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Haven’t we always done this though?

It seems like it’s more that social media has made the playing field 10^9 instead of 10^3.


It's more insidious than that though. The most damaging aspect of it is that these anxieties are evoked 24/7 thanks to social media companies trying their best to get their userbase addicted to their product to maximize user engagement.

Back in the day, you might have felt those social pressures, but only in limited settings and ultimately you could control the situation by removing yourself from anxiety invoking situations. There was ample room for getting a mental break from these situations.

But social media completely destroys any respite anyone could possibly have. They exploit the FOMO feeling as best they can to essentially guilt their users to constantly "engage" on their platform, which leaves the end user pretty helpless in being able to seek respite from these negative social pressures. I'm only 35 and I haven't used social media in any meaningful way for 5+ years and it has been the best decision ever. I don't really miss out on much and I definitely am much happier than when I had to wade through all the crap people post on social media just to keep up appearances in the social media rat race.

That’s my take. The bigger downside IMO is that the most successful people, i.e. experts, at something exist in the 10^9 social group, rather than the 10^3, and likely multiple experts exist in the 10^9 space.

A strange side effect is that the digital world also amplifies the outliers and makes the others in the large group of people seem non existent, leaving you to feel like you are majorly behind, when the reality is you are likely closer than most.

Yep. The problem with social media is that it exploits and amplifies existing human tendencies, not that it creates new ones.

Bill Maher had a good "New Rule" on this very phenomenon a few weeks ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGp-omDD3V0

pre social media was 10^3?

I was thinking more "10 to 20". I suppose from person to person and at different stages of life the filter of who is appropriate for your playing field might change. . but even 10^2 seems high. I can barely name 20 critically important people in my life let alone those which are on my playing field. I have managed this, a bit unconsciously. Generally when my field is managed in line with my conscious values I'd only regard a person who I know and respect professionally. Further filtering on whether I actually feel like I personally (not just professionally) know the person.

curious what a different playing field mechanism might be described as

As sibling comment hints, you have multiple concepts mixed together.

The monkeysphere is "how many people you can comprehend as people with their own full lives", and is on the order of 150-300.

"Critically important" in your life is a far higher bar, so 10 to 20 makes sense.

"Playing field" is a far lower bar where only the relevant metric matters, which widens the range to a far larger number of people.

For most people it's supposedly something like 10^2.5 or ~300 people in your monkey sphere of varying levels of importance. So, in an exponential sort of way its decent rounding :P

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