Impact Hustlers - Entrepreneurs with Social Impact

Inspiring a future without smartphone addiction - Max Stossel of Social Awakening

February 28, 2023 Maiko Schaffrath Episode 129
Impact Hustlers - Entrepreneurs with Social Impact
Inspiring a future without smartphone addiction - Max Stossel of Social Awakening
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In today's episode, I speak to Max Stossel—an award-winning poet and filmmaker, as well as the founder and CEO of Social Awakening. Max has spent the last year speaking in front of more than a hundred thousand students, parents, and educators, talking about how social media and social media addiction affects our lives. With Social Awakening, he has made it his mission to help teenagers thrive in a digital world where apps are radically optimized for engagement by leveraging addictive behavior.


  • [1:05] Max Stossel’s background & Journey
  • [4:20] Lessons learned from working in the social media industry
  • [6:41] How does the social media Economy work for companies?
  • [8:35] Mechanisms behind social media
  • [11:11] Max's views on the world learning to adjust to social media 
  • [13:54] What lessons/advice do you give kids struggling with social media addiction
  • [16:09] Action plans for how to combat social media addiction
  • [18:59] What do social media Apps do differently in engagement
  • [21:54] Advice for social media impact-driven founders
  • [26:32] Net positive hours 
  • [27:57] Strategies to help in handling social media usage
  • [32:30] Max’s 10-year vision  


  • “I’d love to live in a world where all data in social networks was being used to help us improve our lives, to help illuminate new experiences and opportunities.” [12:11]
  • “Having social media values helps when I show up whichever way in the world. I feel good about it regardless of the outcome, if it goes my way or if anybody else joins me.” [26:46]
  • ”You already know there is one app on your phone that you're like, I know I should delete that one, but you're just not doing it, stop it, go delete it now.” [28:28]

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[00:00:00] Maiko: In today's episode, I speak to Max Stossel. An award-winning poet and filmmaker, as well as the founder and CEO of Social Awakening. Max has spent the last year speaking in front of more than a hundred thousand students, parents, educators, talking about how social media and social media addiction affects our lives. With Social Awakening, he has made it his mission to help teenagers thrive in a digital world where apps are radically optimized for engagement by leveraging addictive behavior.

And I actually, I didn't tell you in the Prep Max, but I first call him across you. When I watch your this panda is dancing video which kind of went viral in my circles a few years ago, and it's all about the modern-day struggle of being addicted to our phones and calls for us to look beyond just our phones. It's great to have you on the show, Max. Thanks for making the time today.

[00:00:58] Max: Thanks for having me and yeah, I love that this panda is dancing video and it has made its rounds on the internet.

[00:01:04] Maiko: Yeah, we'll link it in the show notes for everybody to watch, there's obviously a few more videos as well that you've released and that you will be releasing. But let's jump straight into your story, what's your story and how did you get to work on Social Awakening and on this topic?

[00:01:21] Max: Yeah, so about, I guess it might have been around nine years ago now, I had fallen in love with people in startup world thought they were so passionate and inspiring and I had been working in social media, just one of my first jobs. They were like, hey, you're young, go figure out social media.

And I was doing social strategy for big brands, and what I found doing social strategy for big brands was pretty much that the same things were working to grab more attention that we were doing for Budweiser as news organizations were doing. The more that we were preaching to choirs, telling people ideas, they already wanted to believe.

Or saying the most extreme statements, Budweiser is the greatest beer, does a whole lot better than, here's how Budweiser is made, gets more engagements, positive, negative, it all feeds the reach. whatever Budweiser's doing, who really cares on social media. But then starting to watch news organizations and everybody, to some extent change the stories that we literally tell on social media based on what works in these algorithms.

That's where I first got interested in this. And then yeah, I had a friend who was starting a social media app and I thought maybe I could help. We were gonna be the Instagram for video, this is before Instagram had video and, we've raised a bunch of money from Mark Cuban and some others, and we were gonna be OCHO an eight second video platform just back in the Vine days.

And we weren't that successful, we had like tens of thousands of users, not millions, but it was in doing that work that it was pretty much my job to try to figure out how can I grab and hold as much attention as possible and starting to notice, wow, we're not that good at this but this is the same game that everyone else is playing and that Facebook was at the time was winning, Twitter was winning. 

