An entire generation is facing the worst mental health decline than seen ever before. This could be attributed to many issues such as spikes of various tragic events in our developmental age (school shootings, terrorism, debt, pandemics, recessions). What I would like to look at is how the recent insurgence of technology and the even more recent “social media boom” has hurt us Gen Z’ers.
How has an entire generation been able to be so close together through the advancements in communicative technology but have never felt more alone? Gen Z is the most depressed, anxious, and fragile generation to exist. This generation was given access to the internet at a very young age. Websites like Club Penguin were designed to be chatrooms for children. Facebook grew popularity in the early 2000’s, the same time most of the generation attended elementary and middle school.
So how did this all go so wrong? Now, almost every teenager in the United States is on some type of social media. The exact percentage is 97%. There are also so many networks to choose from. We’ve got Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. First, we should look at the profiles who are dominating these platforms.
The Kardashian/Jenner family hold several spots in the top 10 most followed accounts on Instagram. The irony behind that is most of their content on this platform is curated or fake. These pages with hundreds of millions of followers are flooded with photoshop, plastic surgery, and millions of likes and complimentary comments. They are not the only ones doing this however. It is what fills most user’s feeds.
Put a 15 year old girl on these same platforms and she is going to want to achieve that same type of approval and praise. The teenage years are already tough enough to experience because you are constantly comparing yourself to those around you while trying to figure out your own identity. To put these vulnerable teens under a microscope to be analyzed at every angle is extremely problematic.
Several studies have also shown how dangerous the like system can be to fragile minds. In May 2021 we saw Instagram give users the ability to remove being able to see likes on their own profiles and entire feeds.
A survey conducted by The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago showed parents concerns about the negative effects their teens have been facing from being on social media and what they do about it. 31% limit how much the phone can be used, 23% limit when the phone can be used, 11% limit where the phone can be used, and 35% do all of the above. How much blame can we be putting into parenting when these social media conglomerates have a profile age restriction starting at only 13?