I sat down with Czech journalist Zdeněk Strnad to talk about my book Social Media & The Seven Deadly Sins and how we can take steps to better look after ourselves on social media.
If you can read Czech you can view the original article here. If not I have used the translation tool DeepL to covert the text below.
Rory Wilmer absolves himself of his sins: only social networks and drug dealers have users
The British-born marketer, who currently lives in Prague, has written a book about the sins of social media. They know more about us than we do, says Rory Wilmer
Four billion people are addicted to social media. Half the world’s population, now nearly four billion again, is looking at their phones right now. As you read these lines. And Mark Zuckerberg would like to get the other half to do the same, says Rory Wilmer, a photographer and digital strategist from Liverpool who lives permanently in Prague.
His new book is called Social Media and the Seven Deadly Sins, but don’t expect any biblical references. Rather, he’ll show you what social media does to you and how easy it is to succumb to it. “The more I think about the principles that social media forces us to engage with, the more I realize how much their methods have in common with sins,” says Rory Wilmer.
“The concept of the seven deadly sins is valid all the time,” Rory adds. “Maybe even a little more so today if we consider the difference between how we behave on and off social media as a result of spending hours and hours a day on it.” The book itself has nothing to do with religion, according to the author. Unless, of course, you consider Instagram your god and Facebook your holy scripture.
Most experts agree that social media can be a good tool if we learn how to use it. You yourself are very active on social media, you have your own podcast… There is a Czech proverb that says: Fire is a good servant, but a bad master. Could the same be said about social media?
Only two groups talk about people as users. They are drug dealers and the companies that run social media. I’ve been using social media for a living for 20 years. Of course, there are many good things that social media can be used for, and in my book I also talk about the seven virtues that counterbalance the seven sins.
Social media makes us envious of each other. We’re jealous of others and dissatisfied with ourselves because social media constantly shows us how successful others are.
But in general, social media makes people addicted, which is bad for their mental health and overall well-being. This is due to the nature of surveillance capitalism and the way user data is now sold for advertising money. As for the Czech saying, I know another one: Speaking is silver, silence is gold. Maybe we say more on social media than we should. Maybe we should take a break.
The accompanying text to the book says of users, “Like Pavlov’s dogs, they eagerly await the red bell alerting them to a new message.” Do you have notifications turned off on your phone? For me personally, they’re the biggest hogwash. Without them, social media wouldn’t be so intrusive…
I don’t have any social media apps on my phone. And I don’t even have my work email on there. So I don’t even have any social media notifications. And I highly recommend it to everyone. Turn off your notifications because you’re just feeding your dopamine addiction day and night. I was nurturing communities with millions of fans on social media, so if I had notifications on, my battery would run out three times a day.
After all, the fact that people can communicate with each other virtually unlimitedly is a good thing. But as you write, it has the unexpected side effect of bringing out people’s darker sides. What are the desires in people that make a good invention almost the destroyer of communication?
The greatest and chief sin is probably envy. Social media makes us envious of each other. We are jealous of others and dissatisfied with ourselves because social media is constantly showing us how successful others are, showing us the good times and the perfect experiences. Many studies have confirmed that envy causes severe depression in very active social media users, and it doesn’t matter how old you are or what social group you are in.
The more you use social media, the more envious you become and the more it makes you post on social media in such a way that others in turn envy you. Jealousy is an incredibly destructive emotion, both internally and externally. And a lot of illnesses have a direct cause in the envy caused by social media and how social media makes you feel.
We’re both from Generation X, we both have kids. And I have to admit that kids, as I observe them, are far more adept at social media than we are and have unlimited reach on social media. Their teachers are not interested in something like social networking. Yet it is largely a child’s world. Can reasonable boundaries be set for children?
Fortunately, my kids don’t use social media. They think it’s embarrassing. They don’t care about Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or any of the other social media we use. They know about them, they can navigate them and find what they need, but the networks themselves don’t really interest them.
Social Media & Seven Deadly Sins
This is the first book by Rory Wilmer, a marketer, professional photographer and globetrotter originally from Liverpool, who is currently based in Prague. Rory defines the book as a “dopamine hit”. In it, he describes how social media has created billions of users who are addicted to their social status through the release of endorphins when they receive likes. He also mentions our “digital wellbeing” and the changing morality that has been hijacked by the unregulated use of social media and how it has crept into controlling every aspect of our lives.
They move more in gaming communities or on Discord, it reminds me a bit of the old days when we had IRC and discussion servers. My kids are the alpha generation, the generation that will colonize other planets for humanity and take us beyond the solar system. They will be the rulers of the multiverse. If you have children who regularly use social media, stop them. It’s killing them. And the sooner you get them off it, the better.
What motivated you to write this book? You’re the messiah, is this book kind of your indulgence? Or do you just want to be useful?
After 20 years in digital marketing, I really wanted to confess my sins. It was a lot and it took a long time. You just feel like you’re covered in mud. It’s time to wash the dirty laundry and talk about how I feel. I want to at least start talking about how destructive Facebook likes are. Not on us as individuals, but on society and humanity in general.
There’s a TV series based on your book. Can you talk about it?
I’m very honoured to be working with Matt Graham, the screenwriter of The Unknown History of the United States, which was adapted by Oliver Stone. Our series tells the story of how social media was originally meant to set us free, but how it has instead enslaved us. The darkness of humanity that social media has uncovered has enveloped the giant online consciousness and poisoned it like venom. We’ve created seven stories full of filth that anyone can find themselves in, where anyone can see this darkness for themselves.
Can we tame social media like we tamed fire?
The genie is already out of the bottle. It’s more about whether we let social media tame us. Censorship is becoming increasingly evident on social media, and even politically skewed algorithms are influencing content. Donald Trump’s social media ban is just the beginning.
We have allowed social media and tech companies to gather all the information about us and to analyse and understand our lives in every detail. And it’s all thanks to the giant pile of data that’s left behind like garbage on social media. These companies know us better than we know ourselves. They can see right through us and know exactly what works for us and what we’re afraid of. They know how to control us. Just like drug dealers know how to control addicts.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)