And as I met Tristan Harris, who founded the Center for Humane Technology, hearing him articulate the difference between what people just will do and things we actually want to choose, and how just because I'm getting someone to use my app more doesn't mean that they necessarily wanna use it more.

That was really poignant for me, and I started trying to help him with his message however I could, and that this panda's dancing video was one of those, as a poet, was able to contribute to the movement that way. We were getting all these emails from parents and teachers and some students saying basically, what the heck do we do about this smartphone and social media thing?

And I thought, hey, maybe my perspective can be helpful. So I went in and started talking to schools, giving assemblies and things like that, and then creating some resources to help them manage how social media, Is impacting their lives. Resources are mostly just like, hey, from talking to a lot of people, here are some things people are doing that seems like they're working for them.

And yeah, I've been doing that now for about eight years and that evolved into Social Awakening. I'm very grateful for the work we've done with the Center for Humane Technology. We have different visions of how change happens. They're much more focused on like, how do we influence governments and I wanna help individual people on a daily basis of, to deal with this chaos, that's really doing a number on kids' lives, especially around mental health, especially around teen girl mental health. And if you can remember being in high school now with every best friend and every moment gamified and quantified is really just like a challenging environment to grow up in.

[00:04:19] Maiko: Got it. You actually worked for somebody, you mentioned it briefly but you worked for somebody that brands himself as day trading attention. Gary's Vaynerchuck, Vayner Media. And I would love to, but I'd love to dive a bit deeper into your days, be working in social media, working on the app, but then also working with advertising agency, trading our attention. What were the kind of things you learned at that time about the industry and the incentives?

[00:04:51] Max: So it was wild, cause actually I started at an agency called Anomaly and that's where Budweiser was my main client and I was managing the social media for Budweiser. And back in this time they were literally posting their press releases on social media and saying, why isn't anybody looking at this?

And I was like, why don't we try pictures of beer and like little jokes and things like that, and then that did so much better and they were like, oh my god, this kid is brilliant, he just had post pictures of beer until like at the time, to go from absolutely terrible social media. So like the numbers were thousands plus engagement, percentage up, like I looked like a wiz kid in the industry for doing this very simple thing.

And I had talked to Gary about that and how I was like, look, these numbers are going up, but Gary was introduced through a mutual friend and I said, we're making the numbers and the reach go up, but I have no idea if we're selling more beer. Like everyone's so happy these numbers are going up.

But when I questions about it, watch the numbers go up. And Gary, I think was taken in by my questioning. Is this really doing anything? Is this like impacting sales? Is this effective? And he on the spot, offered me a job and offered to mentor me for a year, and yeah, he's brilliant.

He is a really brilliant salesman and he puts on a bit of a persona of like, Online, he's incredibly kind, cares about people in a really, really deep way, and he's really good at what he does. If everybody could be like Gary in terms of not letting the outside world affect them, I don't think we would have as much chaos with all this kids and social media stuff.

But I think he's a pretty unique guy that it's pretty tough to take it in the way he does and to work with it the way that he does but yeah, learned lots from him. Really just appreciated who he is and how he goes about what he's doing and he's day trading inside the system for sure. I don't think hes to blame for the tasis video. 

[00:06:40] Maiko: Yeah, you make a really good point. I was just gonna mention that from what you just say, it doesn't seem like Gary is the villain or advertising agencies are the villain, but there's a system there, like there's an economy there, behind that, talk us through that, like how does it work? What are the incentives behind it and why are companies doing that?

[00:06:59] Max: Sure, so I think it starts with the platforms because. Ultimately these platforms have unprecedented amount of control over what gets attention and what doesn't. And then yes, the advertisers and all of us to some extent when we're trying to promote things or share things that we care about, causes, whatever it might be, we're talking about impact.

We're then trying to play that game, so the algorithms mostly are optimizing for engagement? Not entirely. There's probably a system where there could be even more engagement that like that could be had, it's not a hundred percent, but at the end of the day, that's basically what these companies are trying to do.

