Part 64: Social Media Sadness

I continue to worry as an educator and parent about the impacts of social media on our youth. I am a fan of technology and being proactive to educate and teach our youth on how to deal and handle all the waves of change and innovation in our lives, but it is like drinking from a firehose.

It is too much.

As I continue to analyze my own behaviors and explore more of the research and findings coming out on our youth today I become more alarmed. As a parent watching my three children grow up in this world I try to figure out the proper balance of all things and I am not sure there are any clear-cut answers.

The latest reports on the generation born after 1995 shows an increase in depression, anxiety, suicide, and distress at a similar rate to the usage of social media, phones, and a lack of sleep. While we cannot blame just the technology, I feel in my heart that there is a connection.

For example, we are on Spring Break this week. I have worked to limit the screen time of my children while also not being too overboard and driving my children away from me. Yesterday, I took away all devices and screens after they all had several hours of usage(over 5 hours so it was not like I was too crazy in my decision). You would have thought we moved back to the Stone Age era. My kids were lost. They did not know what to do. They were in such a funk. They were irritable. They were restless. They were angry with me beyond words. They operated like a device that only had 1% power and started to glitch. My kids did not feel like my kids.

They have literally lost the ability to entertain themselves. It felt like they did not know who they were. This alarms me. It is a wake up call to work to help them find themselves. I know that they are not alone in this situation. Many of us are the same as adults.

We are all guilty. So many of us turn to our devices as a quick dopamine fix for any situation in our lives. We have all lost the sense of ourselves. Who are we? What are we capable of doing? How can we unbore (not sure if that is a word) when we are bored? We need to do better for ourselves.

The hard part in all of this was that if felt like my house was losing a battle with addiction. All the signs of what I witnessed when the devices went away(video games, school issued Chromebooks, phones, tablets, etc.) frightened me. Even worse was how much I know they hated me in the moment.

They were missing out.

They had to send that text.

They have no way to communicate with their friends.

What else are they supposed to do?

Why does their life suck so bad when everyone else’s life is amazing? (the social media filter bubble of not feeling adequate enough).

These are all things every single one of us know of. The challenge now becomes to all step up and be proactive. We need to stop talking about taking action and do it. We need to work together as parents. We need to educate in schools. We need to model as adults. We can do this.

If we don’t, then I fear that we will have much bigger issues on our hands in the long run if we are not careful.

Being at a family vacation dinner where all five people sitting at a table next to me the other day had headphones in their ears and devices on the table instead of speaking to one another cannot be the norm. The negative culture of chats on phones and video games banter cannot be “what everyone does”. The coping mechanism of ignoring all elements of life to screens does not solve problems it only compounds them.

We are better than this. And it is time to prove it by stepping us as a people as Douglas Rushkoff states in his latest book and begin stop seeing human beings as the problem and technology as the solution and instead see human beings as the solution and technology as the problem.

It is time.