Addictions in social media: challenges for the Spirit in modern times.


Wellington Balbo


      The main goal of Spiritism is to provide conditions for human beings, in their journey on Earth, to progress under two aspects: moral and intellectual. When someone leaves this world through the phenomenon we know as biological death, if they left better than they arrived here, more generous, fraternal, and wise, in case they are Spiritists, we can say that, generally speaking, the mission was accomplished with relative success.


      Starting from the premise that the goal of Spiritism is to make humans better, we enter a field where addictions and virtues are confronted. What are addictions and virtues? How to configure them within the Spiritist philosophy? Is there a relationship between the two? That is, as I eliminate addictions, do I acquire virtues?


      The answer to these questions concerning addictions and virtues can be found in The Spirits’ Book. When Kardec talks about virtues, asking the Spirits which is the most meritorious of them, the answer is interesting: there is virtue whenever one voluntarily fights against an evil inclination. The honest effort, that is, without ulterior motives, is what characterizes the road to paving virtues in our inner world. Nothing forced, imposed, but voluntary. Therefore, I may not even do evil, but not because I voluntarily strive not to do it, but because there was no opportunity. This is why there is no virtue in such a situation, since, if there is a possibility, I commit the infraction.


    In this same line of reasoning, going a little deeper, Kardec asks about the addictions: which one is the most complicated? Spirits do not close questions of form, but of substance. The characterization of addiction is self-interest, that is, selfishness that can be in a more or less accentuated form in the individual. Therefore, the relationship between virtues and addictions are inversely proportional: as the Spirit advances in the struggle to overcome its imperfections, it diminishes the power that addiction represents in its intimate universe.


    These ideas of the Spirits and Kardec were being elaborated in the 19th century, a completely different world from the present one. However, it is worth pointing out that, despite the changes in the world that have occurred in this historical period of time, the essence of human progress is the same: developing virtues is equivalent to eliminating addictions.


    And we have arrived today, in the 21st century, in the digital age, everyone connected, plugged into each other, with relationships being established at the touch of a keyboard or cell phone. How to situate the issues involving addictions in this modern world?


    I, for example, was born in 1975, and have closely followed this migration of the world before and after digitalization. When I first saw a video game, the now outdated Atari, I was enchanted. How can you, with a control, move elements that appear on television? I was so fascinated by it. I spent hours and hours playing, taking the video game everywhere that I went with my parents. There were no more games, no more soccer, dodgeball, playing catch, marbles, no more activities of that time. I was only 7 years old, yet I found myself completely addicted. I did nothing without the presence of the video game. What were the consequences? Loss of friends, low grades, weight gain, feeling of emptiness without the game around. 


       My parents, seeing the situation, worked very quickly. Two points were crucial for me to beat the addiction: psychological help and discipline at home, obeying schedules and being more balanced when it comes to gaming. In short: creating good habits, exactly what Kardec suggests when he approaches the subject of education.


      In the 1990s, for example, it arrived the cell phones and the Internet. Fast-forward a few more years, and we discovered Orkut, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Youtube, social networks of all kinds, for all tastes, connecting people, bringing news, fostering progress. How many happy unions have been consummated after the advent of social media? Several. The opposite is also true.


     The novelty conquers people and puts them in a very pleasurable position at first, and then, later on, advances with the shackles and arrests, because, everything that is not well dosed, worked out, pondered, provides the path to vice that brings in its essence the personal interest. Exactly as the Spirits said: self-interest causes me to devote time only to my enjoyment of being in a social network and forget all the other elements of society: family, friends, co-workers, and even the work itself. 


    By the way, I will throw a question to all of us for reflection:


    Do we usually schedule the time we spend on social networks?

    Do we access social networks when, for example, we wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?


    A question for parents:

    Is your child accessing social media and other electronics while eating lunch? I have heard many parents say that they let their children access social networks while they are at meals so that they can also be on their social networks while they are eating lunch. 


    What do we extract from this line?


    Addictions being generated because of self-interest.


    What are the consequences for children?


