This news shouldn’t receive too many “I’m shocked” emojis. Recent research indicates that the number of people who are shocked by this news is approximately 12%. 60 minutesMore than 1,200 families now have lawsuits filed against Meta, TikTok and YouTube. These lawsuits are alleging that such companies’ products and services have had a variety of negative mental health effects on the families’ children. These lawsuits are coming after mental health experts have issued repeated warnings since the mid-2010’s about what social media can do to that thing that sits atop your body. Your head. You know the thing in your middle of all your selfies.
The 60 minutesSharyn alfonsi was interviewed by Sharyn, a reporter who covered the lawsuits. Kathleen Spence (who are suing Meta) was interviewed by Sharyn Alfonsi. The Spences have accused Meta of doing something that doesn’t seem very meta, when the word “meta” is supposed to mean “extremely self-aware, self-reflective.” They have asserted that their daughter, Alexis, developing depression and an eating disorder at the age of 12 after heavily using Instagram, which is owned by Meta. The Spences have complained that Meta did not put in place appropriate precautions so that their daughter wouldn’t be exposed to all those so-called fitness influencers posting pictures of very thin, sometimes sickly thin, bodies. According to the Spences such images could have distorted what their daughter thought was normal-looking bodies. Attorney Matt Bergman, who is representing the Spences, told Alfonsi the following about Meta: “They have intentionally designed a product that is addictive. It is clear that children who stay on the internet make more money if they do so. It doesn’t matter how harmful the material is.”
If the 2010’s were a financial party for social media companies, one of the big questions is who will clean up the resulting mess? Social media is not without its positives. Sure, it’s brought together many people who may have otherwise never met. It can give people more voice and help them learn new skills. It can show you more cat videos and how to make an owl from an apple, or an owl-pple. Yes, it has been a great tool for social justice.
However, social media can act as a combination of an anvil or a pair o’ underwear. It can be very useful if used correctly. Social media can prove to be extremely harmful if it is misused incorrectly. Research is showing that social media overuse can have a variety of negative effects. A publication such as this one in Clinical Psychological ScienceIn 2017, two national surveys were conducted on 506,820 U.S. teenagers in grades 8-12. National statistics about suicide deaths among those aged 13-18 was also reported. In this study, there were increases in suicide-related outcomes among teenagers between 2010 and 2015. The likelihood that someone reported mental disorders was higher for those who used social media more frequently. In 2018, a study was published that found this. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology University of Pennsylvania. The study revealed that limiting the students’ Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes, per platform, per day was associated with significant reductions in loneliness and depression.
What can cause depression, anxiety and other mental disorders through social media? The websites and apps are so much fun! YouFaceTwit, Instagram and TikTok are all social media platforms that feature bright colors as well as fun names such As YouFaceTwit, YouFaceTwit, YouFaceTwit, or others. All those cat videos! Nothing is more relaxing than watching your cat use the toilet, or sitting inside a pan.
But there are some big issues.
1. Feeling inadequate on social media is a common feeling.
It’s difficult not to compare your self-image with others. Even when you tell yourself that you should live by your own standards, you can’t help but look around at what’s happening to others. That can be especially the case when you are a kid and don’t quite yet understand yourself. The problem is social media can really blur the boundaries between what’s reality and what’s make believe. You may not be aware that you can watch a film like The Way of Water AvatarThis is not real life, as not many people will name their child Spider. However, social media can make you feel inadequate when others, even actors, appear to be enjoying lavish vacations and living in luxurious homes. What you don’t realize is many of these folks may be showing only the good parts of their lives, choreographing a lot of what they happen to be showing, and using lots of photoshop and video editing.
Susan Birne-Stone, PhD, LCSW, a therapist and talk show producer and host based in New York City, explained that at “A time when social connections, peer group identify and acceptance is being developed, adolescents are seeing images that are not real or attainable.” She added that “This leads to ‘social comparison’ which is unrealistic , and unobtainable. This has resulted in teens feeling less than, poor self image.”
Birne-Stone also related that “A common experience I hear from my young patients is a feeling of being left out, and not being able to have/experience what everyone else seems to be doing.”
