Disclaimer: a lot of you are probably going to disagree with me on this, and that is fine. I want to disagree with me.
After all, social media isn’t just a hobby for me. It’s my profession, which hopefully makes what I’m about to say a little more validated.
Social Media is making us insecure.
Specifically, people (skewing younger) are misusing the social media tools given to them and creating false impressions of themselves that are fueling their own insecurities, as well as the insecurities of their peers.
Plenty have researched the link between social media sites and depression. A 2012 study found that there is, in fact, a high correlation between depression and use of major social network, Facebook. The study assessed the risk of depression among high schoolers and compared the risk rate to links between depression and TV use, to name one.
Other studies somewhat disagree. Huffington Post discussed a few related findings and found that there seems to be a stronger case that social media doesn’t cause anxiety or depression, it just pushes already at-risk people off the figurative cliff.
I find that difficult to know for sure, and I gravitate more towards the idea that we have yet to see the true effects of what social media use is doing to the youngest of us.
See, the originators of these studies, and the writers like me who are interpreting them, are a different generation from the one ahead of us.
Yes, I am a millennial, but I’m also a little older. I didn’t grow up linked to social media like children are today, which means that we can only discuss what is happening in real-time with younger users.
And it’s not pretty.
It’s easy to make the argument that insecurity and low self-esteem is evident in teenagers, after all. We have millions of people logging into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, bragging about the great things that are happening in their lives. We know this because we see it every day.
Forget for one second how bragging is a result of insecurity. Focus on the result of this social competition we’re seeing before us. Kids are getting on Instagram and seeing pictures of people they know doing something that they aren’t. It can be overwhelming for someone between the ages of 13 and 16 to feel like they are missing out on something.
Honestly, we’ve all felt like this at one point, so you know that social jealousy can be a lot more impacting when you’re a teen, that stage of life when your self-esteem is at an all-time low.
Thus, teens like to lie about their lives in order to feel slightly better about what they think they’re missing out on. Why do you think Catfish seems to resonate so quickly with people? Most of us have been “catfished” or have even “catfished” someone else.
Social media is an anonymity paradox. On the one hand, we are more anonymous than we would be in a face-to-face interaction with someone. On the other hand, we are using social media to essentially make ourselves public to the whole world.
Now, I don’t mind being public about a lot of things, but I certainly don’t want some things to be so easily accessible. No one really does. The problem we need to address, then, is how we educate ourselves and those younger than us.
Throwing money at the problem or forcing kids to stay away from it won’t help. Kids are way too far ahead of their parents for them to regulate social media use. Instead, kids (and us) need to be taught how to temper our concern and fixation over social media.
Would that solve the whole problem? No, but it’s a start. I’m convinced that a lot of the depression and anxiety complexes developing from social media can be prevented by good parenting and willpower.
And, of course, social media has just as many benefits as it does pitfalls. It’s strengthened relationships between friends separated by distance, given brands the opportunity to grow, provided many jobs, and overall, it’s been a great outlet for entertainment and leisure.
Just remember to be cautious of its ills.
So, when your friend tells you that they want to take a “break” from Facebook or Twitter for a few weeks, don’t mock them for it (which I am guilty of doing). Encourage and cheer them on.
You could even join them if you’re brave enough.
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