And then what type of content? Is what works to grab that attention. It tends to be the most extreme ideas, or it tends to be the most sensational type of content or the most like attention grabby. You can use the example of a fire on the side of the road, everyone looks, stops to look at a fire on the side of the road.

But if we were to design a society, would we want to design a society that has fires all over the road? So like attention is not a particularly great measure of is this something we'd actually choose and is this something we'd actually want? But that is what most of the game is being played around. And so I don't think so great for society, but people like, Gary's one of the best at day trading for the attention and at working within that system.

And all of us feel like we need to play that game for our businesses or the things that we care about to survive, and so we do that and a lot of us do that with my art. I resist it mostly, but every once in a while I'm playing that game too and it doesnt feel good, but these are the games that we need to play to grab attention, and we are all fighting in that attention economy battle.

[00:08:35] Maiko: Got it. So there's actually a book that got very influential in the tech industry called Hooked by a guy called Nir Eyal. I'm sure a lot of founders listening to this have heard of the book or read it maybe influenced by it. And it's all about basically the mechanisms that startups or tech companies can use in their products, to basically drive engagement and leverage human psychology to get their products actually used. 

Talk through that a little bit, not explaining the details of the book, but like how that model roughly works and how it's adopted by the industry and what are these mechanisms behind social media, but really most apps and technologies nowaday.

[00:09:21] Max: Yeah, and he wrote a manual on how to prey on is not the word, but how to leverage our often internal triggers, he calls them the things that most fire us up or lead us into habits and how to use those to get us to use a product more and more. And he and I have had interesting debates on this subject and that I think he's very smart and very good at his talking points.

I think he underestimates, especially for young people, how challenging it actually is to choose not to engage with this system, to choose to resist those triggers, to build your own better habits, and especially when the entire school environment or your entire social life seems to be caught inside of the system, how difficult it's to choose elsewhere.

And he tends to, I think, justify things that I don't think are so justifiable. But he's also, there are ways I've really learned from him and I think he is very smart in this field. He wrote Intractable also, which is a book on how to navigate some of these same tactics.

But there is so much of the tech industry that now uses, how do we leverage your desires? One thing I talk about in my presentations to kids is something as simple as a notification that says, this person has tagged you in a photo. We're all very used to that by now, but what are we re really saying there?

We're saying someone just took a picture of you or said something about you to everybody you know, and a whole bunch of people you don't know. Do you wanna know what it is? And there are very deep internal motivators in us that it's gonna be very difficult no matter what you're doing to not at least be curious or at least be distracted by that message.

And so there's so much of our actual lives that have been eaten by this digital system that makes it not as simple as like, oh, I use this thing or not use this thing. It's taken over so many real aspects of our and our kid's lives, and that's really tricky because, we wouldn't put this many fires in our kids' lives on purpose.

[00:11:10] Maiko: So if Indestructable, for example, the argument basically is like, here's a bunch of tools to actually deal with this, and you have an individual responsibility or ability to actually make your own decisions. You're not just a victim to the companies, here's a bunch of tools you can use to have a calm life and live on your own terms in terms of all these distractions.

So that's great, like in interesting, but I think it also brings up a point of, is this something where we just need to educate people better? Starting with kids, they just need to learn how to deal with this new thing that has been created and, obviously we evolved over so many years that, social media is a new thing that arrived like half a second ago, basically. 

And the human mind has just not adapted to it. So is it just about training ourselves to how to deal with it? Or is this about responsibility of companies to stop doing things or regulators to stop companies to do things? What's your view on that?

[00:12:10] Max: I think it's gotta be both. I don't in general believe that we can pull a couple threads and have a top-down change that fixes everything. I think the platforms have a lot of power and I would love to live in a world where all that data was being used in a social network to help us like improve our lives, to help illuminate new experiences and opportunities we wouldn't have otherwise realized were possible or have we introduced the new people, we later rate as, I'm so glad that person is in my life. 

If all that data is being optimized for those things instead of attention, wow, that's amazing. Yes, I want that product, and I think that can create a lot of good. But I also think, there is truth that we need to figure this out for ourselves and our own relationships with it.