2. You may feel pressured by social media to keep a positive image.
It can feel like you are a Hollywood celeb, only without all the fame and money. It can be almost as if you said, “I would really like paparazzi following me at all times.” And what could possibly go wrong with all the bad stuff of being a celebrity and little of the good stuff? Feeling like you have to be “on” all the time can be a lot unrelenting pressure that, in turn, can lead to or exacerbate anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Look at the celebrities who succumb to such stress. A Hollywood star is more likely to have more resources and support than a typical fourteen-year-old. A 14-year-old child probably doesn’t have a publicist to tell everyone, “Young Billy or Billie didn’t really fart when falling on the floor in that video. That is not who Billy or Billie is.”
3. The use of social media may reduce the contact you have with other people.
Let’s be realistic. When you are watching someone’s video on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, you are not really interacting with that person. While you may interact with social media companies and give them tons of information, it is not really interacting. But you aren’t getting true human-to-human interactions that most people inherently need. Social media can become a cliché. Spending every minute on social media speculating about Kylie Jenner’s outfit is a minute you could be investing in human connections with other people. For good mental health, you must have real relationships with others. Such relationships are a great way to learn and help you see the bigger picture. You can feel happier about yourself, and they will be there to support you during difficult times.
Additionally, social media rules and conventions can differ from those of human-to-human interaction. You can’t just throw around emojis in a real face-to-face conversation or keep saying “lol” at a party. Social media use can reduce the ability to communicate effectively with other people, especially if you have mental health problems.
4. The social media platform can prevent you from doing things that are more important.
There’s a joke that goes, “What’s the opposite of social media? A social life.” A social life not only brings other real humans into your life but it also helps you do other activities that as a result can improve your mental health. If you scroll through Instagram constantly, is it possible that you are engaging in sport and also getting some physical activity? Evidence has been shown to show that children who exercise regularly have better mental health.
5. Your sleep can be disrupted by social media.
A 2016 study in the The reveals how research is done. Journal of AdolescenceThe study measured 467 teenagers’ social media usage, including nighttime social media use and emotional investment. It also assessed sleep quality and anxiety, depression, and self-esteem. This study revealed that people who use social media more often and are more emotionally involved with social media have lower quality sleep, higher self-esteem, and more anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Three main ways social media can affect sleep are: First, scrolling through social media at 4:30 AM is not considered sleeping. Unless you’re sleep-scrolling which could be a concern, this would indicate that you haven’t been sleeping. Second, your quality of sleep may be affected by the images and sounds you see on social media. Finally, exposure to all that screen light that’s different from the normal daytime-nighttime changes in lighting may affect your Circadian rhythm. This can affect your ability to fall asleep. Lack of sleep is a big problem for your mental well-being.
6. You can make connections with people you don’t like and be exposed to cyberbullying through social media.
Unlike a tweet, there’s no character limit as to who is on social media. Although social media may be able to help you find long lost friends, or people with whom you have finally connected, it also has the potential of connecting you with someone with too many taxidermy objects and bombs hidden under his clothes. You may not know the person behind a social media account. Who knows what that person’s intentions may be. The person might be motivated to make you feel unhappy, or even cause suffering in your place. They could also be trying prey on others or create chaos. It is not clear what kind of discriminatory, sexist or racist views this person might be promoting and how desperate he or she may want to vent his inner anger on an innocent.
People may feel empowered by social media to speak and act in ways they are not afraid of. For example, how many people will have the stones to walk into an elevator and yell, “I’m an alpha male” to you. Yet, “alpha male” was exactly what was trending on Twitter this weekend after a social media account said just that. Social media has the potential to give bullies more power.
Social media also has expanded the limits of bullying. Birne-Stone said, “Technology has given platforms for name calling and bullying that reach a wider audience and can be viewed repeatedly without an end date.”
7. The privacy of your personal information can be compromised by social media.
Even the most outgoing people would prefer to keep certain aspects of their life private. No matter how well-organized or brilliant you appear to be, there will always be stupid things. It can be quite traumatizing to have a embarrassing picture or video of yourself posted online and recorded for posterity. This can lead to children feeling helpless and can cause them to spiral into very negative mental states.
