A Millennial Revolution

What follows is a short story I wrote that I will probably end up adapting into something longer like a novel or screenplay. I cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time but I’m proud of it, so I’m sharing it. Let me know if anything does / doesn’t work for you! I’m feeling a little self-conscious if you can’t tell lol

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Once he said it, he couldn’t unsay it. And nobody else in the room could unhear it. It was out, and now the only thing that remained was whether anybody would do anything about it.

The room fell silent. Ten minds at once began pondering the possibilities. The man who had spoken the idea into reality scanned the room. Saying something like this was potentially dangerous. Of course he trusted everyone in the room, or else he wouldn’t have invited them here, but could he trust the people that they trusted?

He’d spent months working through the permutations and possibilities in his mind before deciding to entrust anyone with it. He made list after list of names, people he thought he could trust, people he thought would know what to do with the idea once it was presented to them, lists of names that he looked up to, some of the greatest minds the world had ever known. Even once he had finalized the list, even after he’d sent out the invitations, he questioned whether he should bail at the last moment. It would be easy enough to find some other excuse to bring these people together.

But one nagging thought kept him going. One persistent phrase, repeated over and over in his mind, forced him to go through with his plan. The fate of the world is at stake.

Once the words were out of his mouth, he prepared for death. Even in this group, with these people, he feared he might have miscalculated. Everyone understood the magnitude of what he was suggesting.

Everyone looked at one another. He could see them struggling with the same thoughts that had plagued him for months—who can I trust? How do I react? Who is monitoring my expression? Have I been quiet for too long?

Finally, one of them spoke up. “It would take a lot of planning,” she said.

“Of course,” he said. “Years and years of it.”

“It would have to remain completely secret until it was ready,” a third voice said.

“Not completely,” he said. “We build slow. We keep it out of the wrong hands.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” said a fourth voice. It was starting to feel like people were on board with the plan, despite some logistical doubts & quibbles.

“If there’s one thing our generation is better at than any before,” he started, “it’s keeping secrets from people older than us.”

“That’s true,” said a fifth voice. “We have an entire department dedicated to making sure nobody over the age of 40 can understanding how the app works. If we can do that, I’m sure we could trust people with this.”

The man who called them here cleared his throat. “No one is allowed to hear about this unless everyone in this room approves. And everyone we tell has to agree ahead of time to follow that same rule. No one else finds out until everyone who already knows agrees. Non-Disclosures out the ass.”

“That’s going to be incredibly difficult to enforce.”

“No, it won’t,” came a sixth voice, followed by a brief chuckle. “That’s why I’m here, right?” she said. “We just have to combine the original Facebook logistics, where you weren’t allowed to join unless someone invited you, with the app I’ve been developing to allow people to vote in government elections from their phones. Someone sends out an invitation, everyone has to vote to clear it.”

“Eventually we’re going to be at millions of votes per day,” came a sixth voice. “How are all of us supposed to keep up with it?”

“I wrote a code that rates the trustworthiness of friend requests based on friends in common and mutual interests. If we spend a little more time developing it, which I assume we have, I can make it so you’re voting on people based on how many others vouch for them. We can let people in in chunks, based on friend groups.”

“Honestly, if we’ve gotten that big, we’ve kind of already won.”

And the room went silent again.

This could work. This would work. They were sure of it.

Eleven people exited the room that evening. Six months later, eleven had become 100. Six months later, 100 had become 15,000. Word was spreading.

The plan was constantly adjusted as new minds entered with new ideas. Most of them were additive. Once in a while, two ideas would conflict, but the collective minds of the initiated would quickly come up with a solution. Everyone was permitted to suggest changes to any part of the plan they didn’t agree with, but on the whole, suggestions were rarely made. After the first few hundred minds had taken a look at the system, it was nearly perfect.

One of the greatest benefits of the new system eradicating the need for money was that everyone who joined happily poured their capital into it. Right in front of the entire world’s eyes, the founding members built a new world. They did it without ever admitting to anyone their true intentions. They built headquarters in every country on the globe. They funded and built facilities that produced a constant and infinite amount of renewable energy. They perfected a type of genetically modified food that provided a day’s worth of nutrients in one small package. They cleaned the oceans. They built housing. They brought all of life’s needs to every life on the planet, and they did it while paying the elders so much cash that they didn’t question where it was all coming from. They were so busy trying to hide their new riches from the world’s governments, they never saw the writing on the wall.

The last step was waiting for everyone who didn’t (or wouldn’t) agree, to die.

“We don’t have to kill anyone,” he said, in his initial pitch. “Everyone is so concerned with violent overthrows, with population control, with rigging the system, no one ever stopped to consider just… waiting them all out. If we can get every young person on board with a vision of utopia, with a world that feeds and houses everyone, for free, forever… why would we need to kill anyone?”

