This, of course, is not what a lot of attention-seeking headlines said, was it?
“Researchers have worked for decades to tease out the relationship between teen media use and mental health. Although there is debate, they tend to agree that the evidence we’ve seen so far is complex, contradictory and ultimately inconclusive. That is equally true of Facebook’s internal marketing data, leaked by Haugen, as it is of the validated studies on the topic.”
The reality is complicated because people are complicated and unique. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to what, if any, harm social media causes on young people or adults for that matter. For every person who does look at Instagram. and feel worse about themselves, there’s another who looks at Instagram and feels less alone, and yet another who looks at Facebook and comes away more educated about things that interest them, while someone else is easily influenced and manipulated by false information.
I think we would do well to take two things away from this:
1. Simple surveys that involve asking people to share their impressions of their own behavior can often be confounding, because people are not that simple.
2. Online, and increasing offline, news media are mostly interested in getting you to click through and read/watch their stories. For most, a study that shows there is little impact on kids using social media isn’t even worth writing about, but the one that does show something like that, no matter how small, how imperfect, will get a headline.
In the end, here’s the thing. You, and your kids, are not a study. You are all individuals, who may be negatively impacted by social media, or not. You may need to consider not using it, you may need to consider changing up who you’re following to get stuff that is good for your mental health into your feeds, or you may be perfectly fine using it the way you are. It might even be helping you and having a positive impact on your lives.
Only you can truly judge that. If it’s harming you, I hope you’ll consider making changes. Follow the social media accounts for this blog if you want to start getting more information like this, or just stop using it altogether. If it’s helping you feel supported and less alone in the world, then enjoy that and I hope you’ll continue to share that within your social media circles.
As I have said many times – do what works for you.