8. The spread of harmful and incorrect ideas via social media is possible.
Information flash. People lie on social media. You may hear them lie about many things. These lies could have a negative impact on your self-image and how you view yourself. When people attempt to show you things, such as questionable diets or health products, they will tell you about how awful you are and make you feel like you have to purchase what they sell. You can also instill fear and make it easier to believe bad ideas. All of these tactics seem to working among a number of adults, as evidenced by the spread of conspiracy theories like claims that birds aren’t real, reptiles run the government, the Earth is flat, and Covid-19 vaccines can turn you into a gigantic magnet and the paranoia that they have inspired. Think about what disinformation like this can do to children.
9. Harmful activities can be sparked by social media.
You can only imagine what other harmful actions people could have taken because of the social media. Is it encouraging blindfolded people to go out and drive? You could try boiling water over each other, or getting them to swallow Tide Pods. Perhaps it’s trying to swallow enough Benadryl so that you can start hallucinating? Although not every social media-induced activity is as obvious as this, these social media challenges have proven how powerful these posts can be in getting people to do something they never thought of. It begs the question: What other subtler social media influencers are there? They could be slowly influencing children to engage in self-harming activities such as changing eating habits and separating from the real world. Later on in the 60 minutesAlfonsi interviewed Toney Roberts and Brandy Roberts about their tragic loss of Englyn by hanging herself. Following their discovery, the Roberts found out that their daughter had been sent an Instagram video by a friend that featured a woman attempting to hang herself. You have to wonder if these ideas even existed if they hadn’t been posted on social media.
10. Social media has been designed to make you addicted.
The business model of social media companies is what you need to consider. If they earn money from selling advertisements or selling the data that they collect from you, then take a wild guess as to what are their executives’ incentives may be? They could want you to be as glued as possible to their services for as long as they can. Could they be trying to convince you to use their services and products over and over, and eventually become addicted? Has that happened before in another industry? Let’s smoke out the possibilities. How going to-back-oh to the 1930’s and 1940’s. Although it is obvious that smoking inhaled tobacco smoke can be harmful to your health, the truth may have not been known by many people back then. It was later discovered that tobacco companies suppressed studies showing how dangerous smoking can be for your health. It is possible that social media usage today could mirror tobacco smoking in the 1950s.
Social media may not be the same thing as smoking products. It’s not all bad. As indicated earlier, social media clearly can bring many benefits when it’s used appropriately and in moderation. Social media shouldn’t be banned. Social media content and use should be balanced. This may not be an easy task for children. While self-moderating may be easier for adults, with the possible exception of some billionaires and politicians, it’s a whole more difficult for kids. That’s especially true when kids are still at the “Gee, I have hormones” or “Hmm, what are these body parts and what can they do” stage.
As a parent it is important that you make sure your children realize the dangers of social media, and also how irrelevant and fake news can seem. You should encourage your kids to build and maintain real human relationships as well as hobbies and activities that don’t involve social media. Encourage your children to be more critical and scientific about evaluating different accounts, people and things on social media.
While you can try to restrict your kids’ social media use, they will always be able to find ways to get around these restrictions if they don’t develop critical thinking abilities for themselves. Kids tend to mimic what you do, rather than what your words. You can make a guess about what your kids will do if you are constantly yelling at them on social media.
All that being said, it’s probably way too much to foist all of the social media moderation responsibility on busy parents. That would be like telling parents, “Oh, and by the way, from now on you will be responsible for operating all the traffic lights and road signs out there so that your kids won’t get hit by a car.” It’s too much to expect parents to fend off the tidal wave of social media armed only with colanders. This growing problem must be addressed by everyone.
Therefore, social media probably can’t continue as it has this past decade in a complete Wild, Wild West, seemingly anything goes culture. Numerous social media professionals have made it clear that they are making a lot of money and gaining enormous influence. The Spider Man movies have shown us that great power can also come with great responsibility. If given the opportunity, how many social-media executives over the past decade have actually addressed privacy concerns and mental health issues raised by families and experts? When self-regulation doesn’t emerge naturally, lawsuits and external regulations follow. And if you believe that every company out there will willingly self-regulate itself, then maybe you’ve been too budy trading cryptocurrency on the FTX exchange to notice what’s been going on recently.