How does the frenzied use of social networks, which constantly consume images of perfect people depicted in complex diagrams, affect the mental health of users, especially young female users?
That's a question that worries many people, and it's at the heart of this week's Pursuit of Life podcast.
"I think people see you through social media. you want to look good, make your life perfect, even though not everyone's life is perfect,” Skye Gupta, 16, told her father, Dr. said Sanjay Gupta. a year when he touched on the subject of pressure to be perfect.
Many young people are in trouble
It's no secret that young people, especially young women, are in crisis. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in mid-February and based on fall 2021 data, paints a disturbing and muted picture of the mental health of today's high school students. This is the first biennial study of youth risk behavior since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Young people want to show themselves from the best side on social networks. – Alliance/Adobe Stock
The survey found that 57% of teenage girls in 2021 felt sad or hopeless all the time. For teenage boys, this figure was almost twice as low, but still disproportionately high – 29%. Just over half of LGBTQ+ respondents reported poor mental health, and more than one in five had attempted suicide in the past year.
The report also found that nearly one in three teenage girls are seriously considering suicide. Compared to previous surveys, the number of teenage girls who have been sexually assaulted and teenage boys who have been cyberbullied has increased.
Although the report did not specifically link these troubling mental health data to Internet or social media use, other studies have found a link, and public health officials and psychologists have connected the dots.
Correlation is not causation, but evidence of a strong association is hard to ignore.
“Obviously, a lot of what happens to the average teenager is that they're living in a digital world on social media for most of their lives, and a lot of that has to do with their mental health and affect them… and the how he feels. . things," says Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, a visiting psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Boston Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.
Sinclair-McBride, who partially specializes in body image and eating disorders, says she often deals with depression, anxiety and trauma in her practice. He describes it as an "epidemic of loneliness and depression".
She doesn't think it's far-fetched to link eating disorders and body image-related mental health issues to social media use.
“I think it's too trivial (to conclude). I think it can start out quite innocently like… “This person's diet looks very healthy; maybe I'll copy some of her recipes. And it can be very harmless and fun and easy,” she said, but “you can easily go further and further and further down the rabbit hole depending on your particular makeup.
"And then there's the fact that there are so many images of people in the digital world that aren't real, right?" He said. "Filters, photoshop, cosmetic applications that people have. And many teenagers, who are still getting used to their growing bodies, compare themselves. Well, I'm not like him. (But) he doesn't even look like himself. But you wouldn't know that because you're watching her social media feed. But right now you feel inferior because of what you see on the screen.
What is the selfie effect?
This is called the selfie effect. Studies have shown that viewing an unlimited number of carefully edited images and then comparing them to real-life situations can have a noticeable effect on your mood and mental health. Even seeing yourself in a filtered selfie too often can distort your perception, leading to unhappiness, not to mention that distortions in smartphone cameras can also cause anxiety.
What can we do to counteract this endless hall of mirrors and protect the mental health of today's teenagers? For tips on how to help your kids navigate this minefield and find balance, as well as a conversation with Sinclair-McBride, listen to the full podcast here.
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