The Bledsoe Firm - September 2019

The Bledsoe Firm JustFamilyLaw.com | 949.363.5551 SEPTEMBER | 2019

T he N egative I nfluence of S ocial M edia

Social media is a huge part of many people’s lives. Just about every age group participates in social media in some way — posting pictures and updates or just keeping in touch with family. Some people use Facebook, some use Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), and some stick to Snapchat and TikTok. Many use each and every popular social media platform. We all know at least one person whose day is consumed by social media. And therein lies the problem, or a big part of the problem. Whether you like it or loathe it, social media is pervasive in our society. With it comes a number of major issues, many of which have been highlighted by social media activist Collin Kartchner. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Collin a few years ago, and we’ve since become friends. Collin has worked hard to bring attention to the problems associated with social media. He speaks at many schools and community centers across the country, talking to both parents and teens about these problems, including one event held earlier this year in Orange County. When Collin speaks to the public, he tackles a wide range of issues, from cyberbullying to peer pressure. He also talks a lot about social media comparison. This is the phenomenon of kids and adults comparing themselves to people they follow on social media, celebrity and noncelebrity alike. So much of what we see on social media is manufactured. This is especially true of celebrities. The photos they post are curated — deliberate. They want their followers to only see a fraction of their lives.

And this is true of many people who post on social media. What we see on Instagram, for example, is just a microscopic view of that person’s life, and it’s usually the best of the best. The poster likely did everything they could to set up their photograph to convey a specific message, usually implying their life is perfect.

When people see someone else living their “best life,” it’s hard to not want that, too. You see people driving the best cars, wearing the best clothes,

going on the best vacations, and envy sets in. This can have an especially big impact on a teenager’s self-esteem and self-worth. They often feel like their life just can’t compare.

Collin talks a lot about mental health, including depression, and how social media influences people’s state of mind. He links social media not only to negative comparisons but also to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming, and even suicidal thoughts, if not outright suicide. According to Collin, social media can take people to dark places. In 2017, Collin created #SaveTheKids and SavetheKids.us, a website dedicated to issues surrounding social media and impacting those who use it, particularly kids. Why focus on kids? Young people, after all, are the most vulnerable. They’re still forming who they are and learning about the world, which makes them all the more susceptible to the dark side of social media. I’m only scratching the surface of the larger problem and of a lot of the great work Collin has done. There is so much parents and kids can do to put a stop to these problems, including our culture’s problem of toxic perfectionism. Next month, I want to dive into these issues further, so be on the lookout for more.

—John Bledsoe

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