The Social Media Beauty Cult

Too Beautiful: The Social Media Beauty Cult

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines the link between social media sites that emphasize appearance with a growing incidence of anxiety, depression, and anorexia.

The film features commentary from a psychologist, a sociologist, a philosopher, a former anorexic and a female rapper. The latter has become a strong figurehead in the movement to promote natural, “self-determined” beauty standards.

All agree that women have been dissatisfied with their bodies for generations. Social media sites like Instagram tap into these insecurities by promoting a “new normal,” in which all users must look like supermodels to be rewarded with clicks, likes and emojis.

The video goes on to explore new social media sites devoted to women’s body building cults; the ubiquitous trend to portray women as objects of desire in advertising (remember “sex sells”); and the vicious online attacks directed against women who achieve public prominence in previously male-dominated fields (eg journalism, search, and government. The online attacks directed at these women are always sexualized in a way that dehumanizes them and belittles their appearance.

Typical comments they get include “You’re ugly,” “You’re fat,” “No one would want to fuck you,” and “You must suck in bed.”

Sociologically this phenomenon to relates to a mistaken belief promoted by right wing media that girls and women have “taken over” and that women are better educated and better off financially than men.

 

Treating Depression with LSD Microdosing

LSD: Microdosing LSD in the Name of Self-Improvement

DW (2019)

Film Review

As it’s title suggests, this documentary concerns LSD “microdosing,” a fad originating with Silicon Valley tech executives. They discovered that tiny doses (10-15 micgrograms) of LSD greatly improved their mood, energy, focus and creativity. Microdosing has since taken off in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The film begins with testimonials from anonymous German microdosers who believe that LSD has totally turned their life around. One man whose depression failed to respond to any other treatment (including antidepressants, psychotherapy and alternative medicine) finally obtained relief after a brief period of microdosing.

Filmmakers also interview Paul Austin, a Silicon Valley microdosing coach, and James Fadiman, leading expert on LSD and psilocybin microdosing and author of the 2011 Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

Researchers in Germany and Switzerland are conducting double blind studies of LSD microdosing. At doses between 10-15 mg, their subjects experience a clear improvement in concentration, mood and anxiety in contrast to placebo control groups. Moreover, unlike antidepressant trials, there are no apparent adverse effects.

The film also looks at promising double blind research of the psychedelic psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) in treating depression. Unlike LSD, “shrooms” are legal in the Netherlands and have been decriminalized in a number of US cities. Portugal legalized all mind-altering drugs in 2001 (see British Medical Journal Calls for Legalization of All Drugs)

Other research has shown psilocybin and other psychedelics to be helpful in treating PTSD and alcoholism. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico

 

The Healing Benefits of Forest Therapy

The Healing Forests of India

Directed by Nitin Das (2019)

Film Review

An exquisitely beautiful documentary about the field of forest therapy – a form of healing is most practiced in India and Japan (which has 50 healing forests).

There are numerous studies demonstrating the calming effect of forests on children. Research from both India and Finland show that holding classes there makes children calmer, helps them focus better and reduces misbehavior and violence. It’s especially effective for kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Research in adults reveals that the forest environment can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol* levels, inflammation, depression, stress and anxiety. At the same time, it also improves serotonin** levels and immunity. Forest therapy has proved helpful in treating diabetes, hyperthyroidism and addictions. In young people, it helps alleviate depression and anxiety stemming from excessive social media exposure.

It makes perfect sense that people would find forests more inducive to health than overcrowded hyper-polluted cities. As one researcher reminds us, human beings co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with forest plants and animals. This means our bodies are programmed to thrive in the presence of other living beings.

The recommended dose of forest therapy is five hours a month.


*Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone.

**Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere that is believed to mediate mood.

 

Plugged In: The True Toxicity of Social Media

Plugged In: The True Toxicity of Social Media

Directed by Richard Grannon (2018)

Film Review

This documentary examines the apparent link between widespread social media addiction and the spike in suicide rates among teens under 17. Depression has increased 70% over the last decade, with suicide rates increasing by 50% in girls and 30% in boys. In the same period, hospital admissions for eating disorders have doubled. This appears to relate to pervasive social media emphasis on personal appearance and staying thin.

The filmmakers interview pediatricians, psychologists, social media activists and teen victims of cyberbullying. They also examine whistleblower claims about Facebook deliberately designing platforms to produce the same dopamine* triggers that mediate addiction. The obvious goal is to create compulsive desire to spend more and more on Facebook, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook). The more time you spend on Facebook, the more ads you see and the more profit you generate

Adults who regularly interact with teens will only be too aware of their constantly pinging smartphones. In many cases, they seem incapable of giving real life interactions their full attention. Psychologists worry we are setting up a whole generation to transition to adulthood with defective social skills.

The film also explores the tendency of these platforms to reinforce personal narcissism and of all social media platforms to reinforce confrontation, aggression and hate speech.

I was surprised to learn that as of 2018, 60% of all social media posts were selfies. The teens interviewed reveal their selfie posts are rewarded with more likes than any other posts. At the same time, they report problems with chronically low self-esteem for failing to measure up to their friend’s posts.

