantages and drawbacks of social media? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

It is easy to see why social media companies exist. People love to interact with each other, and the digital world is another place for that interaction. A successful social media app or platform can be very popular, lucrative, and influential. The companies want your attention, and once they have it they can use that collective attention for their own goals or purposes, like selling goods and services.

But what benefits do individuals get from using them? What do you get out of social media?

Related questions: How does your vocabulary influence how you think? Why do we feel the need to belong? How do you know who to trust? What makes a community? What is social media?

Are Science And Religion Compatible?

In today’s society, science and religion are often framed as being at odds with each other. It is often assumed that religion, which relies on faith in a higher power, and science, which advances through proven, verifiable steps, are fundamentally different and cannot be reconciled.

And yet, some of the most acclaimed and successful scientists have been deeply religious people. For example, Isaac Newton, who made great strides in mechanics, mathematics, and optics, also wrote religious tracts interpreting Bible passages.

On the other hand, religion has sometimes stood in the way of scientific progress. Perhaps the most famous instance involves Galileo, who was placed under house arrest by the Pope for declaring that the earth travels around the sun and not the reverse.

Returning to today, scientists sometimes feel under attack from some political or religious groups. 2017’s March for Science, centered in Washington, D.C. but with protests around the U.S. and the world, was in response to these attacks. Issues like climate change are controversial and generate polarized views.

It can’t be argued that science has been beneficial to our society. Many of the advances that are available in our modern world, from improved medical procedures to smart phones and the Internet, came about because of applications of science. Religious and non-religious people alike share in the benefits of those advances.

Religion, also, has benefits to society. Churches provide a place and a reason to come together to foster a sense of community and establish shared values. Many religious organizations contribute to or run charities, to help those in need.

Efforts have been made to reconcile the two systems of beliefs. Some people suggest that science and religion operate on different planes, with science a useful tool in understanding the physical world, and religion dealing with the spiritual side of life. It may be that the two are not just compatible, but in fact are dependent on each other. The excesses of each could be curbed by the other.

So which is it? Are science and religion inherently in conflict with each other, or can a way be found for the two to exist side-by-side? Are science and religion compatible?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? When is doubt helpful? How can we encourage debate? What makes a community?

How Can We Become Better Listeners?

Listening to others is hard. If someone else says something you don’t agree with, the overwhelming impulse is not to listen, but to explain why you disagree.

But that impulse is not always correct. Often, you have to hear why someone believes something before you can try and change their mind. And that means it is important to listen to what they have to say, no matter how wrong-headed or incorrect you might think they are.

As a society, we are currently divided into two (or more) isolated camps. I often hear that we don’t talk to each other, but I think the problem is really that we don’t listen to each other.

Beyond our political or social climate, studies in management show that to make an effective team, the members of that team need to feel that they are heard. To get team investment in a particular strategy or course of action, all team members need to feel they have a stake in setting that course.

Even when arguing with a spouse or a romantic partner, it’s possible to hear the words, but to miss the underlying message that is causing the disagreement.

In each of these cases, listening to others is important. And yet it is a difficult skill to learn, to really listen to what others have to say. It seems like it should be easy to do — after all, we all know how much we want to be heard ourselves, so why do we find it so hard to allow others to feel like they are heard?

I think that maybe it is because we feel no one listens to us that makes us bad listeners. If I feel that the person I am talking to isn’t listening to me, then my effort is on making them hear me, not on hearing them.

So how can we break this cycle? How can we listen to someone else, and let them know that what they have to say is heard, so that they in turn can be willing to hear what we have to say? What are the tools that allow us to do that? How can we sort through the extraneous information, like insults or unnecessary detail, to really hear what is at the core of another’s message?

How can we become better listeners?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What is necessary to change your mind? What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate?