The first generation to grow up with social media is now adults. They have been an experiment and no one knew what the outcome would be. Now the data is coming in for teenagers.
Millions of teens have experienced increased anxiety and depression, largely related to the amount of time spent on social media. They compare their lives, bodies, and popularity as they constantly scroll through pictures that convey this deceptive message: “You don’t measure up.”
Facebook has been conducting studies into how its twin products, Facebook and Instagram, affect its young followers, and the researcher’s findings confirm the harm it has on teens. According to their own report, Facebook researchers claim:
- Our platforms have proven harmful to millions of young users
- Teens blame Instagram for increases in their rates of anxiety and depression.
- The link between suicidal thoughts and our platforms is real in the U.K. and U.S.
And yet, the company does little to nothing to help. Social media is the new cigarette smoking. Instead of “big tobacco” profiting off of addicting young people and having a customer for life, we now have Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat leading the way on exploiting the addictive nature of young people for their own profit.
I encourage young people to consider how social media affects your life and whether it is worth your time, attention, and life investment. Does it enhance your productivity? Help you reach your dreams? Make you a better person? Does it make you a gossip? Cause you angst? Make you envy and dissatisfied?
Instead of just accepting the status quo as your way of life, start THINKING FOR YOURSELF about social media. Ask yourself important questions such as: “What role do I want social media to play in my life?”, “Just how much keeping up with the constant activity, drama, and successes of other people is appropriate?”, “Do I want to try to keep up with 5 close friends? 10? 20? 1000?”.
In some ways, social media is like playing God. Only God is omniscient, knowing everything, going on with everyone, all the time. We are not made for that. You can be so caught up in the lives of your friends or your favorite celebrities that you do not live your own life. What a tragedy.
Consider making some changes. Could you:
- Cancel your social media accounts and live a life free from social media addictions? Many are doing this, and the serenity gained seems to be worth the gossip they lose.
- Set limits on your usage. If you currently spend more than an hour a day scrolling social media and you aren’t willing to stop completely, then at least try to scale back to an hour or less.
- Use it only for good! Instead of just scrolling and looking for comparisons and inviting eating disorders, depression, suicide, anxiety, anger, etc into your life, use social media to encourage others. Use the first 20 minutes of your social media time to: find out whose birthday is today so you can text them and let them know how much they mean to you, exert some form of positive peer pressure, put out a fire or help someone get along and quit arguing, give to a charitable cause, praise someone publicly, and/or post something like a scripture of a quote that will bring light into your followers’ day.
- Use social media to invest into your adult life rather than being caught up in teen drama. Maybe you’re not there yet, but there are people under the age of 18 who understand that even though enjoying your teen years is good, there is also the reality that it is short lived and the vast majority of your future will be lived as an adult. If you live your teen years on social media watching the 15 to 20 selfie’s some classmate puts up every day then your adult life is looking less bright when compared to another teen your age who is using social media to invest in his future. For example, Facebook groups can help you network with people in any profession from writing to plumbing. Spending time in those social media spaces can set you up ahead of your peers. What other ways could you leverage your social media time to learn skills and network with adults who can give you a hand when it comes time to launch into a career or an enterprise?
- Set up your account to just follow things that are healthy such as funny videos, inspiring videos, wise quotes, etc. My Instagram is one of my favorite times of the day. Instead of following people, I use it to follow things that brighten my mood. Today when I checked it, I watched a video of a girl who drove around handing out random but sincere compliments to strangers. The look on their face when a random stranger told them they are beautiful or that they carry an inspirational vibe was heartwarming and made me want to do the same. I saw several comical memes that made me laugh. And I saw several inspirational quotes or videos. Time well spent!
I also suggest asking your parents to take your phone and other devices after 9pm. A few benefits include:
- Better sleep. Limiting electronic use before bed helps you fall asleep. It also helps control your hunger levels, helps you be more active, and helps you eat better – these benefits have to do with the blue light emitted from screens and the way it affects your sleep and your body.
- Better relationships. Most interactions past 9pm on social media is not going to enhance relationships, but it does tend to deteriorate them through gossiping, conflicts, and compromising sexually. If you’ll spend your evening hours in face-to-face time with family, you will have long-term rewards for that time investment.
- Better sexual purity. Temptation to sext or look at porn mostly happens after 9pm.
- Increased trust with your parents. Parents will be impressed with such an adult and responsible limit set on yourself.