While not mentioned in the film, I have had concerns for several years now that social media addiction may actually be a gateway drug – setting young people up for other dopamine-related addictions (amphetamines, cocaine, heroine, and nicotine). The deadly opiate addiction currently plaguing the US and other developed countries may be no coincidence.

At number of addiction specialists seem to agree with me:

Drug Addiction Relating Topics Social Media

Social Media The Gateway Drug

Social Media Addiction

 


*Dopamine is neurotransmitter that stimulates brain pleasure centers. Rats wired up to self-administer dopamine to their brain pleasure centers will keep pressing the lever until they drop dead from starvation and dehydration.

Jane Goodall: Animal Rights Champion

Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe

by Jane Goodall

Guernsey Press Limited (2000)

Book Review

In this book, primate ethologist Jane Goodall sums up her remarkable career studying the wild chimpanzees at the mountainous Gombe Reserve in modern day Tanzania. She was drafted for the project by renowned British anthropologist Dr Louis Leakey. Also she completed a PhD in ethology in 1965, at the time she had no education beyond high school. As she recounts in the book, this placed her advantage because she was not bound by prevailing biases about higher mammal (eg the absence of a “mind” in non-human animals that made them incapable of experiencing complex emotions).

In the course of her research, Goodall offered the first evidence that chimpanzees both make and use tools (it was long believed only humans could do so), that they engaged in war (during periods of food scarcity) on other chimpanzie groups, that there are capable of generalization and abstract thinking and that, like humans, they experience enduring family bonds, cooperate in hunting, care for the sick, grieve for the dead, share food, and experience depression and fear.

The book is primarily a collection of anecdotes about the chimp families she and her staff observed over her 30 year involvement with the Gombe Reserve. Chapters are organized by topic, such as sexual behavior, infant rearing, war, male dominance behavior, foster parenting and maternal death and depression in adolescent and adult chimps.

In the last chapter, she rails against the persistence of poachers (in the late eighties) who kill mother chimps to steal their infants for research labs and as pets. She goes on to describe her visits to the National Institutes of Health and other research labs and her horror at the inhumane conditions they are kept in.

In Appendix 1, she makes a passionate argument against the use of higher mammals in scientific research. In addition to demolishing the common argument that torturing research animals is essential to prevent human suffering, she points to numerous modern alternatives (eg tissue culture, in vitro studies and computer simulation).

Sea otters also use tools: Sea Otters’ Stone Tools Provide New Clues for Anthropologists

Pill Pushers in Suits: The Addition Potential of Psychotropic Medication

 

Overpill: The Darker Side of America’s Mental Health

RT (2017)

Film Review

Overpill is a documentary based on the investigation of a Russian-born accountant into the massive overprescription of psychotropic drugs (medications for depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD) in the US. He became aware of the issue while working for Health Care Communications, a company that markets prescription drugs to Americans for ordinary problems of living. He undertook this investigation after becoming romantically involved with a woman who was addicted to antidepressants and antispsychotics while, despite experiencing horrendous side effects.

The film features extended interviews with former patients who got their lives back after the excruciating ordeal of weaning themselves off medication, with others still struggling with side effects while weaning themselves off, with a malpractice attorney who represents patients experiencing permanent and painful psychotropic complications and Dr Peter Breggin, a controversial American psychiatrist and outspoken critic of the overuse of psychotropic medication.

Both men are alarmed by the deliberate effort by pharmaceutical companies to conceal the addictive potential of antidepressants and antipsychotics, as well as studies showing these drugs can permanently alter the submicroscopic architecture of the brain. This is of special concern with the growing number of psychotropics prescribed in children with developing brains. There are virtually no studies of the long term effect of these drugs in either adults or children.

While the film acknowledges that psychotropic medication can be literally life-saving in some patients with severe mental illness, it rightly points out there are far too many cases in which they’re being inappropriately prescribed.

As a class psychotropic drugs (which are heavily marketed to consumers), are the third most profitable for the pharmaceutical industry.

 

Psychedelics: A Miracle Cure for PTSD?

Soldiers of the Vine

Directed by Charles Shaw (2016)

Film Review

This documentary traces the experience of six US veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who undergo treatment with the psychedelic ayahuasca, owing to their failure to respond to conventional treatment.*

Ex-GIs who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer extremely high rates of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and suicidal depression. They commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population and US prisons, mental hospitals and homeless shelters are full of disabled veterans.

Studies show that psychedelic drugs, such as ayahuasca and ibogaine** are often helpful in treating heroin addiction and alcoholism. Their use in PTSD is still experimental.

In the film the six veterans travel to the Amazon jungle, where ayahasca is viewed as a sacred plant, to undergo a nine day healing ceremony with an indigenous shaman.


*Western medicine has no recognized treatment for PTSD.

**Ibogaine is legal for treating drug addiction in over 190 countries, including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Russia, China and Ukraine. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Costa Rico (and Canada and Mexico).