It’s not social media that’s the problem,

it’s our smartphones.

This may seem like a semantic difference, but I contend it’s more meaningful than just that. The big problem is constant access to information, however it’s delivered. Just think of all the dead time 20 years ago: on the toilet, smoke breaks, walking anywhere, waiting for a friend to arrive, etc. That time was reserved for you and your thoughts. You still read and watched the news, yes, but these activities were necessarily limited because you had to be near a TV, computer, or a newspaper. Those limits were destroyed by the smartphone combined with unlimited, cheap cellular plans.

This is not about how we’re all lacking attention now; this is about how ever more of our attention is devoted to the news. Yes, the maximum-outrage bent of social media plays a role. Still, if the news was only delivered in prosaic terms, the problem of thinking wayyyyy too much about politics would exist so long as looking at a phone was more interesting than doing nothing. And just about anything can surpass doing nothing.