When young people reflect on their mental health, they rarely think of social media addiction as a fuel for the fire. Instead, they focus on trivial aspects of poor mental attitude such as lack of success in their academic lives, increased weight gain, trouble forming meaningful friendships and difficulty finding a romantic partner. Although these areas are worth examining, many readers may be surprised when they find out that technology addiction is causing them to spiral downward. This article attempts to demonstrate the power that social media has on young people's lives, and how one company, Instagram, is fighting back against this invisible force.
Social Media Bludgeons the Minds of Young Teens
In the early days of the internet, many users sat waiting in the darkness of their rooms as dialup sounds flooded their ears. To older readers, this jingle brings back fond memories of surfing the web, laughing in chat rooms with random people across the globe and playing games with friends over the wire. Hours seemed to fade into one another, and before they knew it, the sun had set and hitting the hay looked like a seductive option. Weekends were filled with social connections over a digital medium that would otherwise be impossible in real life. Early users of the internet were so enthralled by the digital frontier, that they earned degrees and attained jobs that would go on to shape the modern internet as we know it today.
Somewhere along this journey, social interaction on the internet became the go-to means of communication by individuals young and old. Instead of relying on the postal service to deliver their mail, users opted to shoot a quick email. Rather than hanging out in a noisy nightclub to meet a potential partner, people were seeking love on various web pages. As time crept by, the standard way of living incorporated some form of digital solution to solve specific problems. Paying your bills, enjoying entertainment, purchasing clothes and reading food reviews were a click away. Life was fast, easy and enjoyable.
Although the internet seemed to provide unfathomable benefits, some started to notice that it created a sense of disconnectedness within its userbase. Certain activities that required human interaction were now finding a home on the internet, leaving social connection on the back-burner. While this posed no immediate threat, it began to dampen the real-life formation of friendships and the ability to communicate with others. It was at this moment that we began to see how social media would negatively impact the lives of future generations to come.
Instagram and Digital Health
Fast forward to the modern era and people can now see the ramifications of the early adoption of internet services. Topics like mental health, taking a digital detox and removing toxic people from one's life are valid conversation pieces. Certain statistics reveal that digital health is at an all-time low with more of the young population reporting suicide-like symptoms associated with depression. The data shows that young people aged 14 to 17 have experienced higher rates of depression than any era before them. From 2007 to 2017, cases of depression within people aged 12 to 21 soared over 60%, and by 25, people reported experiencing a major depressive episode.
Many outsiders deemed the statistics as a reflection of young academia and missed romantic encounters, but an underlying fact was left out of the conversation. During the period between 2007 and 2017, nations saw a major rise in the popularity of social media platforms. Companies such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube all began their conquest for young minds during this period with great success. Millions of users flooded to these applications as a way of expressing themselves and dealing with the chaos associated with teenage years and early twenties.
Once these mediums gained popularity and attraction, a cultural shift began to occur. Celebrities, stay-at-home parents, sons, daughters, fathers and even large corporations began using social media to garner an audience. Whether society was ready for it or not, everyone was able to voice their opinion -- good or bad -- to an enthusiastic audience that followed them on their social media account. This negatively impacted young individuals in that bullying, stalking, abuse and gossip spread like wildfire. As a result of this, teen suicide now stands at 13% of total lives lost under the age of 20.
Adam Mosseri, formerly of Facebook, now leads the Instagram team through the murky waters of teen suicide and depression with extreme caution. Instagram, who derives most of its earnings through users sharing media and giving 'likes' to favorable content, made a bold announcement: the company intends on removing the 'likes' feature in the upcoming future. This removal has since been tested in various regions such as Brazil, Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand since the middle of 2019. Certain users within these areas had their 'like' feature disabled for a brief period to test the bounds of social media addiction. Although Mosseri and his team received some initial backlash, users seemed ok with the removed feature.
How You Can Eliminate Social Media Depression and Anxiety
Whether you're someone that is currently dealing with technology addiction or you desperately need a digital detox, here are some steps you can take to eliminate anxiety, worry and depression from your digital lifestyle.
- Ask yourself if your post serves a purpose, or are you posting out of boredom?
- Does your romantic or marital status need to be shared with your social following?
- Will talking about discrepancies online soothe your situation?
- Remind yourself that social media does not accurately depict anyone's lifestyle.
- Remember that being praised online does not feel as enjoyable as admiration in person.
- People's opinion about others and their circumstance does not influence their personal beliefs.
In the upcoming weeks and months, we encourage readers to work on their digital health. Take time away from the internet and social media. Instead, readers should engage with the people in their immediate vicinity as a way to gain a realistic view of the world. This short vacation from certain digital mediums may seem simplistic, but it will provide powerful results.