    Addicted children, with no life beyond social networks, anxious and with great difficulty in accepting the rules of a “real” life, since they were raised in a too loose environment.


    And for adults, what are the consequences?


   The same as for children, however, in a more pronounced way because of the very conditions of an adult life.


    There is, however, another component that is not often mentioned when it comes to social network addiction and that brings significant damage to the quality of life of children, youth, adults, and seniors alike. UAn element called comparison. Exactly, my friends, my addiction to social networks gives me access to clippings of other people’s lives, from friends to famous artists. This access to the clippings of the “wonderful” lives that are posted on social media leads me to use it more and more.


     First, I get ecstatic and want the other’s life for myself. After the first impact, I see that it is pleasurable to look at another’s life, and then I am addicted to the other’s existence and detached from my own. Then the element of comparison begins. I begin to think that my life is dull, devoid of nobler goals, and I feel discouraged. This despondency enters my existence in such a way that nothing else seems to make sense. I think: I am an “unfortunate”, abandoned by God. God? Does he really exist? It is not uncommon for an addiction to social networks to trigger many other addictions: watching other people’s lives, complaining about our own conditions, letting envy invade our inner self with all its strength… the list is endless. I ask friends’ permission to share a poll that we conducted 2 years ago:

     We interviewed 40 people, of which 33 were women and 7 were men, which in percentage represents 82.5% women and 17.5% men.

We will only work with percentages. To facilitate the analysis, we divided the answers into 5 groups, as shown below:


  • Group 1 – 32.5% answered that when they see pictures of happy people on social networks they get sadder, because they compare it with their lives and then conclude that they have a very discouraging existence.


  • Group 2 – Already 22.5% answered that they don’t get sad because they know that people’s happiness is unreal.


  • Group 3 – Also in this same percentage, that is, 22.5% answered that they are indifferent, and therefore did not put in their answers the question that involves being an unreal happiness that of the networks.


  • Group 4 – A total of 17.5% of the respondents reported that they are happy to see the happiness of others, without, also, pointing out the topic of happiness being unreal.


  • Group 5 – And 5% provided other answers.

    Response Analysis:

  • Group 1 – In this group, we perceive a very negative influence of social networks on people’s moods. In this group, the answers point to an element that is extremely harmful when it comes to the existential mood. This is the comparison. The participants in this group frequent social networks, observe the good times of others, and make comparisons with their own lives. Every comparison is in its own right unfair because one observes things from completely different steps, so any clash between the compared realities will always be unequal and will produce a completely false idea of what is going on, sowing sadness and hopelessness.


  • Group 2 – The answers provided by this group were quite curious. The 22.5% who answered the proposed question stated that they are not bothered by pictures of happy people on social networks because they know that these pictures and the moments lived and posted on the networks are unreal, fake, and suchlike. The answers provided open the field for some questioning:


If other people’s happiness, according to these people’s conception, was real, would that shake the spirits and bring sadness?


Finding yourself, knowing what you feel and why you feel it, seems like a good option for improving your quality of life. But to find oneself, it is necessary to confront ourselves in a true search to discover in which step of existence we are. 


  • Group 3 – Group 3 curiously had the same percentage as group 2, that is, 22.5%. This group answered that they are indifferent to other people’s happiness printed on social networks, which seems to me to be, indeed, an indication that the answer provided was sincere.


  • Group 4 – Already this group stated that they are happy with the happiness of people who post their victories and good times on social networks. A total of 17.5% of people made this statement.


  • Group 5 – Only 5% of the people gave another type of answer, some of them, in fact, without any connection, which makes the analysis impossible. 


Final considerations:

With Kardec’s suggestion concerning education, which is the art of creating good habits, one can, in a calm and disciplined way, use all the benefits that social networks bring us. IThis, by the way, is a challenge for the Spirit that can seek the social networks as levers for progress by educating itself to use properly all the media that are at its disposal in these modern times. More news to come: 


Are we preparing our Spirit to use these new technologies well, without falling into addictions and excesses?

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