in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

Sunday Firesides: Benjamin Franklin Was Fine, and You’ll Be Too

We probably think we use social media as an entertaining distraction.

But the deeper drive underlying our urge to keep scrolling is the simple fear of missing out.

We ever feel we’re one swipe away from finding ideas that will help advance our careers, inspire our creativity — maybe even allow us to live forever — and that if we step away from our feeds, we will end up left behind and left out.

As an antidote to that (often subconscious) worry, it’s helpful to think of someone like, say, Benjamin Franklin, who lived before social media existed, and yet still managed to invent, create civic organizations, write books still quoted today, and help found a country.

When we consider Franklin’s social-media-free-yet-still-fully-flourishing life, certain assurances arise that we may lay hold of:

Trust that over thousands of years, humans have developed avenues — conversations, books, podcasts — that offer sufficient exposure to ideas that will optimize your thinking and creativity, while not sabotaging the attention span necessary to synthesize those ideas into something useful and original.

Trust that if you do have a problem in your life, you will feel prompted to seek out an answer, and can go directly to it, rather than wading through hours of TikToks for the solution to randomly arise.

Trust that if a scientific discovery was made that significantly enhanced human well-being, beyond the standard protocol of eating right, exercising, and getting sufficient sleep, it would be all over the news, and you wouldn’t have to watch a hundred reels to hear about it.

Trust that if social media was essential to living your best life, then given the proportion of the population who uses it, and the amount of time people spend on it, society’s health, happiness, and innovation would be leapfrogging forward, and it’s safe to say this isn’t the case.

Trust that Benjamin Franklin, as well as Plato, da Vinci, Tolstoy, Eisenhower, and every other eminent artist, philosopher, and leader of the past millennia (and your dad in 1990, to boot) was fine without Facebook, reddit, TikTok, X, and Instagram, and, if you decide to cut out or cut back on using these platforms, you’ll be fine too.


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