By allowing our teens to use social media, are we setting them up for deadly depression at some point in their lives? "We're increasingly a people who pose. And posing leaves the poser and his or her audience feeling empty—and alone" – Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist, speaking at 125th convention of the American Psychological Association.
With regard to that comment, Dr. Ablow was providing his opinion on the rise of depression in adults, not teens, but as mother of teenagers, my instant connection is with young people using social medial regularly.
For the full story as reported by Fox News for the web (FoxNews.com, August 12, 2017), click here.
Everyone has heard comments about the "fake" lives people present on social media and how keeping up that veil of unreality is stressful and how it isolates people.
But first, a bit about loneliness and how it contributes to premature death:
According to the web story, "Dr. Holt-Lunstad presented findings culled from two massive 2010 analyses of data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals. Among the data: Social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity."
The story also says that "Loneliness now eclipses obesity as a cause of premature death in America. The AARP estimates that 42.6 million Americans over the age of 45 are suffering from loneliness, with nearly one quarter of the population living alone, marriage rates declining and the number of children per family dropping."
The indications, according to this article, are that there is no plan to reduce loneliness and that it will continue to rise.
According to the web article, Dr. Ablow says that the "burgeoning use of technology may have something to do with it. Personally, I would contend that technology may be the chief factor fueling it."
He goes on to point out that studies of Facebook users indicate they don't feel more connected to others and that they have low self-esteem.
Email, texts and other forms of electronic communication also contribute to this feeling of "disconnect," according to Ablow.
I believe, with my whole heart, that nothing replaces fact-to-face communication, and if you can't see someone in person, Facetiming or calling on the phone is a good secondary way to communicate better.
We are humans and we are built to interact with each other.
Yes, the nuances of body language, voice tone, timing and emotion aren't fully present in electronic communication.
HOWEVER, I've always felt that blaming technology for the loss in connection with other people isn't correct.
Why is technology to blame when people cannot relate to others, instead of the individuals themselves?
If the numbers are so high, is everyone clinically depressed, or are we simply choosing to remove ourselves from opportunities to physically connect with other people?
Just as food itself does not make one overweight or anorexic and wine or beer do not create alcoholics, I believe we are responsible for ourselves and our actions.
If folks are lonely or disconnected from others, I can see how social media can contribute to that feeling of isolation, if you believe everyone's life is "perfect" and yours is not.
I know the feeling of being left out can destroy young people's self esteem; and I know that adults are actually just "old teens."
Despite wisdom and maturity, people are people and insecurities can abound for a lifetime.
But that's where we need to remind each other to have a reality check.
We all know everyone else has problems in their lives. It is the nature of being human.
If we think about it objectively, we know everyone feels insecure at times, has problems with illnesses (or know someone who does), loses a job or a promotion, has a car accident, or suffers some other disappointment. Everyone does.
If you try to say "Everyone else's life is perfect but mine" we'd sound like an unreasonable teen feeling sorry for himself or herself.
We aren't truly lonely or isolated because social media makes life seem "perfect." We are all one family of people on this earth, just trying to make the best of life.
I heard on a radio show that there are two things people hate to see the most on social media: 1. Other people's vacation photos 2. Pictures of food.
The first is because people resent seeing others on vacation when they are not (well, to me, that is sour grapes). The second is because people think it's dumb to take pictures of food. OK, scroll past then.
I feel so happy when I see people's vacay pics. Some folks I know will travel places I'll likely never get to, and when I see those beautiful images, I get a chance to see something in a personal way that I may never to see myself.
I love looking at delicious meals. It gives me ideas for my own cooking, or something to consider ordering the next time I go out to eat that I wouldn't have thought of before.
I personally don't feel lonely seeing people's lives on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I feel informed, and as though I got a nice little slice of their lives when I see their kids' accomplishments, grandparents' anniversaries, new homes they moved into, or other special life events.
Without social media, I would miss so many of these things, because I can't be all over the country and the world to attend everything.
Heck, sometimes I can't even make it across town!
And I get the opportunity to be supportive when someone posts about their frustrations with illness, a divorce, a tough day with a child or a bummer day at work.
I put face-to-face social interactions at the top of my list, and encourage my kids to do the same, all the time.
I believe that social media is a supplement for when you can't see your family, friends and neighbors. A way to stay in touch when schedules are crazy enough that you just can't interact in person.
I love emails and texts because they give me quick opportunities to make touch points with people to say hi, confirm plans, or even talk in-depth (yes, I type paragraphs in my texts!)
Sometimes there is simply too much to do to take all the time that meeting someone or talking on the phone would take.
But a quick little message to brighten someone's day is all that is needed.
I admit I'm not always happy. My life isn't perfect. I'm not afraid to say that in person, or even on social media. It's my life, and it's real. I don't try to pretend to be something I'm not.
It's cheery to see people enjoying themselves and having a great time. And it's nice if someone can reach out and say "I'm having a suck day. Tell me a joke to make it better. Give me your shoulder to cry on. I need you."
If we can always keep our true humanity, then nothing will stand in the way of seeking out others and keeping community, the way human nature is intended to be.
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