And one day, in the early 2030s, despite nearly constant predictions of world-ending events, the world did not end. It just stopped.

Zhao Chenglei, the last person on Earth who hadn’t found out about or agreed to the plan, died on March 4th, 2032. The day was forever celebrated worldwide as Chenglei Day, the day the new world was born. Her family did not mourn, because her passing brought forth a world without violence, without hatred, without poverty, without any of the trademarks of colonialism or a mindset of dominance. Everyone agreed—all humans are just that: human. And humans, by their nature, are animals.

Bank records were deleted. Churches closed their doors. Governments shut down. Everything that was a symbol of the old world simply ceased to function. People, knowing that their basic needs were met and would always be met, were free to do whatever they wanted.

And whatever they wanted turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. People would gather together to tell stories, to cook food, to play games. Mostly, they relaxed. People who wanted to create art did so. Many people were still driven to express themselves, and they did so in whatever way spoke to them. Monogamy was all but eradicated. People who wanted a traditional 2-person relationships were welcome to do so, but it was mainly for the novelty of the thing. Something people tried for a few months before agreeing that the new way was better. People who wanted to have sex were able to, and they were able to do so with anyone who gave consent. Some humans volunteered to be sex workers. For everyone else, sex robots would be built to whatever specifications the user wanted.

People didn’t raise their own children: if you wanted to be a parent, you volunteered to do so and worked at the nearest facility where human babies were prepared and socialized for the world. There, children were taught how to handle their emotions, social cues, and the meaning of consent. They were taught everything they needed to know to exist in the world—how to read, how to write, the buttons on a keyboard, how to navigate a VR landscape, where to pick up your daily energy requirements, and the types of animals to avoid when going outside.

No historical records were deleted. The originator of the plan felt it was important to always remember the way things had once been, so that no one would ever try to bring the old ways back. Every system of government that had ever been tried had ultimately failed. Every law that had ever been written had somehow limited the freedoms of a sub-group of humanity. Now, everyone was free and equal.

There was only one rule: Never do anything to anyone that they have not given you permission to do.

Because consent was a part of everyone’s basic education, and because no one needed anything from anyone else, and because there was no way to use power dynamics to manipulate anyone, everyone followed the rule. There was nothing to be gained from breaking the rule apart from public humiliation and social rejection.

“Did you see this working?” someone had asked him. “Did you see all of this, when you first imagined it?”

“Honestly, no. If anyone with anything to lose had found out about the plan before it was ready, they’d have found a way to kill me legally.”

“Then why’d you do it?”

“I trusted that enough people were tired of being taken advantage of to get behind the plan. And because someone had to.”

“How’d you pull it off?”

“I invited the ten smartest people I knew into a room and gave them permission to believe that they could.”

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This story was originally written for my writing podcast “SuggeStory” on the @millennialmissionmedia podcast network.

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I’m (not) A Social Media Addict

“Oh FUCK!”

We all know the feeling.

We all know the terror.

The worst thing has happened: You’ve lost your cell phone. That feeling, the crippling feeling that you’ve lost not only your cell phone, but your connection to everything in your life–your friends, your family, your accounts, your money…

UnderBed

But we’re not addicted to our cell phones. It’s just that the world makes it impossible to live without them. Right?

Want a job? Apply online. Want a sandwich? Don’t forget to download our app! Join a new social club? Cool, join our Facebook page (that’s the only place we ever plan anything, haha).

Social Media Logotype Background

Everywhere you go, you need access to the Internet. Most of our money exists theoretically, not in physical cash but in ones and zeroes in bank accounts. Smartphones are, more or less, the only portal we have to access everything we need to survive in modern society.

This is not an inherently bad thing. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been before. We have more access to information than any generation before us in the history of the planet. More than ever before, we’re realizing that we’re one tiny community of humans on this speck in the Universe that we call Earth. People are organizing and coming together from across the globe to solve some of our biggest problems.

Universe

So… it’s fine that we can’t go a few hours without checking social. It’s a fair trade-off. Right? Give a little, get a lot.

Right?

I’m the first to admit, I never thought I had a cell phone addiction. I never thought I had a social media addiction. I didn’t think I used it very much. “I just check it a few times a day,” I thought. “I’m just responding to this one post.” It didn’t matter that I was doing it at stop lights. It didn’t matter that I did it while waiting in line. It didn’t matter that any time I was feeling a little anxious, I’d open up my cell phone and get a tiny little fix of endorphins to tide me over again.

It also didn’t matter that the content I was consuming was making me angry, or scared, or heartbroken. It didn’t matter that all day, I was reading stories of atrocities being committed around the world: by terrorists, by white supremacists, by foreign powers, by our own government… It didn’t matter that most of these problems were things I couldn’t actually do anything about.

It’s hard to care. It hard to feel the feelings of everyone who is suffering, and then remember that caring doesn’t stop the pain, that feeling the feelings of those in pain doesn’t do anything to alleviate that pain.

