David Hume’s Guide to Social Media

Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review:

In a recent Substack post, free-range social critic Freddie deBoer asked, “Are smartphones to blame for the mental health crisis among teens?” He is far from alone in asking that, of course, but what he said next grabbed my attention:

The debate has picked up steam lately, in part because of the steady accumulation of evidence that they are indeed, at least partially…. Jonathan Haidt has done considerable work marshaling this evidence. But there’s an attendant question of how phones make kids miserable, if indeed they do.

The important issue, then, is what exactly smartphones are doing to teens that makes them so miserable? DeBoer’s answers are quite good—I especially welcome his emphasis on the misery of being constantly bombarded by images of lives none of us can actually live—but I think we can significantly deepen our understanding of these matters by turning to an account of human behavior offered by the philosopher David Hume nearly three centuries ago.

More here.