I was speaking with a young lady the other day. She wasn’t her normal talkative self. She was unusually quiet. I kept peering, pressing her to talk to me. We have a pretty good relationship and dialogue about many things. After ten minutes, I made one last attempt to find out what was bothering her. She said she had a lot on her mind. Then she went on to say how she wondered if she and her friends would be attending the same school, typical thoughts for teens. The conversation became more intense when she told me she was thinking about our world, Paris and all the killings, Kenya, “the white guy who killed those black people in church,” Mike Brown and other black kids being killed for no reason. All this information is accessible to her through her cell phone. She then confessed it’s been difficult for her to rest and sleep well at night.
Immediately, I thought, she needs to take a break from her phone and social media. I know adults who spend way too much time on social media and have a hard time processing all the information they take in. I myself become overwhelmed with it at times. That’s when I take a break. Because the truth of the matter is while there are positive posts online, the negative far outweigh the other.
Huffington Post wrote an article July, 28, 2015 titled; “Heavy Social Media Use Linked With Mental Health Issues In Teens.” The article was about the research they conducted and how individuals who use social media more than two hours daily struggle with psychological distress (anxiety and depression) and suicidal thoughts. The public health sectors suggested the solution is to not limit their use but simply get more mental health resources onto these platforms.
Another article by Medical News Today reads, Social Media: How Does It Affect Our Mental health and Well-Being. The article went on to say 1 in 4 people use the world wide web and in 2012 a study suggested Facebook use may feed anxiety and increase feelings of inadequacy, it may even make us miserable. People are looking for social connection, seeking reinforcements through how many likes and comments they get, addicted to Facebook “fame.” Fifty-three percent of people surveyed admit since being on social media they have seen changes in themselves. Fifty-one percent of the 53% says the change has been negative and they feel less confident. Two thirds have difficulty relaxing and sleeping after use, fifty-five percent felt worried or uncomfortable and have a negative impact on face-to-face encounters.
Enough Is Enough, is an organization who works to make the internet safe for children and families. Ninety-five percent of the teens they serve have witnessed Cyber Bullying. Thirty-three percent have been victims. Dr. Rauch, a contributor to the article says, “I think parents should be aware that their adolescent children are living at a time where they are constantly ‘on’ and connected. I would encourage any parent to explore ways to encourage or even mandate ‘off’ time, not just away from social media sites, but away from devices. That is probably good advice for all of us.”
When I was coming up I didn’t have access to so much information. I worried about what was going on around me, in the small world of my neighborhood, community, and city. If I wasn’t sleeping well it wasn’t because of something I saw on social media. And I didn’t live in a bubble. I was exposed to real life. Nor do I think we should try to shield our youth from everything. Many adults born before the wave of “technology take-over” or “technology over-load,” that I’ve had conversations with tell me they don’t know what they would’ve done or who they would’ve become with information (good and bad) at their fingertips. There was no Wikipedia. There were thick Britannica encyclopedia’s we spent hours researching to gain a little knowledge on events that had already transpired.
The thing is, technology is a great asset. Our country and the rest of the world have been able to do amazing things because of it. But, like anything, there has to be balance. Throwing more medicine and resources on how to access medicine to cope with mental health, is a ploy of the public health sector to make more money. How about we take control of our families, children and use preventive care which could be limiting our social media and use of our devices, replacing them with quality family time, meeting new people the old fashion way- saying hello to people you see on the street- striking up conversations in person the way you would on-line. Spend time with other families, go to school or community events.
List ways you and your family can reconnect with others and the world around you without social media. Nothing extreme, not suggesting you never use it again, or go days or even a day without it or that it’s an evil vice. I’m suggesting balance.
Teens, adults, everyone is looking for love and acceptance. Give your teen affirmation. Write affirmations for yourself and post them on your wall. Love, laugh, sing, give, communicate more. Don’t wait, look for or expect social media to affirm you. You may never get what you’re looking for from an outside source.