Friday, June 14 2024 - 8:59 AM
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Social Media and the Youth

One Friday afternoon, I stopped by a car rental counter to pick up a van for the weekend. The attendant at the counter asked me what was the reason for the rental? I began, “I would like to take a group of girls to a retreat up in the mountains.”

All of a sudden four other attendants at the other counters looked my way and asked, “Can we go?”

I chuckled. “Sure! But why do you all need to get away?”

They responded in a chorus, “We’re stressed and anxious.”

Surprised, I commented, “But you are too young to be stressed and anxious about life.”

As we continued our conversation, I learned that they were all on medication for either depression and/or anxiety. What on earth would drive all five of these young women to feel down and anxious? They explained to me that it was social media.

Everybody seems to have a perfect life on social media. They get to eat at the best restaurants, wear the latest clothes, look perfect in their selfies, travel around the world and just live lives that seem so much better than theirs. In other words, everybody else has the market for perfection except them. This raised their desires to be perfect but their efforts can never reach these ideals. This caused them to become depressed and anxious.

As I drove away, I thought about this conversation and wondered what others would say. I asked teens and young adults and got similar responses. Then I read a few articles on the topic, and I discovered some disturbing trends.

Stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide are on the rise in this country, especially among teens. One reason highlighted was the consistent use of smartphones. They have discovered that those who spend at least five hours on their phones have a 71 percent increased chance of having at least one risk factor of suicide1. Another article reported that heavy users also have a change in the chemical profile of the brain2.

Smartphones are useful and can be used for many things—from finding our way around to finding our favorite restaurants; from reading books to taking photos. But spending five hours reading social media posts, texting folks, and looking at altered photos may be a bit too much. Researchers recommend reducing the time to about two hours or less a day. Then we have time for other things such as spending time with family members and friends rather than technology. Developing real relationships with real people in real-time may be what we need to help us stay mentally fit.

1. The risk of teen depression and suicide are linked to smartphone use, a study says. NPR. Accessed, February 28, 2018
2.  Yes, smartphone addiction does harm your teen’s mental health. Medical News Today. Accessed, February 28, 2018

If you liked this, you might also like Media Devices Between Us | How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers 

Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

is a dietitian, photographer, and writer in Southern California.

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