By Molly Butler

Instead of watching the election results start to roll in, on Tuesday night my mom and I split some wine and watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix. I’m not sure we chose the less upsetting option.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. For someone who has always had some form of social media since high school, it was eye opening and terrifying. One quote that stuck out to me from Edward Tufte, a statistician and professor at Yale. He said, “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”

When you use social media, a seemingly free service, the payment is your attention. Algorithms are designed to get your eyes on the screen to get more ad revenue. They want to capture your time and keep it. The result is a constantly ringing Pavlov’s bell designed to keep you addicted to scrolling, clicking, posting, engaging. And these algorithms don’t have some sort of morality to prevent you from going down whatever rabbit hole will grasp your attention the most.

While many of us like to think we are using these sites to share friendship and positivity, the truth is emotions like fear and anger are much easier to manipulate. The most profitable model for social media is addiction. And at some point, reality itself is not clickable enough to warrant our attention. So, there’s fake news. There are wild accusations. Truth itself is now up for debate.

The people on the ‘other side’ are not stupid. They’re not crazy. They’re not even bad people. They are, in fact, just like you: human beings, with human emotions, who can be easily manipulated by software that is 10,000 times faster and smarter than one human brain.

This week on social media, I have seen this sentiment repeated over and over: “I can’t believe people are so stupid, so awful. I can’t believe anyone would think that way. They must be evil.” I have seen this sentiment expressed on all sides. Worse, I have seen people act on these sentiments. Over and over, people are moved to violence because of the world they are presented online, a world tailor-made to push their buttons.

In a country so very deeply divided, I want to suggest this perspective: The people on the “other side” are not stupid. They’re not crazy. They’re not even bad people. They are, in fact, just like you: human beings, with human emotions, who can be easily manipulated by software that is 10,000 times faster and smarter than one human brain.

I know that social media can do good things if it is used like a tool that helps us. A tool must be like a hammer or a sewing machine: unbiased, patient, there to help you, not to keep you glued in place for as long as possible.

The division, fear and hate we feel are not entirely man made. Whatever your perception of reality is today, if you use any form of social media, that viewpoint has been warped. We are being pushed into extremes.

If you’re open to it, please watch “The Social Dilemma.” Then, if like most of us, you’re unable to unplug altogether, at the very least reboot. Think about what you can do to improve your online experience: what to unfollow, apps to delete, the settings you can change to make your screen time less manipulative and more productive. And maybe, for one weekend, one day, even just a morning, leave the phone at home. This weekend, let’s unplug and reboot. This weekend, let’s be only human.

Friday

What could be more human than art? Head to the 410 Project from 7-9 p.m. for the opening reception of “Anywhere but Here” by Abby Daleki. Or check out Malia Wiley’s exhibit at the Art Center of Saint Peter, featuring her collection, “Stories in Painting and Crochet.” Ready to create your own art? The Mankato Makerspace is hosting stained glass classes, from 3-6 p.m. and then from 6-9 p.m. This week, they’re making sun catchers!

Sometimes it’s good to get an energetic pick-me-up. Try High Vibe Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Christy’s Crystals. I stopped in for its Halloween party and got myself one of the mystery bags. Such a fun shop! If you want to try something new, learn to curl with the Mankato Curling Club from 6:30-9 p.m. This is perfect for beginners and a great way to stay active through the winter.

Saturday

Be there for humans in need. Schell’s Brewery is hosting a food drive from noon to 7 p.m. Bring a canned food item in exchange for a free tap beer! I’ll be taking A Walk in Their Shoes with Connections Ministry to raise funds and awareness for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. The walk begins at 10 a.m. In lieu of an in-person Earth Conference, the Living Earth Center of Mankato will host an online event, Looking Back and Moving Forward, highlighting past conferences and exploring lessons to help move us forward.

Get a jump start on your holiday shopping. The Mankato Farmers’ Market is moving into the greenhouse at Drummer’s Garden Center and Floral. The GnomeMade Market is on in New Ulm. In St. Peter, you can shop the Holiday Market in the Arts Center and the St. Peter Craft and Vendor Show in the Saint Peter Armory. From 7:30 a.m-7 p.m., the Holy Rosary Catholic School is hosting its Grandma’s Attic Sale, featuring everything from holiday décor, furniture, books, crafts and more.

Sunday

Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery is raising a glass with its semi-annual Toast to Women. You can shop local vendors, check out the latest fashions, and, of course, drink some wine. Registration is available here. The Eagle Lake American Legion is hosting its Hog Roast for Heroes, a complimentary lunch for all area veterans and active military and their families. The event is open from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and all donations will benefit the South Central Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program.

Bonus: There’s no point in worrying

I’m not pushing a flippant “it’s not that bad, get over it” ideology. When it comes to our society, our nation’s future and the problems we face everyday, there are so many problems to resolve. But there’s a difference between planning and staying informed and spending hours doom scrolling online.

Take a break from the worrying. Unplug. Realize, for better or worse, you can’t control the outcome to most of the things you’re worried about. Relax. You’re off the hook. The world will keep spinning even if you do put your feed down for a few hours, or a day, or a week, or forever. Take a deep breath. Then find somewhere healthy to spend that energy.

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Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.

Author

  • Molly Butler

    is a writer, gardener, and animal lover. She returned to the Mankato area after completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University.

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