And that's where Social Awakening really is focused, is how do we help, how do we arm individuals and arm the next generation with better tools to fight this thing? And in terms of adapting, it's really tricky cause there is panic over every new technology, but I don't think it's as much the new technology as it is the ubiquity in our lives and how many pieces of society it's eaten.

An example I like to use is even with addiction, like I love ice cream. If I had to go inside of a tub of ice cream to talk to my friends and to do my work, if I carried around a tub of ice cream 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and if ice cream was being updated every day, it'd be more personally delicious for me, I'm gonna have an ice cream problem. 

And so like it's not so much about like the new amazingness of this technology as it is it now in a sort of hooked manner, plays into so many of our actual social desires and so much of our interactions and lives and this contains so much of our lives. What does it look like when something addictive actually contains so much of our real lives and we're living inside of that and our kids are living inside of that? And that's really hard to deal with. 

[00:13:54] Maiko: And let's speak a bit more about your actual work talks you host with schools and social awakening, versus basically the company for which you do that. Tell us more about how you work with schools, how you work with kids, and what is the message that you send to kids out there that know that they're struggling, that know that there's a problem? What should they do?

[00:14:16] Max: One of the reasons I've been able to be really effective in this space is that there are so many parents or teachers or educators saying, you kids and your phones, you should use your phones less. And it's eyes rolled and no conversation really happens. I'm able to come in as not any of that and say, look, I used to work in this space.

I'm not here to tell you what to do. Let me show you how some of this is designed. Let me show you some of these more manipulative tricks and the ways this kind of messes with our relationships and social lives. And then you make your own choices about how you wanna deal with that, and so the structure of the presentations is first acknowledging all the ways technology and social media can be amazing.

And then going into here are some of the really manipulative and tricky things about it. And then a whole section of actually a section of here's how it's influencing who we are and how we see the world, how it's literally changing the people that we're, and then here are some practices people are doing that seem to help.

And then I usually like will, I'll get booked for a day in a school, I'll speak with a middle school during the day, then a high school during the day, and then sometimes teachers during the day or a parent community event in the evening. Parents are very much a piece of this.

And after that we leave behind some resources and we actually have started working with Harvard, who has developed, like co-developed with teenagers. Some like lesson plans that I think are really effective and powerful that we we're sharing those anywhere that people want them. You don't need to bring us in the schools to have those resources. But those are really powerful, follow up to keep the conversation going.

I'm not under the impression that we can solve this problem for kids. I think this is a lifelong endeavor, but this is about, making it 10%, 15% better and giving a much more intentional relationship with technology and devices, and certainly highlighting some of the most egregious and ridiculous ways that social media is just impacting their minds and relationships and controlling them in ways they would never choose which is happening way too much for young people, as you might be able to imagine what these very powerful tools pointed at kids face.

[00:16:09] Maiko: With the materials that you developed, what's the summary of the actions that you suggest to people or the kind of exercises that students kids can take to be in charge of their life and not distracted by social media and impact negatively impacted by it?

[00:16:29] Max: So I'd say there are a couple of different categories of steps, and so one is literally within the settings of your device, which is like what most people are looking for, even though they don't know if it's the most effective one. But things like turning off any notification that's not from a human being trying to reach you.

So, happy holidays from Tinder, you even played Candy Crush in a while, this person has liked your photo. Turning all of that off so that your phone can only notify you if there's a human being who is trying to get ahold of you. And there are things within the social apps, like if you're on Instagram, if you're having mental health challenges, like going through who you're following and just unfollowing anybody who is just making you feel inadequate or badly about yourself.

Especially for young girls, like a lot of the fitness models and things like that. A lot of people report just like feeling a sense of relief from that, and some of it is, do you wanna move the group chat off of Snapchat or like off of Instagram Messenger? Just over to regular messaging apps, just so that you're not having your whole social world inside these environments that are trying to grab your time.

Like in terms of, having healthier relationships with this stuff. If you are finding an app is toxic for you, really looking at, okay, what did I like about this? And can I get that elsewhere? Because if you're not introducing a replacement behavior or another way that you're getting the thing that you like, it's gonna be way harder to do that.

But even with a thing like TikTok, we think of so much as TikTok but actually like dancing, then recording that dance, then posting that dance inside of this self comparison slot machine are all three very different acts inside of TikTok. There's also going to a specific profile and looking at people, one person's videos.

