Adolescents and Social Media

Adolescents and Social Media

Social media has allowed individuals to keep tabs on loved ones all around the world, it instantly connects you to long-lost friends, and lets you remain part of a community when you're off traveling or can't otherwise stay in touch. 

In an ideal world, that's exactly what social media would be. Still, in reality, it's a place for divisiveness where no one is held accountable for what they say and a breeding ground for the development of anxiety and depression, especially amount teens. 

Kids between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 6-9 hours daily on social media. 

After birth, adolescence is the most important developmental period in our lives and is when people are most susceptible to developing mood disorders and mental health issues. 

Below we'll discuss how social media negatively impacts mental health in teens

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Comparison

Adolescence is when kids start looking to their peers as their number 1 source of influence which means comparison outweighs logic, critical thinking, and common sense. 

It's also the time when kids stop listening to their parents and adults as they start further testing the boundaries of their worlds and become more physically and emotionally developed looking for new experiences and interactions. 

Unfortunately, it's also the time before the brain has the ability to predict adverse outcomes and repercussions. 

Way back in the olden days of the 1990s and even the early 2000's comparisons were limited to the immediate surroundings of the school, sports, and clubs. Texting was still limited to only 1 person at a time, so the way people communicated wasn't changing that much. 

Now, people aren't really communicating at all they're comparing themselves to thousands of individuals for hours a day, being flooded by images of the most attractive and successful people in the world while going through the most awkward and uncomfortable transitional period of life, puberty. 

Nothing spells impending disaster like an awkward 13-year-old seeing images of people with perfect bodies, no acne, fancy cars, and thousands of likes, comments, and supporters every single day.

The only thought is, "why don't I look like that?" Or worse, "what do I need to do to look like that?"

Dopamine

Social media designers are addiction experts and know exactly how the brain works in order to get as many people addicted t their platform as possible. 

How do they do this? Dopamine.

Dopamine is the brain's feel-good chemical that not only rewards but are also what's in charge of creating goals, developing skills, curiosity, an energizer and so much more.

Social media is designed to meet almost every need dopamine wants, all without any more effort than swiping up with the tip of your finger. 

The visual stimulation activates our inherent goal orientation to look for gratifying images, dopamine gets triggered when we view gratifying images, and the scrolling satisfies the desire to explore.

The problem is we aren't actually exploring, the images are pixels, and we aren't achieving any goals which is why once you're done scrolling you feel agitated and drained.

We do not have an endless supply of dopamine so spending 6-9 hours a day pumping that feel-good chemical out drains our entire supply over and over.

Now imagine being 16 years old and having to sit down and do homework (something that was never fun, to begin with) with a depleted energy source that should stimulate the feeling of accomplishment after completing homework but can't because there's nothing left.

On top of that, the other activities such as hanging out with friends, going outside, playing games, and everything else that should provide dopamine no longer do because all those things require attention and effort to get dopamine, while social media requires nothing.

Conclusion

Adolescence is a terribly difficult time of life for everyone. 

It's confusing, difficult to navigate, and the only opinions that matter come from the same people who are confused and struggling. 

Social media inflates comparison to an unimaginable height because of the availability to compare yourself to the most beautiful and successful people on the planet. 

It takes away the 1-on-1 communication and replaces it with announcements that you get rewarded or punished for as decided by the number of likes, shares, and comments. 

The personality is entirely stripped from the individual and replaced with superficial images that teens simply don't have the mental capacity to navigate effectively. 

Where an adult may be able to weed out the superficial and photoshopped bodies, the teen instantly compares and seeks to duplicate in impossible ways that sacrifice their self-worth and mental health. 

For every adolescent I have worked with who presents with depression, anxiety, or both, the first question I ask is "how much time do you spend on social media?" And every time, they look away and laugh. 

Your teens inherently know that it's not helping them, but they can't stop. 

Help your teens set boundaries for themselves, restrict phone time, teach them to be social media literate, and see how much better off they are after just a couple of weeks. 

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September 27th, 2022

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