Drowning

I struggled for a long time, not sure what to do. How can I help? And if I can’t help, then why am I so sad, all the time? At a certain point in therapy you realize the importance of prioritizing your own happiness about the happiness of others (which doesn’t mean, “stop caring about other people,” which is how I always interpreted it before I really “got it”), so I had to take a hard look at what was really causing my unhappiness.

I’d read all the studies about social media addiction leading to increased FOMO, leading to increased feelings of comparisons to others, leading to people feeling overwhelmed by how much work there still is to do for equality. “Yeah, but that’s not me, I barely use it!”

Until I stopped using it. The first change was that I permanently deleted my Facebook account. People thought I was crazy. Hell, I thought I was crazy. I thought I was going to lose track of everything in my life–my friends, my connection to reality, my ability to know what’s happening in the world… But I didn’t.

And I got happier.

happy

Now that I wasn’t consuming news, facts, information, likes, reactions, and opinions all day, even in small doses, I was feeling more positive about my life. About the future. About our species. The bad things were still happening, of course, and I’d hear about it in podcasts or in conversations with friends (because I started seeing friends more!), but it didn’t affect me as heavily. It didn’t cause me to stop working, it didn’t make me feel like a failure or a bad person for not doing EVERYTHING I CAN POSSIBLY DO RIGHT NOW to help solve every problem the world could throw at me.

Then I limited my Instagram and Twitter usage to select periods of time in the mornings and evenings. Perhaps I could have gone further, but I use those accounts to grow my business and grow an audience as part of my digital ecosystem.

(Even then, I think I was still a social media addict. In denial, of course. Because I’d taken steps to limit my usage. I’d deleted accounts. I was feeling better. I was on an upward trend. “I couldn’t possibly be addicted now,” I told myself, somehow ignoring the fact that this was an admission that I had been addicted prior to this moment.)

DigitalDetox

The scariest moment was when I beta-tested the (above) Triple-M Digital Detox. Part of the program involves moving your social media apps to a folder in a separate section of your phone for a week. One day, in mid-conversation, I looked down at my phone and realized that I had unknowingly done the series of clicks that would have taken me to Instagram, but instead had opened my bank’s app.

I stared at the screen, confused, until I realized what happened. My fingers had been opening social media apps without me even knowing it. And if the app had still been there, I might have stopped to look at Instagram in that moment. I might have taken five minutes of time out of my day to look at pictures, check notifications, and respond to comments. How often did that happen? How many times did this exact situation occur before now, without me even being aware?

confusedatphone

This isn’t the part where I get all preachy and tell you to get rid of social media before it “dEsTrOyS CiViLiZaTiOn!!1!

I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think social media and the Internet have provided more good for our society than evil, but I also think we need to learn to manage it, because it’s unquestionably an addiction.

How do we do that? It’s still nearly impossible to survive the world today without having some form of social media. Now that they’ve monetized it, “Social Media” is a legitimate career path. Influencers are the hottest new way to market your businesses and products, and that’s not changing anytime soon. The Influencer craze has only just begun, and as technology advances we’ll keep finding more and more ways to monetize and advertise our daily lives. So I’m still on social media. In fact, I even have a Facebook again (which may be how you found this article!) because in 2019, starting an online business without a Facebook account is like starting a horse and buggy business in 1819 without owning a horse.

buggywreck

Oops

Did you know that Facebook has almost 1 and a half billion daily users? Did you know that over 40% of Facebook users only access Facebook on their phones? Or that 78% of Americans have purchased something they saw on Facebook?

I didn’t. Not before I deleted my account. So I’m back. And I’m back with a business that creates digital content, but also encourages healthy social media and cell phone habits, utilizing all the ridiculous but true information I learned on my 8 month hiatus.

Am I still addicted? I don’t know. I know I spend a lot less time on the apps than I used to. I know I plan my posts a week or so in advance, so when I open the apps it’s all business. I know that I’m having less “fun” doing it, so maybe that’s a sign that I’m doing it the right way. I’ve also noticed that I think less about it. I care less about the numbers than I used to. I’m posting things that I like and care about, and it seems to be having an effect, at least in terms of the amount of interaction I’ve been having.

I’ve been more comfortable being myself. Expressing myself. And maybe you can argue that that has more to do with the other changes I’ve made in my life, going to therapy, cutting out toxic people, but I’d also argue that some of those things might not have happened if I were still as active on social media. When you’re happier, you notice the things in your life that don’t make you happy.

So, I’m actually proud to say that I’m not a social media addict. But I definitely was. And I’m constantly aware that it could always happen again.

Justin Xavier, 6/22/2019

ANP

To listen to the A New Perspective podcast episode about Social Media addiction, follow the link below.

https://anewperspectivepod.podbean.com/e/ep11-on-detoxing-from-social-media/