All of those are different behaviors, but we just call the whole thing TikTok. Maybe you love dancing, you should dance, maybe you love making dance videos, make a dance video, do you wanna post it in that environment? Sometimes maybe, but is that sort of giving you this constant, how many likes did I get?

Would you rather just like text that to a couple friends directly? We don't think this critically of social media and of our digital actions, but there's so many different ways we can create and share and watch and we sort of default to the low hanging fruit, which is a slot machine and often a self comparison machine and often a porn machine, even if we didn't attend for it to be.

[00:18:42] Maiko: Absolutely. I watched one of your talks on your website or a trailer of it basically where you asked students, who's using Snapchat and who has basically is a streaks feature that shows you how engaged you've been, how often you've basically been posting.

And most students would say, yeah, like I have like loads of streaks, been collecting plenty of them. And you asked them, did you enjoy that? Do you enjoy streaks? And all the hands went down nobody actually genuinely enjoyed it, but they were still engaging. And I think similar mechanisms with TikTok, there's certain apps where when I use them, I just feel terrible afterwards.

I just don't feel like, oh, wow, okay, now I spent my time so well, I learned something new where, maybe other apps, even as toxic as it can be, if I spent time on Twitter, I've set my settings, I've banned some words and I'm following Europe, the right people. If I spend some time there, I'm like, oh, I learned something new. Again, not perfect, but what is it there that he, basically, these social media apps do differently 

[00:19:48] Max: So I think with that, what you just shared, Snapchat's a little bit different, just like much more of a messenger and has different manipulative things than something like Twitter, which is closer to the Instagrams and Facebooks, just in terms of how it operates. But it sounds like you've trained your Twitter algorithm to be something that provides you more value. 

You have really actively and carefully decided who you wanna follow and maybe probably liked or retweeted or engaged with things that you wanna see more of. A lot of the teens who are happier with their social media use have actively thought of it that way.

They're very carefully trying to say, hey, I want more of this, I want less of this, using the block, using the unfollow, using things like that to help their experiences feel a little bit richer. That moment with Snap Streaks is a really powerful one, they notice together in the room in these talks.

Oh yeah. We're doing something that we don't like doing. It's a helpful way of getting on the same team, cause there might even have been before that in the talks. I'm like, who is this guy trying to tell us that social media like, isn't that good for us? What does he know? And then as they see that moment.

Okay I guess we maybe do stuff in these apps that we don't actually like doing, and I feel the same. Like we're sometimes on Instagram or on TikTok, like afterwards just Ugh, this feeling of why am I doing this? Or what's going on here? I think, and it's, even if you are training the algorithms, it's pretty hard to feel great within these apps and experiences because it's just like this very passive.

Kind of like mind numbing activity, which sometimes we need to zone out and that's great. Like sometimes you, if you are looking for a way to not think for an hour, you've got a great tool for that right in your hand. But I think one big thing that I'm trying to add and one piece of

advice I give in these talks is definitely not just do you use this, but how does it make you feel both during and after use. We gotta separate out doing it from how we feel and two just intention, like what are we going in for? Often it's a moment of boredom or loneliness or just like mindlessness and that's okay, like something wrong with that.

But just can we notice that and can we think about are we like this is a near, talks about am I using technology or is it using me? And as much as we disagree on a lot, that question I think is a very strong.

[00:21:53] Maiko: I'd love to spend some time with you and share some practical advice for founders. Big audience of founders listening to this podcast, and most of them are, all of them, are founders that are trying to solve really difficult social and environmental problems, and that's a whole range of products and solutions that are being created.

But many of them go into behavior change or go into solutions where we want to have highly scalable software products, social products. The Impact Hustlers community, which is our community where we support founders on a regular basis, has a couple of members that are working in that space, and I just remember one of them that's working on a app, essentially, that helps people change their behavior. 

She's in a very early days and thinking about, how should I design this? But one could argue, okay, how about we apply all this hooked model from Nir Eyal and all these best practices that, TikTok, et cetera, and Snapchat have figured out to make us addicted.

