Conversations about mental health have finally found their way into the forefront of culture thanks to the courage of many outspoken people who compete, entertain, and inspire us on the world's biggest stages. Thank you to all who have dared to speak openly about your struggles, share personal stories, and motivate other people to take action in addressing their challenges.
However, although the stigma associated with mental health has decreased, we still see a rise in people suffering from mental health issues. Why is humanity suffering so much?
We have experienced so much innovation in the past 20 years that it has become challenging to navigate the new realities we have co-created. We've seen a world of global connectivity emerge through the digital-social revolution. The promise has been to bring us closer together as a species, and while this may be true to some extent, we still can't ignore how much social media is tearing us apart on an individual and collective level.
It's hard to believe that it has been over ten years since Nicholas Carr won a Pulitzer for his book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Even with knowledge of the destructive effects of the internet and social media use, we continued to progress further, faster, and without any caution into the long-term ramifications. Even after The Social Dilemma came out on Netflix last year, one would think it would be a wake-up call to make some lasting changes. What is perplexing is that still, most people choose to ignore the undeniable link between living life in the feed and the inability to navigate life with peace, joy, and contentment.
According to the Jed Foundation, which helps protect emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation's teens, one in four young people experiences a mental illness, with issues like anxiety and depression, impeding academic and personal success. The reality is social media addiction is fueling the mental health crisis, and it's become an epidemic that most people choose to ignore because they are too addicted to face the truth.
A study cited by CNN states that many teens use social media more than seven hours a day, not including time when doing schoolwork. Other research published in JAMA Psychiatry – The Science of Mental Health and The Brain found that spending more than three hours on social media per day puts adolescents at a higher risk for mental health problems. What measures are in place to protect our youth? Next to none.
And although teenagers are highly susceptible to the ill effects of social media, the addiction and its symptoms are omnipresent across all age groups.
Denial About Addiction
Have you ever tried to confront someone who has an addiction to a substance like food, drugs, or alcohol? What were you met with in return? Most likely, it's a defensive response as to why they're not addicted, that they don't need help, or some other excuse. It can be frustrating because you can clearly see they need help, but they're living in denial, blocked from the truth. Denial is so easy to observe in other people, yet so challenging to see in ourselves. Currently, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are addicted to social media. Are you one of them?
Reflect on your current social media use. Is it constructive or destructive to your well-being? Not sure? Please take this Quiz to assess much of a grip social media has on you. You have to keep in mind that just because it seems like everyone is doing something, that doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Social media platforms promise friendship, personal expression, and monetization, but the primary objective of these platforms is to generate advertising dollars, which comes from keeping you hooked.
Is social media bad? No. It helps connect people that are continents apart, gets businesses off the ground, and gives social causes a platform to share their voices. Is social media addiction harmful to your mental health? Yes. You have to learn to use social media as a tool, not reality. Because when addicted, scrolling through other people's lives, or thinking about what to post next, you lose sight of all of the natural beauty and authentic human connections that exist right in front of you.
Courage to Break Free
Addressing social media addiction takes courage because you have to unlearn and relearn how to live life. Your brain has been hijacked from spending hours a day in the feed. Alerts, followers, likes, and constant content streams create a pulsing surge of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the brain's pleasure center. Then, new social platforms emerge that are more addictive than those before, driving you deeper and deeper into alternate realities that become difficult to escape.
There is hope for all of humanity. Every achievement begins with a first step, one action that shows a commitment to creating positive change. Living life by the rules set forth by an algorithm is no way to live. Have the courage to break free from social media addiction, and reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and the true nature of reality because your mental health matters.
The Challenge / #leavethefeed
Will you take a break from social media to support mental health and help raise money for the Jed Foundation? Here's how it works:
Step 1: Commit to the number of days you will #leavethefeed for mental health
Step 2: Share a goodbye post and challenge your friends to #leavethefeed
Step 3: Sign out, live life, and report back on your agreed-upon return date
It's time to break free from social media addiction and restore the mental health of humanity. Become an agent of change, use your influence to inspire others, and take the #leavethefeed challenge.