Almost a year ago, we wrote about how post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been, but they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
The Atlantic’s Jean Twenge questioned whether “smartphones destroyed a generation?”
There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives – and making them seriously unhappy.
In the period since, various former Facebook founders and Silicon Valley sicophants have had their ‘come to Jesus’ moments, recognizing and accepting that what they have created is indeed changing behaviors… and not for the better.
Mustapha Itani, via Medium.com, explained that several months ago, one of the early pioneers of Facebook and its first President Sean Parker, voiced his regret regarding helping create social media in the form we know it today, saying:
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because of the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other,”…
”God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Parker says the social networking site exploits human psychological vulnerabilities through a validation feedback loop that gets people to constantly post to get even more likes and comments.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he said.
“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
And now The Economist is coming clean against social media’s impact on the world’s youth… and how heavy use of social media is linked to mental illness.
Youngsters report problems with anxiety, depression, sleep, and “FoMO”…
May 20th marked the end of “mental-health awareness week”, a campaign run by the Mental Health Foundation, a British charity. Roughly a quarter of British adults have been diagnosed at some point with a psychiatric disorder, costing the economy an estimated 4.5% of GDP per year. Such illnesses have many causes, but a growing body of research demonstrates that in young people they are linked with heavy consumption of social media.
According to a survey in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, Britons aged 14-24 believe that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter have detrimental effects on their wellbeing.
On average, they reported that these social networks gave them extra scope for self-expression and community-building.
But they also said that the platforms exacerbated anxiety and depression, deprived them of sleep, exposed them to bullying and created worries about their body image and “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”).
Academic studies have found that these problems tend to be particularly severe among frequent users.
Nearly 63% of Instagram users report being miserable, a higher share than for any other social network. They spend an average of nearly an hour per day on the app.
Now that is a chart that Mark Zuckerberg does not want the public to see – especially parents, or European politicians.
It’s not just The Economist, another former Facebook executive opened up about the same concerns.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth at Facebook stated at a recent public discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
”The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said.
“No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem – this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
Palihapitiya then expressed the feeling of guilt, “I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds — even though we feigned this whole line of, like, there probably aren’t any bad unintended consequences. I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of, we kind of knew something bad could happen. But I think the way we defined it was not like this.”
“So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion. It is eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.“
Concerning the issue of social media as a whole, Palihapitiya stated that he doesn’t use it anymore since he “innately didn’t want to get programmed.” And as for his kids, “they’re not allowed to use this shit.”
Circling back to last year’s The Atlantic article, the correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone. As the technology writer Nick Bilton has reported, it’s a policy some Silicon Valley executives follow. Even Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of the devices he brought into the world.
If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. Of course, these analyses don’t unequivocally prove that screen time causes unhappiness; it’s possible that unhappy teens spend more time online. But recent research suggests that screen time, in particular social-media use, does indeed cause unhappiness. One study asked college students with a Facebook page to complete short surveys on their phone over the course of two weeks. They’d get a text message with a link five times a day, and report on their mood and how much they’d used Facebook. The more they’d used Facebook, the unhappier they felt, but feeling unhappy did not subsequently lead to more Facebook use.
I realize that restricting technology might be an unrealistic demand to impose on a generation of kids so accustomed to being wired at all times. Prying the phone out of our kids’ hands will be difficult, even more so than the quixotic efforts of my parents’ generation to get their kids to turn off MTV and get some fresh air. But more seems to be at stake in urging teens to use their phone responsibly, and there are benefits to be gained even if all we instill in our children is the importance of moderation. Significant effects on both mental health and sleep time appear after two or more hours a day on electronic devices. The average teen spends about two and a half hours a day on electronic devices. Some mild boundary-setting could keep kids from falling into harmful habits.
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