And make us addicted to good behavior. Whoever decides what good is, but let's say behavior that's beneficial for the climate, that's beneficial for people. That could be an easy conclusion, but still maybe forgetting the individual in front of the screen. How should impact driven founders think about this and how they designed their product?

[00:23:24] Max: This is a tricky one and ultimately people are gonna make their own decisions. But what I would say is, Duo Lingo uses a lot of the same tricks that some of these other apps use streaks, for example, being one of them. The difference is you have come into that app because, you're like, hey, I wanna learn a language and hey Duo Lingo, will you help me learn a language?

And you enter into this sort of relationship with it that way. So then it deploying these kind of streaks and tactics are doing it for you, for your shared goal with this app of, yeah, we're trying to do this thing, we're trying to learn a language, and so I don't think the tactics are so bad or it's you're voluntarily signing up to manipulate yourself, and so like great.

And it's even tricky with something like the environment I would say. It's just like, are your goals and are your values aligned with your user? It's like, are they coming in because they want to do this or do you want them to do something that they don't want to do? I think that's the tricky place because I think as long as you are developing something where you're entering into a relationship with the person using your app that they also want to be doing, great. 

Use the things, do it the best that you can, how wonderful to be able to have this helper on something that your user wants to do. But nobody wakes up in the morning and says, how much time can I spend on Snapchat, TikTok Instagram today? That's not a human thought. And so that's where it's tricky because we're being motivated in direction that is not the same as our human goals and our human desires.

So for impact driven founders, I would say, what is your goal? What do you want? What are your values? And what are the people who are using your products values? And what are their goals? And then how do you help them in that direction? Joe Edelman is someone who does really interesting work on this.

He used to be the CTO of Couch Surfing, and he developed this sort of very interesting measure of like net positive hours of people who used the app, did you create more positively rated hours in the world cause of, because of your experience. And so, that was such a cool, innovative way of looking at, was this actually, am I doing a positive thing in the world? 

He's actually gone on since then and been like, actually, you know what, like with all of this goal stuff, I don't think this actually gets us to meaning and happiness. I think we really need to look carefully at people's values. We believe if I show up with love, no matter what I'm doing, that feels better than any kind of goal that I might be achieving. 

So it's like how I'm showing up as opposed to a what I'm accomplishing. And so Joe Edelman's worked and he has something called the School for Social Design. We should link that in the show notes too, that sort of trains founders and designers on how to build like this. I think that's a really powerful way of looking at it. Am I helping the people, using my apps live in the be in the world, the people that they wanna be in the world to help them both live by their values and achieve their goals.

And I think that is the type of tech world I wanna live in. Then once, if we're doing that, these devices become the greatest personal assistance of all time. And when I get that buzz, I'm not worried, why is it I'm not fighting with. It's on my team. oh, hey. Hi friend, what do you have for me right now? As opposed to just like the scattered sense of trying to keep a hold of myself.

[00:26:31] Maiko: Interesting. Maybe you can dive a little deeper into that in terms of, this what was it called, the net positive hours? 

[00:26:38] Max: I would rather dive like deeper into the school for social design of

[00:26:43] Maiko: Yeah, we're enough to, yeah, let's do it.

[00:26:45] Max: It's basically a lot of that process of really getting nuanced about what are the values, when I show up this way in the world, I feel good about it regardless of outcome, regardless of whether it goes my way and regardless of anybody else joins me.

So one of those for me is like when I am emotionally expressive and honest, I feel good about that regardless of whether someone joins me and regardless if that goes my way or not. And so that is one value of mine. Like often being playful and stuffy situations is another value of mine. I like being playful and stuffy situations and I like, and that feels good.

If no one else does it, I'm still like, oh, I'm glad I did that. No one else joins me, I'm still glad I did that. So then once you start to identify those valuse, you can also start to think about what are the things that make it hard to live by those values? Cause it's not easy to do that, and what are social elements and design elements of that?

where is it easier to do that? Where is it harder to do that? And then what control do we have? What power do we have to change? What kind of environments can we design that help people live by those values? And so it takes you through that process in a way that I certainly found just like very illuminating in terms of self-work, and also very interesting in terms of this work with tech.

