Snapchat. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Most people are aware of these forms of social media and have spent time perusing, posting, and commenting on these applications. Children born after the year 1995, commonly referred to as Generation Z, have been raised using this type of technology. Technological advances are great accomplishments for the world and have saved and strengthened millions of lives. However, other issues may arise as a result of new technological advances.
My 13 year-old sister has grown up in the digital age. It has been a blessing to watch her grow and develop into the young woman she is today. Like many others her age, she has a cell phone and accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Recently, my younger sister was not invited to a birthday party that all of her friends attended. The day of the party, she found out about it instantly via Snapchat. All of her friends were posting pictures from the party of them swimming, eating cake, and opening presents. She was immediately upset and sad. She had questions like, “Why didn’t they invite me? Why are they posting about it?” It did not help that Snapchat captures moments in real time, so she was repeatedly reminded that she was not invited by their constant posting throughout the day. Luckily, my older sister was in town and was able to take her out on a fun adventure to keep her mind off how sad she felt. Leaving my younger sister’s phone at home, too, helped remedy the situation!
I was so angry and sad when my younger sister told me this story. Upon reflection, I began to think about this problem systematically. I considered how this problem affects both children and adults. We see what other people are doing on social media and often it can lead to each of us feeling isolated, insecure, and unwanted. Another thought came to mind: if children experience this situation often, what type of effect is it going to have on them in the long run? As we all know, children are very impressionable. For example, if my sister, or any other child, faced the situation above frequently, it could possibly lead a child to have low self-esteem, depression, or other mental health problems in the future.
With that said, having a strong community and support system is vital to combat the feelings that arise when you see something unsettling on social media. My older sister was able to support my younger sister and make her feel special and loved—despite how upset she was that she did not get invited to the party.
I think it is important to disconnect from social media so that you can fully engage with others. Recently, my mother took away my younger sister’s phone for two weeks. My younger sister was very unhappy about this decision and very bored without her phone. However, she seemed to adjust pretty quickly. She started reading and playing outside more. She also spent more time with my parents. She was not able to see what her friends were doing and, thus, did not have to experience the pain of being left out. She had to find other ways to entertain herself, and the activities she engaged in ended up being more productive to her development as a young woman.
Hearing my younger sister’s story further supported my decision to join Young Minds Advocacy. I wanted to be a part of an organization that helps children and young people receive access to care at an early age so they can prevent or overcome their mental health issues.
So here’s a challenge for you. I am sure you have heard this before, but you need to take a break from social media. It is hard. So it might be a good idea to start small. Go a couple hours without looking at social media. Perhaps delete the application on your phone so you are not tempted to click on it. Fully engage with others around you. Engage with your family. Read a book. Teach your children how to play with others without phones being the center piece. Be bold. Try to talk to the person sitting next to you instead of scrolling on your phone.