Artificial Pride is hurting you (and us)

May 09 2021|Written by Slimane Akalië|social media, Science

BBC: Boat, Beer and Coffee

Coffee tastes good, the internet is slow and some exhausted students in the corner of the coffee shop, that was typical for my weekends, suddenly one of the girls in my class pulled her phone to show us with envy something interesting on her Instagram feed, I take a look and it was a picture of a girl in a European country drinking a Heineken beer while taking a boat trip, that's also typical on Instagram but the weirdest thing is the reaction of other girls in my class to this content, I recognized this cocktail of silent smiles, admiration, and envy.

Fast forward to 2021, I was watching one of my favorite movies: "A beautiful mind", and a shot from that movie created a flashback to that moment in the coffee shop. John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) was talking to his fictional roommate Charles Herman (played by Paul Bettany),

John: "I need to look through to the governing dynamics. Find a truly original idea. That's the only way I'll ever distinguish myself, it's the only way that I'll ever..."
Charles: "Matter"
John: "Yes"

Pride in scientific research

In science and life in general, everyone tries to find meaning in their life, this journey takes some people to search for "The" meaning of life, some relate to religion without ever using their brain to ask questions about what their parents or religious institutions told them, some conclude that this question is unanswerable and most of us forget about this question and cover it (unconsciously) with busyness and tactics to face a type of challenges in our life (the dangerous part comes when we defeat our challenges).

In the knowledge age, professional careers became a way for us to define ourselves and find meaning in what we do (you can notice this in every Linkedin bio nowadays). And science is no exception, most scientists will put their name on anything they invent from Galileo's laws to Dijkstra's algorithm. And despite the noble mission to help humanity find answers and solutions, pride was and will be an important drive to scientific research and this explains what Russell Crowe was saying in "A beautiful mind", John Nash had to matter and this led him to make fundamental contributions in game theory and other fields as well. Of course, there are exceptions, the most modern one is Bitcoin that no one knows the real identity of its creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Artificial pride

Maybe you're wondering, What this has to do with the girl having a beer on Instagram? everything. With powerful tools like social media, it became easy to create a form of meaning in your life and get some form of pride without putting in the hours and cognitive effort to come up with something original like what John Nash came up with, and It gets more dangerous when you can yield financial rewards doing this.

Now you have something difficult if not impossible to resist, instead of pushing your brain to curate AIDS or starting the next Microsoft, or writing the next stoicism masterpiece, there is an easier shortcut to get the same dopamine hits, social pride, and maybe financial gains without much cognitive effort: open a social media account and start sharing every second of your life (maybe while sipping a Heineken beer on a boat).

The kind of pride that you get I chose to call it "Artificial Pride", and here is the catch, it's called artificial for a reason, when your identity and self-esteem defined by how many followers, subscribers, emojis, and likes you have, you can lose everything overnight.

The celebrity dilemma

Social media is making everyone a celebrity, and what happens for celebrities when they lose popularity? you guessed it, they lose their self-esteem and identity with it, and sometimes they use extreme tools to fix it like eating too much, drinking too much, or even suicide.

This doesn't hurt just the people who create on these platforms but worse, it limits our capacity to innovate and to tackle real problems that humanity faces today, imagine if Einstein had an Instagram or Youtube channel, probably he wouldn't have been able to focus in order to come up with his relativity.

Is there a solution?

So, the 1 million dollar question: what is the solution to all of this? answers to this question can be found in books like Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, but for me, the general process is asking myself some questions like:

  • Why am I posting this?
  • Is there someone that can benefit from it?
  • Can I share this without putting my name on it?
  • Will I be proud of this after 5 years from now?

If there is no good answer for these questions, probably the content I was willing to share will be kept in Google Keep or discarded altogether. But I'm not here pretending that I follow this all the time, as someone says on tools of titans "Wisdom is following your own advice", I have a Linkedin account, a Whatsapp account, and a Youtube channel, but I'm trying to be more conscious and use these networks as business tools (without sharing my private life for example), it's not easy but as Ryan Holiday said in Ego is the enemy "We might not ever be straight, but we can strive for straighter".

However, I'm not 100% anti-social media, I can understand their importance to create a customer base for a legit business and also to optimize communication costs in cases like video and audio calls, but being more aware of our usage of these platforms can help us tremendously, otherwise we will end up seeking artificial pride without creating something original in our lifetime.

Simple principle for 21st century

Because we talked about "A beautiful mind", I want to leave you with a simple principle: The more beautiful you try to look on social media, the uglier your mind becomes.

Thanks for your time.