[00:27:57] Maiko: And, we touched on it, but I'd love to go a little bit deeper into it in terms of what each individual can do. You talk to kids and you spoke about a few strategies that really work well, but, we all struggle with this to some degree. Pretty certain most people have some struggle with this because we're all being capture, attention is being captured. 

If you were just to share a couple of specific things that people can do after listening to this podcast, what is it? What are the best strategies that you've seen work with?

[00:28:28] Max: The first thing I'd recommend is that you already know there is one app on your phone that you're like, yeah, I should delete that one. I know I should delete that one, but you're just not doing it. Stop it, go delete it now. Like just do that now, cause there's one app on your phone. It's different for everybody, whatever it might be, but just delete it and then, cause there's nothing that really compares with that piece, I'm just like deleting that off of your phone. 

Another thing that is surprising that people seem to really, is buying a physical alarm clock, which are $8 on Amazon. For most of us, I think our alarm clocks are our phones. So then the first thing in the morning, you turn off your alarm and immediately you're hit with all of this outside world stuff and external notifications and stressors, and you're not in your groggy brain really starting your day the way that you want to.

And so like to have those 10 minutes to yourself with a physical alarm clock, people seem to really like that. You'll also notice how much you have an urge to check your phone of like in the morning. And this helpful awareness in that regard. Another one that I would say people find really helpful. I would say zones of, sometimes it just takes a person being the one to start a conversation saying, hey, we're out to dinner together, guys. We're not gonna use our phones at this dinner.

The first person to touch their phone in the middle of the table is gonna buy dinner for everybody else. Things like that and just like having the conversations, hey friend, I actually don't like to respond right away, so I might take a long time to respond to your message and that doesn't mean that I don't care about you.

Like having these conversations about our digital boundaries and just, making that a little bit more eye to eye in terms of how we see each other. Cause there's tons of miscommunication that also happens. Yes, with kids, also with adults of, read receipts and, oh, I saw that you were online on Instagram, but you didn't respond to my message, what was that about? 

And there's all this built up resentment that comes in our relationships so just like having these conversations with people that we care about, saying, look like this is the way I like to engage with my technology. Sometimes I just might not be in the head space to respond to your message.

I need for that to be okay in our relationship. I care about you, like I'm gonna respond on my own time. And, I would love if you could hold space for me in that. Like having conversations like that about our digital connection I think can be very valuable.

[00:30:37] Maiko: That's super good point. Yeah thanks for sharing that. I was actually just gonna mention something because I think a lot of that distraction has now also been built into our modern work life in many ways, right? We have apps like Slack and others that are designed in very similar ways, very often, and if we don't use them in the right way, they can get very overwhelming.

And, becomes about those read receipts and oh, why haven't you checked things? One tool I found helpful for the work life, and maybe it could be adapted for personal life as well, is basically the kind of personal user manual, I think it's called, where you can outline, this is how I prefer to be contacted about which thing.

And I only check my email twice a day, and please don't call me if it's not urgent. Just send me a message or whatever it is. Basically communicating clearly what are your terms, and we communicate carelessly out of habit, not necessarily because we're trying to harm others, but I may text somebody and ask them why they haven't read it. Mainly because that's just how everybody does it, but maybe I haven't thought about it. Would agree with that?

[00:31:56] Max: Yeah, and when people have those manuals, I'm always like, wow, this person really has their stuff together. They've got really figured out here's how they wanna be engaged with. This is impressive. And yeah, slack has things like do not disturb features and things like that, that allow you to get a message off of your mind without necessarily interrupting the other person.

And I think that's a step in the right direction, some of these are more intense than others, and I don't think Slack and iMessage are as bad as, instagrams and Snapchats and ands messaging, more content. But yeah, that, having those conversations I think is helpful.

[00:32:29] Maiko: Amazing, one last question for you, which is about the future. And if you think 10 years ahead 10 years from now, 2032, 2033, actually by the time we're released this. How does the word look like if Social Awakening and your message actually gets through and you succeed? How does our social media look like?

[00:32:53] Max: It always look like projections, I always try to look the okay, 10 years ago was 2012, which was right when, like on the graphs of mental health, 2012 is right when the mental health spike starts getting really awful for young girls. It's right when a lot of the algorithms got very popular. 10 years from now is so like I cannot hardly imagine what the world looks like.

