fracturing of the American mind with social media

Fracturing of American Minds

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As a semi-affluent American with two kids, I’ve watched as our culture spins down into a persistent form of ADD. TikTok’s sweet spot is 15 seconds of video and sound. For music, and massive companies like Universal Music, this means, very little of the song or artist information is important. While your trending viral Tok joins the stream of inattention, your mind is already racing to the next and the next and the next.

How Screens Became False Gods

My daughter is a TikTok addict. She’s not to worried about the app going away. “Something will just replace it.” She was trying to solve a creative TikTok riddle yesterday, how to get 10,000 views on a post so I would buy her an expensive pair of cowboy boots. She didn’t figure it out. And as we headed to bed, so we could get up early to hit the ski slopes, she Tik’d and Tok’d well after I’d fallen asleep. The blue light of dark mode Toks illuminating the hope and the disappointment in her face. Scroll. Scroll.

My son struggles with a different issue. Anger, anxiety, and the prescriptions meant to fix his issues. These “meds doctors” just prescribe the next pill. There is no caution to giving a 180 count of a highly addictive med. Refuses all help.

Before Phones Grabbed All the O2

My son was transformed by Minecraft over the Thanksgiving break of his 7th grade year. I hooked him up, and supported his growth into a server manager and code monkey as he began to install mods and add-ons that enhanced the self-directed world-building game. At this time my daughter was exploring the makeup, celebrity, and cooking games on her iPhone. We were a connected shattered family. I was a single dad out-voted on most issues.

Coding and technology became a path for my son. Brands, Kardashians, and “reality tv” became a lifestyle ambition for my daughter. My ex fostered retail therapy as a release from the pressures of being young white kids in a nice neighborhood.

Why am I telling you this?

This is a warning. As TikTok is beginning to find the teeth of our government’s regulations, my daughter is right. A different app will just take over. And is it really China that we’re worried about? Our entire culture is distractable, uncaring, and addicted to streams and shares. I hope TikTok goes away. It’s not the end. Remember Vines and all the people who were making money as Vines influencers?

My daughter was telling me about this “influencer” who she really likes. She was like a nurse or something, but her TikToks blew up. Now, her husband is a stay-at-home dad, while she sucks down the dollars with her tips on life, living, and love. My daughter is getting relationship advice from a TikTok influencer. Sure, she bought Jay Shetty’s book but didn’t read it. It takes too long to read actual books. Today, she doesn’t even listen to complete songs, after one verse chorus, she flips to the next song. We don’t know how to slow the fk down.

Music, Just Music, No Video

Here’s a remedy for the TikTok, IG, FB, Snap withdrawal period. Put in your earbuds and listen to some music. Try classical. Or ambient. Something with no words works the best. Then, open your mind to yourself. See what thoughts are naturally occurring in you own large living language model. Do you dream of brands or happiness? Do you lust for money or love? If you didn’t have an influencer showing you how attainable and easy the good life is, would you be strategizing your next Tok?

  • If you give your brain a moment to dream.
  • Provide stimulus but limited to audio.
  • Let your magical thoughts do the rest.

So many of us humans are afraid to be alone with our thoughts. We distract. We medicate. We stream and shop. Shop and stream. And we talk to our friends about shopping and streaming. And that’s what got many of us here. Self-soothing is not distraction or self-medication with prescription drugs or alcohol. Self-soothing is our human ability to be comforted by our own thoughts, our own bodies, and our own silence.

Today, there is not enough silence. People don’t want to be alone with their thoughts. Intrusive thoughts, anxiety, demons of various sizes. Here’s my plan in three options:

  1. listen to great music in headphones and close your eyes, dream, imagine (for a bonus, listen to music with no lyrics or singing, so your mind puts the words and feelings into the music >> the Radio No Head  project.
  2. write shit down, as much as you can, thoughts, ideas, plans, what’s good, what’s bad, what you love, what you’d rather be doing, how you’re going to get to your next level of evolution
  3. paint, play, draw, collage – do art, human art, art with mess, fingers, paints, colors, images of your own imagination.

Human Art is Important

AI art is not art. It’s graphic design. It’s mimickery. It has NO EMOTIONAL THREADS. That’s what’s so important about step 2 and 3 above: your emotional information transferred into “art.” Human art. Emotional art. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s good. It’s not about wanting to share it and get praise for being an artist. In fact, it is best if you keep your current art to yourself. Others may not understand. They may discourage you. They may be jealous of you and the time you are spending alone doing your art. Do it anyway.

I do believe ART and CREATIVE EXPRESSION is a key to breaking out of ADD, OCD, and depression of all flavors. ART IS AN ANSWER.

Your brain is an amazing large living language model. AIs are also large, but there is no soul in the machine. There is no poetry in the algorithm. There is only ones and zeros blended back together from the previous art of humans. Human art reswizzled is not art. It’s AI graphics. Let’s keep our definitions straight.

Doing ART in whatever form you try engages your heart, your dreams, your disappointments, your hope for all kinds of things. Perhaps not the hope of becoming a great artist. That’s a misdirection. Stay focused on your feelings, expressing those with physical actions. Get dirty. Get inspired. Play a song. Learn a new instrument. A new technique. A new style of graphic art. Then *here is the key* spend time at craft.




Learn what sets your imagination free. Your imagination, your memories, the images and songs in your mind, not from the net. Find yourself and you will find a way to happiness. Happiness that does not depend on others. Does not depend on success. The only audience is you and your heart. Find the flow within yourself and you can find your happy, happier, happiest life.

John McElhenney — let’s connect online
LinkedIn or

A few more of my creative ai motions:

  • < a book of “whitmanesque poetry” with zero AI
  • Radio No Head < *ai* parsed music for you to sing and dream with
  • poə < my page about the ai poetry conundrum
  • hyper-soul < the science fiction exploration and world-building project
  • < my team for *ai* marketing and sales acceleration

Please check out a few of my books on AMAZON

the little red book of mindfulness - john oakley mcelhenney


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