But if we have

succeeded, If we can hang up the boots it would be, yeah. I think there's probably like a peer leadership ask type program in every school where they can constantly be dealing with the new challenges that come up where they have a safe space to support each other.

There's probably like a therapist or counselor in every one of those rooms so that, cause you know, no curriculum that anyone creates could possibly capture every new thing that's going to keep on coming up. Every new trend, every new app, and so having the infrastructure inside of schools where kids are able to.

12th graders are able to support 10th graders with the help of a counselor, of a therapist or whatever that might be. So that we have the support systems in place, I think that would really be a dream success. And then the platforms themselves would be using all of this data to help people live by their values and achieve their goals, it wouldn't be an attention grab. 

And that also might mean that like we are paying for some of these social apps. I have no desire to pay for a Facebook, a Twitter, answer any of these, right now. The way that they're operated, they're not built for me, I don't wanna pay for that. But if there were a version that we're actually using all of this data to help me be the best person that I could be and like to help me bring more joy and love and play, and fullness and friendships and like success in my work into my life.

I would gladly pay for that, I might even donate for others to pay for that too, so that everyone in the world could have one, and so I would love for the platforms to run that way. And I would love for there to be systems in schools or in communities where kids have spaces where they can just navigate some of these relational and digital challenges that are coming up as well as schools would be woken up.

I don't know if have, if this is the case over where you are, but in America there are very few, or not very few, but a lot of schools are just like, have allow phones in school, like all throughout the day, and I think one of the biggest pieces of low hanging fruit is for schools to just use this eight hour opportunity where we can teach kids what life is like both socially and educationally, without that constant distraction for everybody.

It might be the only time in their lives at this point that they get to experience that. there's a lot of pushback of, don't we need to teach kids how to use this stuff? Yes, of course we do, but we're actually not at risk of them not knowing how to use the devices. We're at risk of them not knowing what life is like in environments that don't have them. I think school really should be that opportunity. So in that 10 years, every school in America, in the world hopefully have baseline policy be no phones and ofcoarse exceptions and times you cant use them when its beneficial but to let thet be fall. 

[00:35:43] Maiko: Got it. This is such an interesting discussion. I'm sure we can have more follow on discussions like this. I think there's so many interesting technologies being designed now as well, if we think about virtual reality and augmented reality, this can potentially get even more scary than what it already is or better, hopefully.

Cause if we think about the addictive models and then spending your life in a virtual reality, applic. That gets very intense very quickly, potentially. I don't know, any views on that before we close? 

[00:36:16] Max: I'm glad to see so few people using the Meta one, where they're having to pivot in that way, but there are incredible uses of virtual reality people regaining use of limbs, like phantom limb type stuff, incredible uses of it in therapy. How wonderful when it can be about the human value or the human piece or the environmental piece that is coming out as a result of that increased empathy, whatever it might be. 

But yeah, these same tactics are just a recipe for disaster inside that environment, we have to keep thinking about the intention and what are we going into this room for and how does this benefit the person who is doing it, as opposed to just like, how much time are you spending there? Cause that's a disaster waiting to happen.

[00:36:57] Maiko: Thank you, Max. I really recommend to everybody to check out to check out your videos on YouTube. I think that's probably the best place to check them out. Any other place that you want to plug before we close?

[00:37:09] Max: Yes, and, those are the two places to find things. Got a couple more artistic short films and films coming out that are pretty fun too.

[00:37:19] Maiko: Perfect, looking forward to that. Thanks Max for your time and hope to do one again in the future, thanks so much.

[00:37:25] Max: Thanks for having me, let's do it.

Max Stossel’s background & Journey
Lessons learned from working in the social media industry
How does the social media Economy work for companies?
Mechanisms behind social media
Max's views on the world learning to adjusting to social media
What lessons/advice do you give kids struggling with social media addiction
Action plans how to combat social media addiction
What do social media Apps do differently in engagement
Advice for social media impact driven founders
Net positive hours
Strategies to help in handling social media usage
Max’s 10-year vision